Mel Blanc was known as “the man of 1,000 voices,” but the actual number may have been closer to 1,500. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety, Barney Rubble — all Mel. His characters made him one of the most beloved men in America. And in 1961, when a car crash left him in a coma, these characters may have saved him.
Mel Blanc wasn’t just a voice man. He created entire personalities, each with its own nuances and hilarious quirks. His son Noel Blanc says his dad invested so much into Bugs, Porky, Daffy, Tweety et al that Mel’s face and body would transform with every cartoon animal that spoke through him. This summer, our producer Sean Cole interviewed Noel at the Blanc family house on Big Bear Lake outside of LA. Sean had heard a crazy story about Mel nearly dying in a crash on Dead Man’s Curve on Hollywood Boulevard — and about the moment two weeks later when Bugs Bunny emerged from Mel’s coma before Mel did. In fact, according to neurosurgeon Louis Conway who attended to Mel at the time, it seemed as though Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life.
Sean, Noel, Dr. Conway and NYU brain scientist Orrin Devinsky weigh over what it might mean to be rescued by a figment of your own imagination, and whether one self can win out over another in a moment of crisis.
“Dead’s Man Curve,” which Jan and Dean immortalized in song, is just north of UCLA’s Drake Stadium on Sunset Boulevard. According to Mel Blanc’s autobiography “That’s Not All Folks,” age-old plans to straighten the curve were finally approved after his accident.