February 17, 2024 at 8:55 a.m.

That’s All, Folks!

By LARRY PERKINSON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Spending a Saturday morning with Mel Blanc always sounded like fun. Wile E. Coyote, Pepe Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales …. “Thufferin' Thuccotash!”  All those "cotton pickin' varmint(s)” were entertaining.  I imagine he would have been just as animated.

Mel Blanc, “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” ruled the TV of my youth.  He was Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Tweety, Woody Woodpecker, and Porky Pig. Then without clearing his throat he might be Sylvester or Eggbert or Barney Ruble.  He seemed like a guy who would have enjoyed pranking my buddies with a Foghorn Leghorn call.

But mostly, for me, he was Bugs Bunny, that irreverent, outspoken hare.  He was a "wascawwy wabbit" who nibbled on carrots and outsmarted some of the best bad boys ever drawn on a wanted poster.  Bugs tricked and then kissed everybody, including the likes of Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and Blacque Jacque Shellacque.

“Were you ever really lonely?” is the big question I would have asked Mr. Blanc.  I wonder if the essence of all those personalities echoing in his head kept him good company.  Did they make him smile?  If that were true, more of us should be hearing voices.  Studies indicate we definitely need something.

Americans more than ever have no friends, a 2023 Neuropsych article at bigthink.com, says we are in trouble.  We have lost or lost contact with those drive-us-to-the-doctor partners, those have-you-heard-this-joke folks, those lend-me-an-ear peers who help us so much.  “The last decade has seen a steep drop in adult friendships and a worrying increase in loneliness.  This will have a negative impact on public health.”

Their research indicated that friendships peak around age 25 but drop a lot around age 30 when work and family obligations take over.  Being a mobile workforce scatters individuals away from friends and family. Working longer hours reduces the time spent with others.

The article referenced a 2021 American Perspectives Survey that reported 12% of Americans have no friends instead of the under 3% in the 1990’s.  In England 7% of youth reported having one or no close friends in 2012. That rose to 20% in 2021.  The numbers were even more concerning for men.

It was noted that loneliness rates were increasing before the COVID lockdowns.  In 2O19 about 20% of Americans reported feeling lonely.  Afterwards COVID data indicated an increase to almost 30%.

Other cited studies pointed out that the loss of friends and the effects of loneliness and isolation are harsh.  People without good friends die younger, face increased obesity or smoking, and are more likely to develop cancer.  So, the costs are staggering.

Those statistics tell us to find some numbers of our own, maybe phone numbers, and “To call a friend.” Who Wants to Be a Millionaire had the right idea, but let’s tweak it.  You’re more likely to feel like a million if you call a friend.

We lose some friends and the options of contacting them.  But, what is truly harsh, is that any of us might lose the desire, the initiative, and the energy to make new friends or to reacquaint ourselves with old ones.

Finding old friends may have saved Mel Blanc’s life.  In a 2013 Radio Lab interview Mel’s son Noel shared that his dad almost died in a 1961 car accident.  The voice actor slipped into a coma, and the family stayed by him for two weeks hoping for a response.  Then a neurologist walked in with a Looney Tunes plan.  He asked, “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?”

After a pause, the Bugs within responded, “Myeeeeh. What’s up doc?”  When called upon, Tweety answered, “I tot I taw a puddy tat.”   Mel Blanc needed family, the doctor, and his voice friends to start a recovery that took seven months.

Like the radio and TV personality, we also benefit from having friends with us, whether in body or spirit or voice.  And from time to time, “That all, folks!”  That’s the most important thing we need.