I'd like to direct the spotlight to a guy who I think deserves some recognition, may he rest in peace. A native of Orange, New Jersey, he was born Christopher Claude Collins. Some of you might remember him better by his stage name, Chris Latta. Yes, THE Chris Latta. Perhaps best known for his voice-acting in the original Sunbow G.I. Joe series, he portrayed such memorable characters as Gung-Ho, Ripper, Breaker and of course Cobra Commander. Personally, I can't think of a more profound influence on the role of villains in cartoons in the 1980's than Latta's work as Cobra Commander. As many of you know, it doesn't end there. Latta also lent his voice to the Transformers series as Wheeljack, Sparkplug Witwicky and the notorious Starscream. Starscream and Cobra Commander, besides having almost identical voices, also seemed to share the same fate as villains who just can't seem to get any respect. Megatron was always bossing around the devious Starscream and likewise Serpentor was always undermining Cobra Commander.
What some of you may not know is that he lent his voice to a multitude of other shows as well. These include the original voices of Mr. Burns and Moe the bartender on the first season of The Simpsons before Harry Shearer took over the parts. Others include parts in "Danger Team" (1991), "Visionaries: Knights Of The Magical Light" (1989), "The Blinkins" (1986), "Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines" (1985), "Spiderman and his Amazing Friends" (1981), "Star Blazers" (1979) and my personal favorite as D. Compose in the 1986 cartoon "Inhumanoids". I might add that the D. Compose toy from the Inhumanoids series was, in fact, totally radical.
A stand-up comic before entering films and voice-acting, Chris toured throughout the 1980's and 1990's referring to his comedy style as "a psychotic who learned to market his problem". His onstage persona was a loud, angry, mentally unstable man who liked to intimidate the audience. This image suited him well and carried over to his bit television and film roles where he usually found himself playing mobsters or hit men. Some of his film appearances include "Roadhouse" (1989), "True Identity" (1991), "Blue Desert" (1991), "Stop or my Mom Will Shoot!" (1992), "A Stranger Among Us" (1992) and television shows Married With Children, Seinfeld, NYPD Blue, Mama's Family, Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as Deep Space Nine and unfortunately Mr. Belvedere. He was a frequent featured performer on "An Evening at the Improv" and "Caroline's Comedy Hour".
He died on June 12th, 1994, his cause of death officially recorded as a cerebral hemorrhage following a history of illness. Although his contemporaries have spoken fondly of Latta, some have made cryptically suggestive comments on the nature of his death. Peter Cullen remarked that Latta was a victim of Hollywood's tendency to "devour its young", Susan Blu said that Latta was "a sweet guy who had his demons" and Flint Dille, who noted on the commentary track for the 20th anniversary DVD release of The Transformers: The Movie, that he and other members of the production staff had to bail Latta out of jail on several occasions and that they "never really found out" how he died. You gotta love those celebrity death mysteries. He is survived by his wife and three children, not to mention his legacy as some of the most recognizable and fondly remembered voices in cartoon history.