Volume 74, Number 14 | August 04 - 10 , 2004

Obituary


Jackson Beck, 92, voice of Cisco Kid and many others

By Albert Amateau

Jackson Beck, whose radio voice thrilled millions over the years with “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!” and went on to television prominence, died on Wed., July 28 at his home in Manhattan at the age of 92.

A radio performer from 1930 and then on television until he retired in 1989, Jackson Beck was one of the founding members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors with a union card bearing the number 2, said stepson, Leslie Winter, a longtime Village resident.
Among the roles on radio that made his voice familiar to listeners were the detective Philo Vance and the Western hero, The Cisco Kid. On television he was featured on the program, “Edge of Night.”

“You couldn’t turn on your TV without hearing his voiceover on a commercial — the last one was for Clairol that he did in 1988,” said Winter.

He served the New York local of AFTRA as vice president and president in the 1970s and was first vice president of the national union. “He thought of himself as a working stiff, a union man and he was devoted to serving his fellow performers,” Winter said.

Jeff David, a colleague who runs a voiceover recording studio in the Village, recalled meting Beck in 1969 at an AFTRA meeting. “I tried to introduce a petition by Actors for Peace opposed to the war in Vietnam and I was booed off the floor,” David recalled. “Jack came up to me at the end of the meeting and said, ‘I like the cut of your jib. Give me your petition and I’ll see what we can do.’ With his help, I ran for the AFTRA board a month later and we became the first in the labor movement to oppose the war,” David said. “He was my best friend, despite the 35-year difference in our ages,” David added.

Jackson Beck’s father, Max Beck, was an actor who lived in the Village and worked with the playwright Thornton Wilder at the Cherry Lane Theater in the 1930s, said Winter.

The Greenwich Village Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. A memorial was held at the funeral home at 199 Bleecker St. on July 29. Burial was in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Queens in a family plot next to his father, Max, and his grandfather, Joseph, who emigrated from Saxony and founded a distillery, Joseph Beck & Sons.

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