Voice of Ken Doll, Bill Cunningham, Passes Away at 96

Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, a celebrated singer and the original voice of Mattel’s Ken doll, passed away at the age of 96 in his West Hollywood, Calif., home on July 15. The news of his death was confirmed by CESD Talent Agency, which he founded 60 years ago as Pacific Artists Agency.

Born on January 2, 1927, in San Francisco, Cunningham began his musical journey as a crooner on popular shows like NBC’s “Voices of Walter Schumann” and “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.” He showcased his vocal talents in motion pictures for major studios such as Fox, Paramount, and Warner Bros., as well as in commercials.

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One of Cunningham’s most notable achievements was being the original voice of Ken, Barbie’s iconic boyfriend, for Mattel Toys. This role earned him recognition and admiration among children and collectors alike. Alongside his work as Ken’s voice, he also had the privilege of performing with renowned artists like Judy Garland and Dinah Shore, showcasing his versatility and skill as a singer.

In a remarkable turn of events, Cunningham’s debut album titled “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” was financially supported by none other than the legendary Fred Astaire. This album added to his reputation as a talented artist and furthered his success in the music industry.

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Beyond his career as a singer, Cunningham embarked on a new venture in 1963, encouraged by his friend Peggy Taylor, a singer and TV personality. He established Pacific Artists, which became one of the pioneering talent agencies in Los Angeles. Specializing in commercial and voice-over work, the agency grew and evolved over the years, eventually becoming known as CESD (Cunningham-Escott-Slevin-Doherty).

Throughout his life, Cunningham displayed unwavering dedication to his work and country. He was part of the U.S. Navy, contributing to the nation’s efforts in that critical period.

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Cunningham’s illustrious career spanned several decades, and he finally retired in 1989. However, his passion for storytelling and sharing his experiences never ceased. In 2014, he authored a memoir titled “I Wonder What Became of Me,” offering a glimpse into his life journey and the memories he cherished.

With his passing, the entertainment industry and fans worldwide mourn the loss of a true talent and trailblazer. Bill Cunningham leaves behind a rich legacy, having lent his voice to an iconic toy, graced the screens with his performances, and played an integral role in shaping the talent agency landscape. His contribution to the arts and entertainment world will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come.