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Heroes of Cult: Chris Latta

 

Chris Latta in Road House
Chris Latta in Road House

Christopher Charles Collins was born on August 30th 1949. He became professionally known as Chris Latta when he rose to fame as an American actor, voice artists and comedian. During his life Latta married twice and had three children. Early in his career, he divided his time between New York, Boston, and Los Angeles before settling in L.A. in 1983. In 1991, he moved to Ventura, California.

Latta best known as the voice of Cobra Commander on the G.I. Joe animated series and as Starscream in the first Transformers animated series. He is also noted among Star Trek fans for his guest roles on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, along with many other television series and a number of  films including Road House.

He made his animation voice acting debut as one of the English dubbers of the 1979 anime series Space Battleship Yamato (also called Star Blazers). He was most recognizable in that series as the voice of space marine Sgt. Knox during the Comet Empire instalment.

In 1983, Latta started voicing Cobra Commander for a five-part G.I. Joe animated miniseries. In 1984, he reprised the role for a second five-part animated mini-series, which became a regular series in 1985. Also in 1984, Collins voiced a new character, Starscream, for a three-part Transformers animated miniseries. By 1985, he was voicing other G.I. Joe and Transformers characters in toy commercials, carrying on in those roles when the two television series made their debut.

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Latta’s success led to work on many other animated programs, including Inhumanoids, where he voiced D’Compose and Tendril, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, where he voiced Darkstorm and Cravex, and The Simpsons, where he originated the voice of Mr. Burns in the first season episode “Homer’s Odyssey”, and recorded lines (but was dubbed over) as Moe the bartender for “Some Enchanted Evening”. Along with several other early Simpsons voice actors, he left during the first season. Hank Azaria took over the voice of Moe, while Harry Shearer assumed the role of Mr. Burns.

Later in the 1980s, Latta began working as Christopher Collins and acted in many live-action television series and motion pictures. He played Klingon Captain Kargan and Pakled Captain Grebnedlog in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Collins went on to portray two different Markalians on Deep Space Nine: first Durg, and then an unnamed assistant to The Albino. In Married… with Children, he played Roger, one of Al Bundy’s bowling buddies and a member of NO MA’AM (National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood). He also portrayed a mugger on an episode of Seinfeld entitled “The Subway”. His character known only as “The Thug” and demands Kramer to “Gimme da money!” before being apprehended by an undercover NYPD officer. He appears as “Mr. Forbes” in a first-season episode of NYPD Blue titled “Abandando Abandoned”. He also provided some voices in The Real Ghostbusters and is credited as Chris Collins. From 1989 to 1990 he played King Koopa (aka Bowser) in King Koopa’s Kool Kartoons.

As well as the small screen Collins appeared ina number of movies including the role of the sharing husband in the Patrick Swayze film Road House. He also appeared in True Identity, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Blue Desert and A Stranger Among Us.

Tragically, Christopher Collins died on June 12, 1994, his cause of death officially recorded as a cerebral haemorrhage following a long illness. Although his contemporaries have spoken fondly of Latta, some have made cryptically suggestive comments on the nature of his death, including Peter Cullen (who remarked that he was a victim of Hollywood’s tendency to “devour its young”), Susan Blu (who said that Latta was “a sweet guy who had his demons”), and Flint Dille (who noted on the commentary track for the 20th anniversary DVD release of The Transformers: The Movie that he and other members of the production staff “never really found out” how he died).

In another interview, Dille recalled: “There was one summer when I had to bail Chris Latta (Starscream, Cobra Commander) out of the Hollywood jail in order to get him to the recording on time. Never figured out what he was in for, but he said it was jaywalking. Chris was a wild, interesting guy. I liked him and was very sorry to hear that he died.”

On April 28, 2012, Chris Latta was inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame. His daughter Abigail accepted on his behalf, to a standing ovation.

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Founded Cult Faction in 2014; previously crawled out of the Black Lodge in 1976, only to find himself in the Village.

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