“At 5’5″ inches tall Rube was not an imposing figure, but his voice was twice his height. Strong. Deep. Memorable.”
“Stop smiling… stop smiling”, she whispered to me.
My left hand was on the casket of my best friend.
To my right was my wife, Linda.
I looked down at her, shook my head in agreement and started to bite my lip so I would stop smiling.
I wasn’t trying to draw blood, just inflict enough pain to myself so that I would “stop smiling”.
“I am such a doofus, I thought to myself. I am having a hard time trying to stop smiling with my best friend (other than my wife),
laying dead in the casket to the left of me.”
After the services for Rube Weiss, Linda walked at my side as we left the biggest Jewish funeral home in Metro Detroit.
She wasn’t angry with me. She understood my motivation for smiling at the side of my best friends’ funeral.
“You are sooooooo competitive. Your best friend is dead, next to you in a coffin and you are so proud that were chosen to be one of the pallbearers that you start smiling in front of 2,000 people and every TV station in Detroit.
I was proud. I am even proud now, 19 years later, thinking that Liz, Rube’s wife wanted me, a non Jew (goyim) to be one of his pallbearers.
Rube Weiss, was, well a second father to me. Don’t worry Leo, you will always be my first Father.
Rube Weiss, was Santa for about 20 years in the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade.
He was also an actor in the original Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet on radio. Rube was the national voice of the Marlborough man, some NFL Films, Mobil Oil and he also was an actor in the Soupy Sales TV show. He was also the NBC Movie of the week voice. Plus, thousands of other local and national voice gigs – including many of my clients. Detroit Dragway used his voice for years. He sounded like a tuned exhaust of V8 American made muscle car.
I met him in 1987 when I was selling radio time at WXYT AM 1270 in metro Detroit. He came in to the station and offered his services to voice commercials.
Quickly, this Motor City actor/voice radio/TV icon and special man became my friend.
We would meet every Wednesday at any of the local delis in the Jewish areas of suburban Detroit and talk about life and radio/TV. Even though he was 36 years older, we were kindred spirits.
At 5’5″ inches tall Rube was not an imposing figure, but his voice was twice his height. Strong. Deep. Memorable.
He sounded like “velvet gravel”. Wherever we would eat, wherever we would be, he would be recognized by… his voice.
The office manager at WXYT, Helene, would announce his presence to me saying that “the voice” is here to see you, John”.
Rube was “the voice“.
Everywhere – all the time.
“Your the voice from TV”, said the lady as she heard Rube order his lunch.
Always a gentleman, Rube would rise and shake hands.
“I’m surprised,” said the lady. “I thought that you would be much taller”.
“I’m 6 foot 4 when I stand on my money”, was Rube’s reply.
Rube had hundreds of friends.
At his funeral service, his wife Liz told people to “stand up if Rube helped you through college”.
About 20 people stood up respecting the smallish man with the big voice.
He was also known for his generosity.
Once when I was complaining of a smallish commission check, Rube told me to stop by his house and go to the the milk chute near the back door of his home. For those of you under 50, a milk chute is a 2 way inside/outside access where the milk man would drop off dairy products.
Later that day I went to his home and opened the chute. There sat a check. A check made out to me. The scribbled note said “fill in the amount”.
“Thanks for the check, Rube. But, I really don’t need the money. It was one bad month, that’s all”, I said.
“Keep it. If you need it – use it”, I kept the check until that fateful day in 1996 when I gotthe call.
I answered the phone.
“John, this is Liz. Is Linda at home?
“Yes”, I said.
Liz gave me instructions.
“Go get her and have her hug you while I talk to you”, she ordered.
“Liz said for you to hug me while she talks”, I told Linda.
Linda knew why. I didn’t.
“Talk to Liz”, said Linda as she strongly hugged me.
“I’m back. And Linda is hugging me. Why do you want Linda to hug me while I talk to you, Liz?”.
“Santa died an hour ago and you are going to be a pallbearer at his funeral. OK?”, she said half ordering, half asking.
Thousands of people knew him. Hundreds of people considered Rube their friend.
I was a smiling pallbearer at Rube “Santa” Weiss’s funeral.
Photo courtesy of the author.
About John Trybulec
John Trybulec was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1956.
John's parents, and the nuns at Saints Peter and Paul grade school, noticed that he loved to express himself and nurtured this creativity. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University. His professional background includes network television production, management of a major market radio station, and many styles of writing. John is married, lives in Florida and ownsTryad L.L.C - an ad agency that services North America.
For fun he surf casts, welds art that nobody wants, lifts weights and goofs around with his old muscle car.