My Mentor: Daws Butler

While living in Ohio I heard about Daws Butler, the man behind so many of my favorite cartoon characters and I thought, “What the heck. I’m gonna give him a call.” I did and after exchanging letters over several months, Daws became my mentor.

In one letter, he wrote, “Dear little sweet protégée, Nancy! The years are going to start going faster now… no doubt about tha—and for a girl a lot has to happen between nineteen and twenty-five. The main thing is not to get involved in some of the traps that are put out for young years—the beauty schools, modeling schools—talent schools. Most of them are pure hokum. I’m not hokum, tho’—and I’m old enough to be pure.” And he signed it, “Take care—and don’t be cosmetic unless you’re going out on a Saturday night. Your well-meaning mentor, Daws.”

With his encouragement I headed out to Los Angeles and UCLA, chosen over USC because it was closer to Daws’ house.

He answered the door. There he stood, all four feet, ten inches of him. He smiled from ear to ear and said, “Don’t just stand there.

Give your ol’ mentor a hug!” On Sundays, I would catch the number 86 bus into Beverly Hills to work with Daws. He and I were to do a one-hour lesson, working with his own material—reading, changing, adjusting, working with the microphone, editing—just having a great time.

“Talent cannot be taught. It must exist,” he once said. “But if it does exist at all, it can be nurtured and expanded.” So, the hour-long lesson was never an hour. It always expanded into no less than four.

Daws and I would just lose ourselves in the studio. And then, after months of hard work, he brought me with him to a recording of The All-New Popeye Hour, in which he played Whimpy.

I watched in delight as he and the cast recorded the show. And then he introduced me as his protégée to the cast and to the director who would give me my first professional voice-acting job.

Daws Butler was my coach, mentor, surrogate Dad and inspiration. He is always with me.

Thank you, Daws, my mentor, my friend—for opening up your door to me to let my voice out.

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