Sam Simon, 59, died on March 8, 2015.
“It is with a heavy heart, and many tears, that we share the news that our beloved boss, Sam Simon, has died,” announced the Sam Simon Foundation’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic page on Facebook. “He passed away peacefully in his own bed, in his own home, surrounded by people and a dog who loved him.”
A sports cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner while attending Stanford University, Simon upon graduation became a storyboard artist and later a script writer at Filmation Studios. Helping to develop productions including The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle and Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, Simon in 1981 submitted a spec script for the sitcom Taxi. The script was accepted, produced, and aired during Taxi’s third year in production. A regular Taxi writer the next year, Simon became showrunner for the series’ fifth season. After Taxi, Simon wrote for Barney Miller in 1982, Cheers in 1982-1985, a short-lived situation comedy called Shaping Up in 1984, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show 1987-1988, and wrote the 1991 film The Super.
Simon’s biggest hit, however, was The Simpsons, an animated situation comedy developed with James L. Brooks around cartoon characters created by Matt Groening. Now in a record 26th season, The Simpsons has received 31 Primetime Emmy Awards. Conflicting with Groening, Simon left The Simpsons in 1993, but continued to receive lucrative royalties from the program. Simon went on to co-create The George Carlin Show (1994-1995), in some respects reprising Taxi, and directed episodes of The Drew Carey Show.
Turning away from television after winning or sharing in nine Primetime Emmy Awards, Simon helped to manage boxer Lamon Brewster to the World Boxing Organization Heavyweight Championship in 2004, and six times finished in the money at the World Series of Poker.
Sam Simon’s Mobile Vet Clinic
A vegan since 1990, Simon in May 2004 invested $500,000 in Sam Simon Foundation’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic. The clinic has performed more than 35,000 spay/neuter surgeries, along with thousands of other free surgeries of various sorts for low-income families.
“Our mission statement is to improve the lives of people by saving the lives of animals,” Simon told Richard Hartog of the Los Angeles Times in December 2007. “If your dog needs an operation and you can’t afford it, I feel I’m helping you both.”
This was really just the beginning of Simon’s pro-animal philanthropy.
Blogged longtime friend Andrew Kirschner, “Sam helped me to knock out [convicted dogfighter] Michael Vick’s television show sponsors with Howard Stern, drew photos of Bart Simpson for me to auction off to benefit local animal rescues, and invited me to his house on many occasions when I visited California. On one recent visit, he drove me to see the work his foundation performs in Malibu, training service dogs he rescues from euthanasia to care for the blind and deaf, and he took me to Los Angeles to show me the inspiring and innovative work his Feeding Families program offers, serving plant-based food to homeless and low-income families.
The ship Sam Simon
Added Kirshner, “I invited Sam to speak at the Animal Rights National Conference a few years ago. “
Introduced to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society at the conference, “Sam told them he wanted to support their cause and shortly thereafter donated money to purchase a new ship for them. Captain Paul Watson named it the Sam Simon. Sam was preparing to join the Sea Shepherd crew for his dream adventure when he learned he would be engaged in a different adventure, battling aggressive cancer that spread throughout his body.”
The Sam Simon, initially captained by Sea Shepherd veteran Lockhart MacLean and later by Luis Manuel Pinho, was previously a Japanese meteorological research ship.
“Bought from unsuspecting Japanese authorities,” wrote Guardian Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry, the ship was “re-registered in Tuvalu as the New Atlantis, and delivered to Australia by a Japanese crew.”
Reflagged to Australia, the Sam Simon debuted against the Japanese whaling fleet in December 2012.
The Sam Simon Center
Recipient of the 2010 American SPCA Presidential Service Award, and of a 2013 Mercy for Animals Compassionate Leadership Award, Simon in 2013 received what he called the “greatest honor of my life” when the PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia was renamed the San Simon Center.
In December 2013 Simon joined Canadian actress Pamela Anderson, who arrived bare-legged in high heels, at a press conference held in windy sub-zero weather in St. John’s, Newfoundland. After Anderson gathered the crowd, Simon offered $1 million to help buy back sealing licenses from the 6,000 Canadian Sealing Association members who lost their major markets when the European Union banned imports of seal products.
“With bans firmly in place across Europe, Russia, the U.S., and other countries, the writing is on the wall,” said Simon. “The seal trade is finished. Leaders as diverse as President Obama and Vladimir Putin embrace this change, yet Canadian politicians remain too timid to initiate a buyout for fear of upsetting swing voters in Eastern Canada — and because they don’t seem to care about individual sealers.”
Recalled the PETA web site, Simon “worked with PETA to close bear pits, rescue an abused elephant in India, send lone roadside zoo chimpanzees to a sanctuary, and find homes for hundreds of chinchillas, a camel,” and many other animals involved in prominent cruelty cases.
Among Simon’s more memorable animal rescues was that of an oft-injured racehorse named Valediction, in May 2014.
“The horse, Valediction, had been trained by two different top trainers who have been disciplined by authorities for allegedly over-medicating horses,” recalled Anna Schecter for NBC news. Valediction was being prepped to return to the track in February despite an injured leg when Simon — through a front man supplied by PETA– stepped in and bought him for $60,000.”
“The gay bull of Ireland”
Simon’s next-to-last noted rescue was that of Benjy, dubbed “the gay bull of Ireland.” A Charolais who failed to impregnate any of the heifers at a County Mayo farm in 2013, Benjy was fertile, according to veterinarians who examined him, but was more attracted to the bull who replaced him than to any female cattle.
Learning that Benjy was to be sold to slaughter, John Carmody, the longtime openly gay founder of the Limerick-based Animal Rights Action Network, launched a social media campaign to raise the cost of sending Benji instead to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk, England, home of about 2,000 rescued farm animals and horses.
About 300 donors had reportedly contributed £4,000 to a fundraising drive hosted by the online magazine TheGayUK when Simon heard of the case through PETA and contributed the entire cost of the relocation.
“All animals have a dire destiny in the meat trade, but to kill this bull because he’s gay would’ve been a double tragedy,” Simon said.
“It thrills me to help PETA and ARAN make Benjy’s fate a sanctuary rather than a sandwich.”
Simon in December 2014 funded the rescue of two Himalayan black bears from the Three Bears General Store in Pigeon Forge, described by Jennifer O’Connor of PETA as “a notorious tourist trap that confines bears to a concrete pit.
“After learning that the owner of the facility was holding bears at a second location—which turned out to be a decrepit cage in someone’s backyard—PETA submitted a complaint to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which then investigated and charged the owner with illegally importing bears into the state,” O’Connor continued. “A deal was struck that allowed us to arrange for the two bears, one male and one female, to be transferred to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.”
“Late last week,” said the PETA web site, Simon “was given the news that Ringling Bros., the circus he protested in person, had decided, in light of changed public opinion, to take performing elephants off the road by 2018. He wanted to live to see SeaWorld closed, but believed that the day the elephants were out of the circus meant that, too, would happen.”