Stan Freberg, Radio Revolutionary and Acclaimed Satirist, Dead at 88

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 Courtesy of Everett Collection
4/7/2015 1:32pm PDT
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Stan Freberg, whose freewheeling career in advertising garnered him worldwide acclaim and whose satirical entertainments abounded on TV, the radio and on records, has died. He was 88.

He passed away of natural causes at a Santa Monica hospital, his son and daughter,Donavan and Donna Freberg, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

“He was and will always be my hero, and I will carry his brilliant legacy forward as best I am able,” his son wrote on Facebook.

He is survived by his wife, Hunter Freberg, and granddaughter.

The godfather of humorous and irreverent commercials, Freberg lampooned cultural institutions and described himself as a “guerilla satirist.” The New York Times dubbed him the “Che Guevara of advertising,”  and years later, “Weird Al” Yankovic called him a major influence on his career.

Freberg also was known for his musical parodies. “Wun’erful Wun’erful,” his 1957 spoof of “champagne music” — on which he collaborated with orchestra leader Billy May — lampoonedThe Lawrence Welk Show.

He also parodied Johnnie Ray’s hit “Cry,” which Freberg rendered as “Try.” (Ray was quite angry until he realized the parody was fueling sales of his record.)

Freberg had hit records on his own, including St. George and the Dragonets, a send-up of the seriesDragnet. His recordings were so popular that he landed his own radio program in 1954, That’s Rich. In 1957, he presented The Stan Freberg Show on CBS Radio, where he regularly mocked commercials by advertising bogus products.

He won a Grammy Award in 1959 for best performance, documentary or spoken word for The Best of the Stan Freberg Shows.

Earlier in his career, Freberg helped create and write the Emmy Award-winning comedy Time for Beany, also performing on the show. Its droll, off-the-wall humor appealed to fans including Albert Einstein. During the show’s early gestation, he and the other writers had no office, so they wrote in coffee shops at night as well as in an “office” in a condemned building.

Not surprisingly, Freberg ruffled institutional feathers. Capitol Records balked at releasing his satires of radio-TV personality Arthur Godfrey and Ed Sullivan’s early variety show Toast of the Town.

In 1958, Freberg opened his own ad agency, Freberg Ltd. His slogan was “more honesty than the client had in mind,” and he even had a corporate motto: “Ars Gratia Pecuniae” (Art of the Sake of Money).

Freberg disdained the hard sell. He created such classic comic ad capers as “Nine out of 10 doctors recommend Chun King Chow Mein,” and his Jeno’s Frozen Pizza campaign featured the Lone Ranger and Tonto. He skewered the greed of the ad business in “Green Chri$tma$, which criticized the over-commercialization of the holiday.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Then there was “The Abominable Snowman”, “Bang Gunly, US Marshall Fields” and “Foo d is Goo d.” “Yup, sure looks like somebody cut through that fence alright.” He also employed many great voice actors, some of whom went on to TV cartoon infamy. Daws Butler among them. RIP Stan.

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