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Duvall Hecht, whose daily grind to L.A. led to Books on Tape, dies at 91

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Duvall Hecht was someplace between his banking job in Los Angeles and his house in Newport Seashore when he realized he’d heard the identical music for the third or fourth time. On the information stations, the day by day report had grown stale and repetitive. The commercials had been numbing and limitless.

It was, he advised The Occasions years later, probably the most “lethal two hours” in his day, a grinding commute devoid of any mental stimulation.

In a flurry of entrepreneurial magic, he bought his 1965 Porsche, employed a school drama coach and created what would develop into quantity No. 1 within the soon-to-be-massive Books on Tape catalog, a recording of George’s Plimpton’s soccer story, “Paper Lion.”

“It by no means as soon as appeared like a wacky concept to me,” he stated in 2001, shortly after promoting his startup to Random Home for an estimated $20 million.

Hecht, a person of various pursuits, died Feb. 10 at his house in Costa Mesa, his spouse, Ann Marie Rousseau, stated. He was 91.

Lengthy earlier than he arose as a pioneer on the earth of audiobooks, Hecht was a rower. A great one. He competed within the 1952 Summer season Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, and 4 years later received gold in Melbourne, Australia.

In 1965, nonetheless stuffed with a ardour for the game, he persuaded Dan Aldrich, the inaugural chancellor at UC Irvine, to make rowing one of many 5 founding sports activities on the college. For many years, he remained loyal to this system as a mentor, fundraiser and coach. He additionally coached at UCLA and Menlo Faculty.

Duvall Hecht,  right, at the 1952 Summer Olympics  in Helsinki, Finland.

Duvall Hecht, proper, on the 1952 Summer season Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

(Ann Marie Rousseau )

Born in Los Angeles on April 23, 1930, Duvall attended Beverly Hills Excessive College, then Stanford College, the place he hoped to make the soccer staff. However at 6 ft 1 and 185 kilos, he was deemed too gentle, and a coach recommended he strive rowing as a substitute.

Whereas within the Marines, he grew to become a fighter jet pilot and, after his discharge, a Pan Am pilot, which he discovered to be little higher than being a bus driver, his spouse stated.

When he landed a job as an funding banker in downtown L.A., he sought alternate options to the radio. For some time, he arrange a reel-to-reel tape recorder on the passenger seat and listened to books that had been recorded for individuals who had been blind. When cassette tapes first arrived on the scene, he turned to these as a risk, however might discover solely motivational recordings.

After recording “Paper Lion,” he started putting advertisements in newspapers across the nation and inside 5 years gross sales had been approaching $2 million and he had tens of hundreds of consumers for his audiobooks.

There have been methods to be realized, although. It might take years to safe rights from publishing homes, and the preliminary recordings had been generally stilted and tough to take heed to. He started hiring actors to do the readings.

“You may’t ‘announce’ a guide,” he advised The Occasions in 1983. “It’s a must to learn it with feeling, but you don’t wish to dramatize it.”

Clients would hire guide tapes for 30 days, and since Hecht didn’t cost a deposit, they had been on an honor system to return them. For probably the most half, he stated, clients held up their finish of the cut price and mailed again the tapes.

There was a bulk issue as properly. A recorded studying of Leo Tolstoy’s “Battle and Peace” was 70 hours lengthy and consisted of 47 90-minute tapes, greater than sufficient to fill a glove compartment.

After promoting the corporate, he stated he was disillusioned when Random Home minimize his catalog of 6,000 books in half, usually dropping the classics in favor of bestsellers and new releases.

“I feel if I had recognized they had been going to try this, I may not have bought them the corporate,” he joked.

Although he’d been a pilot, an Olympian, a banker and an entrepreneur, Hecht out of the blue discovered himself unemployable after he bought Books on Tape, and pursued a brand new profession as a long-haul truck driver, a dream he’d had since he was 16. His spouse stated she’d generally accompany him on his cross-country journeys and marveled at how a lot he loved the open street.

“And on these journeys, after all, we might take heed to Books on Tape.”

Hecht is survived by his spouse, Ann Marie Rousseau; daughter Oriana Rousseau; three youngsters from his first marriage to Sigrid M. Hecht: Katrin Bandhauer, Justin Hecht and Claus Hecht; and grandchildren Lorien Bandhauer, Walter Bandhauer and Emma Lawlor.