Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has described his terminal colon cancer as the ‘most amazing experience of my life’, because he is surrounded by his loved ones and donating his estimated $100 million fortune to his passion – animal rights.
Given three months to live in 2012, Simon immediately decided to team up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk, and dedicate his time to the rescue of maltreated animals and conservation.
Having defied that diagnosis’ original death sentence, Simon continues to push ahead and has also funded projects such as ‘Feeding Families’ to help with the underprivileged in inner cities.
And now, as he enters the twilight of his life, has declared himself never happier and finally at peace.
Charity: Sam Simon told NBC’s Maria Shriver that he finds cancer as inspiring as it is daunting
‘They showed me my scans’, said Simon to NBC’s Maria Shriver Project during an interview from his Los Angeles mansion.
Philanthropy: Simon, 59, will donate his estimated $100 million fortune to charity
‘They said these are the scans of a dead man. I said, ‘Is it curable?’ And they said, ‘We don’t use that word.’
‘I will say that the doctor said, ‘I can’t cure you, but my job is to keep you alive. And he has done a remarkable job of it.
‘He has done great. I have never been happier, so thank you doctor.’
However, Simon did not shrink from the realities of his condition, nor fail to inject some trademark humor.
‘Cancer is a horrible disease. I am struggling with it,’ said Simon to NBC.
‘Its everything that everybody always tells you. It’s a journey, it’s a fight. But, if you want publicity and you want to pick up girls, then cancer is the greatest thing in the world.’
Simon has no children and is not married so he wants to give his millions to causes he cares about. He was married to actress Jennifer Tilly in the 1980s but divorced in 1991 though they remain close.
Having already lived almost one year longer than doctors initially gave him, Simon told Maria Shriver that amazingly, his happiness was a direct result of his cancer diagnosis.
‘Somehow I ended up surrounded by people who love me and take care of me and will do anything for me. That is called happiness. I think I may have had a problem letting it in before.
‘Cancer has been a fight, a journey, an adventure and the most amazing experience of my life.’
Hollywood mogul and co-creator of The Simpsons, Sam Simon, looks at cages at a chinchilla farm after he financed the purchase of the facility by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in order to rescue over 400 chinchillas and shutter the business in Vista, California, in August
Sam Simon, who made a fortune as co-creator of The Simpsons, is enjoying giving away untold millions as he battles terminal colon cancer. The nine-time Emmy-winning writer-producer, 58, says he is using his wealth to, among other causes, help shut down roadside zoos and abusive animal shows, fund a dog-rescue haven in Malibu, and fight hunger.
Simon, 58, is spending his final months funding projects that feed homeless people and save animals from being killed in animal shelters.
‘I have used my money along with Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA,’ said Simon to NBC.
‘She came up with almost a therapy for me, where we planned and are still planning a series of animal liberations and actions that I get to participate in and enjoy.
‘It gives me something to look forward.’
‘I get to watch these animals that have been in concrete bunkers their whole lives take their first step on grass.’
Simon created the hit cartoon alongside Matt Groening in 1991. He technically retired from The Simpsons in 1993, but still receives tens of millions in royalties every season.
Asked why he decided to dedicate his fortune and final months to animal rights, Simon was unequivocal.
‘The thing about animals that speaks to me so much is that my passion for the animals and against animal abuse is based on the knowledge that these creatures which think and feel can’t speak for themselves,’ said Simon to NBC.
‘I feel it is my responsibility to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.’
Appreciation: Pamela Anderson kisses Sam Simon during award ceremony for her contribution to ‘Mercy For Animals’
Simon grew up comfortably in Beverly Hills, where his father was in the garment industry, not showbiz.
After turning his drawing talent into a job at an animation studio that made cartoons for kids, Simon submitted a script, on spec, to the ABC comedy ‘Taxi.’ His script was bought and produced, and Simon, in his 20s, was hired as a staff writer and soon rose to be the showrunner.
From there he joined a new NBC sitcom called ‘Cheers,’ where he was staff writer for its ascendant first three seasons.
In 1987 he became a writer and executive producer on the Fox comedy series ‘The Tracey Ullman Show,’ teamed alongside James L. Brooks, the comedy legend with whom he had worked on ‘Cheers’ and ‘Taxi,’ and, of course, cartoonist Matt Groening. They became the founding fathers of ‘The Simpsons.’
‘The Simpsons’ began as interstitial cartoon clips aired during the otherwise live-action ‘Ullman’ show until, in 1989, it was spun off as a Fox half-hour of its own.
Simon was named creative supervisor, and he hired the first writing staff as well as creating several Springfield citizens, including Mr. Burns, the cadaverous industrialist, and Dr. Hibbert, the buffoonish physician.
Although Simon remained the least-known of the three creators, by many accounts he was the most hands-on.
‘You can’t overstate his contribution to “The Simpsons,'” says talk-show star Conan O’Brien, who was a ‘Simpsons’ writer and producer in the early 1990s. ‘No one’s smarter than he is.’
Writer Sam Simon and TV personality Dr. Drew Pinsky attend Pinsky’s unveiling of a new PETA campaign to cure animal homelessness on August 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California
The show – TV’s first successful prime-time animated series since ‘The Flintstones’ nearly three decades before – caught the public off-guard with its sly but perceptive look at the culture.
‘With “The Simpsons,” people didn’t know what they were gonna see,’ says Simon. ‘They didn’t have a clue.’
The show was given time and free reign to flourish by the fledgling Fox network. ‘I don’t think you get that sort of creative freedom with any broadcast shows today.’
Simon left ‘The Simpsons’ after its fourth season in 1994 owing to a strained relationship with Groening.
But it was a lucrative departure. His exit deal entitled him to royalties from ‘The Simpsons’ that, as it enters its 25th season this fall, annually pad Simon’s wallet by tens of millions of dollars.
He has played no role on the show in nearly 20 years (not even watching it, he says), even as his name remains in the weekly credits along with Groening’s and Brooks’ – and his checks roll in.
Sam Simon with Dogs rescued from a shelter that was not providing them with the care they needed – a venture he launched with PETA
This sweet annuity has bankrolled the causes and alternative lifestyle he increasingly came to embrace.
Among his charitable efforts, he established the Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs from animal shelters and trains them to assist disabled veterans and the hard-of-hearing.
He donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 2012 to purchase a vessel for their fleet, which was unveiled last December and named for him.
In March, 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Norfolk, Va., headquarters were christened the Sam Simon Center in recognition of his support for that organization.
Simon’s largesse carries over to humans, too, including a Los Angeles food bank feeding 200 families each day in Simon style: with a vegan menu.
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