Wednesday, March 11, 2015

VOTO Remembers Sam Simon

Every now and then a man comes along who changes things for the better. A man who puts the human back into humanity. Such is the case with: 

The Great Sam Simon...  

Stanford graduate, sports cartoonist, amateur boxer, TV writer (Taxi & Cheers), boxing manager (of a world champion), philanthropist, radio show host, animal lover, Co-creator of The Simpsons, tireless advocate, and much much more. 

The Broadcast Booth for The Sam Simon Show, at Sam's Place 

After the tragic 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld, Sam took an interest in the work we were doing at VOTO...  blowing the whistle on SeaWorld. This was prior to Death at SeaWorld and Blackfish. He read our website and blog religiously, according to him. This connection gave us the opportunity to spend some time with Sam over the last several years. He invited us onto his radio show, and we invited him to see whales with us. 

He saw his first wild killer whales at #Superpod2, where he also transmitted the Sam Simon show, from Friday Harbor.

I had the opportunity to visit Santa Monica and hang with Sam. He was interested in creating a movie about killer whale captivity, and requested that I fly down from Washington state. We sat down with another movie producer, and put our heads together. He seemed excited about the project. 

Those plans changed after the success of Blackfish

Earlier, Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite brought the film to his home and did a private screening. Later, after the film's success, Sam figured that he didn't have to make another movie on the topic. He told me, 

"Why should I make another film after Blackfish?" 

He also said numerous times, as Oscar season 2014 approached, that he thought that Blackfish would not only get nominated for an Academy Award, but that it would win the award. Some of his thoughts regarding #Blackfish are included in the interviews embedded on this page. 

Sam Simon lived in Santa Monica 

As an anecdote regarding the movie Sam didn't make, I can tell you this: It was going to involve ex-trainers, night operations, stealth activities, gullable SeaWorld security guards, and in the end, large heavy-lift helicopters. SeaWorld of California was targeted due to it's location near the ocean. 

A meeting space at Sam's place, with some Chihuly glass on the wall 

As far as my role, Sam needed to know some details regarding animal separations, transports, use of stretchers, and how we'd keep the whales moist and as comfortable as possible for their relatively brief ride from the stretcher to the open ocean... 

Damn... it's fun to think like Sam Simon. We'll miss you Sam. 

Jeffrey Ventre

On Behalf of All of Us At VOTO