A car accident almost killed ''Bugs Bunny'' in 1961
At least one newspaper wrongly reported Mel Blanc's death. Fans sent letters: ''Please, God, let Bugs Bunny get well.''
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Image: Rabbit Rampage / Warner Bros.
In 1955, Rabbit Rampage found Bugs Bunny on the run from an animator's pencil and brush that at times changed his appearance, erasing his head and forcing him to leap off-page. The short's a funny remake of a 1953 Daffy Duck cartoon called Duck Amuck.
A few years later, Bugs Bunny fans found nothing funny about the idea of a world without Bugs Bunny, when a near-fatal car accident almost took the life of Bugs voice actor Mel Blanc. This story comes from the book Bugs Bunny: Fifty Years and Only One Grey Hare.
On a January night in 1961, Blanc collided with another vehicle while driving his Aston Martin around a notoriously dangerous stretch of Sunset Boulevard known as Dead Man's Curve. (Jan & Dean also sang about that particular patch of perilous pavement in their 1964 Top 10 hit "Dead Man's Curve.") It took paramedics half an hour to torch through the car door and rescue Blanc, who was unconscious.
The paramedics identified Blanc from an autographed photo of him dressed in a bunny suit and nibbling on a carrot.
"Holy cow! It's Bugs Bunny!" One EMT said, before helping to rush Blanc to the hospital.
Blanc was in bad shape. A concussion had put him in a coma, and he had fractured many bones. Doctors didn't expect him to make it through the night, and at least one newspaper, The Honolulu Herald, prematurely announced that Blanc had died. Other papers claimed the man of a thousand voices had a one in a thousand chance of surviving.
Support from Blanc's fans immediately flooded his mailbox with 15,000 letters and cards from kids and adults alike. Everybody who loved Bugs wanted a chance to wish him well, and some even sent lucky pennies and bushels of carrots.
"Please, God, let Bugs Bunny get well," read one card written in crayon.
In critical condition, Blanc stayed in a coma for 21 days, responding to absolutely nothing his neurosurgeon Dr. Louis Conway tried to revive him. Then, one day, Dr. Conway got a loony idea that he was shocked when it actually worked.
"How are you feeling today, Bugs Bunny?" Dr. Conway asked Blanc.
"Eh, just fine, doc. How're you?" Blanc responded.
It was a miracle, but apparently being addressed as Bugs Bunny was what it took to snap Blanc's mind back to reality. The book reports that many years later, Dr. Conway recalled, "Mel was dying, and it seemed as though Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life."
After that, Blanc was on the road to a full recovery and onto voicing many more iconic characters throughout his long career, but perhaps none so critical to his legacy as Bugs Bunny.