Bugs Bunny Dead!

What's up Doc?

What’s up Doc?

Bugs Bunny, popular Warner Brothers cartoon character of the ’40s and ’50s has died.  He was 92.  Born Yankel Mordecai Bunnystein in Manhattan’s lower east side to Hungarian immigrants, Bugs got his start in the 2nd Avenue Yiddish Theatre.  After building a local following with his wisecracking persona and trademark line of  “Oy ve, what’s up with the meshugana doc?” Bunny moved to Hollywood at the outbreak of World War II.

“Bugs was very ambitious.  Many of Tinseltown’s top acts had been drafted or gone into the service so he saw this as his opportunity to fill the void”  declares  George Shotton, author of “The Lost Souls: Hollywood’s Warner Brothers Cartoon Characters and the Struggle for Assimulation”.

Shortly after arriving in Hollywood and signing a contract at Warner Brothers, Bug’s trademark line was shortened to the now recognizable “What’s up Doc?”.  “The story behind that was Jack Warner was walking through the set one day and heard Bugs.  Concerned that his new talent would be perceived as too Jewish, Warner had him shorten the line.  Warner also had Yankel change his name to Bugs Bunny and enter the Episcopal Church.  A lot of people in New York never forgave him for that.  They felt that he ‘gentiled up’ for the sake of his career.”

This was unfair claims Shotton.  “Bugs made sure that many of the people he worked with in theatre were signed by Warner and given careers in Hollywood. He used to joke that they were his ‘jew crew’.  He even got work for Pat Sheridan, aka Yosemite Sam, the lone irish member from New York.   He was very loyal to them and in fact was the only one who stood by Porky Pig during Pig’s rape trial in the late ’50s.  When Porky committed suicide in prison it was Bugs who asked for the body and paid the funeral costs.”

While this was going on Bug’s career blossomed.  Bunny became the top grossing artist at Warner and was soon seen about town dating Rita Hayworth.  He also was active politically and campaigned for Adlai Stevenson when Stevenson ran for President.

With the advent of the 1960s times and tastes changed.  Bugs found himself without a contract and out of work.  He tried his hand at TV, hosting his own talk show for several years. After initial success ratings for his show declined.  Shotton states that it was in part because Bugs didn’t understand the counterculture movement and the changes that were happening in the world.  “Bugs said he found it difficult to bring young guests onto his show as he just did not know what to say to the rock and roll crowd.”  The end of his show came after the infamous appearance by John and Yoko where an impatient Bunny threw his ash tray at the duo and stormed off the set when Yoko asked him to plant an acorn for peace.

He retired after that and from then on only made a few appearances on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, preferring to devote his energies to playing golf and rooting for the Dodgers.  Despite his retirement Bunny found himself  in the news again after suing several hip hop artists for copyright infringement when they started using the phrase “What’s up motherf*&#$*#%”.  He lost that case and spent his final years as a recluse, staying in his  mansion and cursing at tour buses.

Funeral plans are as yet unknown.


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