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Don LaFontaine: An unlikely
political hero - Daniel Silliman

I think Don LaFontaine can save me. With the back-to-back conventions, I've been drifting off into a world of ulcers and hate, but I think the voice of LaFontaine can cure me.

He is an unlikely hero, I know. LaFontaine is famous for being the voice of movie trailers. They called him "Thunder Throat" and "The Voice of God." He had that gravel-and-guts voice. He was the one who made famous the movies' summary sentence, saying things like, "In a world where hatred ruled, one man's voice was raised." He was the one who would say, "One man, standing against the tide," and would say it in a voice so deep it made John Wayne sound like a little girl.

There are two things about his voice, I think, that make him important beyond the world of marketing and movies. One, his voice cut through everything. It wasn't distracted by movie magic, explosions and stunt doubles. He boiled everything down -- like pundits, journalists, partisans and Americans with TV-tuned attention spans -- but he lost nothing, doing it. In fact, he made it clearer and more interesting.

Two, his voice always carried the awareness of its own ridiculousness. Everything he said sounded serious, but also silly. LaFontaine knew that, and embraced the parodies, appearing in a GEICO commercial making fun of himself and allowing the trailer of the "The Simpson's Movie" to play on the preposterousness of his voice-overs.

LaFontaine died last week, Sept. 1. I knew who he was only vaguely, but I saw his obit and started digging up old profiles. I found myself wishing he was narrating the Democratic and Republican conventions.

I wanted him to replace CNN's entire team. I wanted him to steal the lines of all the political people, all the partisans and pundits, all the hacks and even all the voters, voicing the whole affair like it was a one-man opera. This is madness, I know. But I felt my insides twisting as I watched two weeks of conventioning, and I wanted "The Voice of God" to save me.

I felt the ugly surge of snarkiness, in my throat. All the self-congratulations and straight-faced hypocrisy, all the blithe double standards, the disrespect and disingenuousness. I wanted to reach into the television and smack someone. I wanted to come up with vile comebacks, let loose all the partisan ugliness I have.

I was sitting there, feeling all this foaming ferocity, and I realized how pompous and ridiculous I was. Which made me think I should surrender my lines LaFontaine.

He could cut through all my mucked-up monologues with his throat-clearing voice, putting my impotent anger into over-serious and obviously silly statements. He could capture the craziness, and say it so it sounded like what it really was.

He could say, "In a world where you will sacrifice all your principles to make a point, two parties thrived."

He could say, "One man, angry at his television, and people who don't know he exists."

I don't guess Don LaFontaine actually wanted to say those things. He wasn't exactly a political reformer, but I have the man's voice in my head, that voice sounding like God after 10,000 years of cigarettes, and I think I want to hear it.

I'm going to narrate my political points of view in his voice, for the rest of the election season, and see if it helps knock the pompous bile out of my heart.

Daniel Silliman covers crime for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at dsilliman@news-daily.com.