January 3, 2004 by

David Bale


Categories: Business

South African-born entrepreneur David Bale was both a commercial pilot and a skateboard importer, but he was best known as a passionate activist of human and animal rights.

Bale used his piloting skills to provide air rescue and food supplies to needy communities in Africa. He served as a board member of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, an organization dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas; and supported the Ark Trust, an animal rights group that recently became the Hollywood office of the Humane Society of the United States. In 2002, Bale exposed how marine scientists were cruelly branding seals for tracking purposes on the syndicated television show, “Celebrity Justice.”

“David went through the world with few possessions and great empathy for all living things. He had the greatest heart of anyone I’ve ever known,” stated his wife, feminist author Gloria Steinem.

Bale, 62, died on Dec. 30 from brain lymphoma. He leaves behind four children, including actor Christian Bale.

12 Responses to David Bale

  1. nancie loppnow

    David Bale’s death has left me terribly saddened. I met him barely two years ago when Gloria was in Ann Arbor, MI for a political rally/reception for Lynn Rivers. He was so engaging; conversing with him was pure delight. Not only did I learn a great deal about his work and his life and his family, but I felt my questions about the man who was able to interest Gloria enough to marry him, were answered.
    David’s gifts to our planet were numerous and his loss leaves a significant hole. Certainly his gifts as an animal rights activist will long be remembered! I wish to extend my sympathies to Gloria and to David’s family who must feel somewhat “cheated” – losing him while he was in the prime of his life. Somehow I can feel the earth exuding a moanful cry as she realizes he is gone from her soil. Thank goodness David Bale lived and contributed as he did – my impression of him will always remain hugely positive.

  2. marilyn

    I have just learned that Mr. Bale died of brain lymphoma. My husband has just recently been diagnosed with this same illness, and we’ve been told it’s “highly treatable.” Can someone tell me what happened with Mr. Bale? Reading this news is very disheartening. Thank you.

  3. Pat Stearn

    David was my cousin. Sadly we lost touch in the ’70s. I am so saddened by his death. We had great fun as kids in Guernsey staying with our Gran. He was the big brother that I never had. God bless you David.

  4. Capt Scott Shields

    David Bale was a friend of Bear’s and mine. He brought much good into this world. He was as good and decent a man as ever walked this earth. He was with me when Bear died and helped me to realize that through Bear’s fame and reputation there was still much work left to do; and could still be done in his name. Even in Bear’s death he continues to keep others alive; David was an inspiration in this legacy, today thousands of rescuers across the United States are the beneficieries of his time here walking amongst us. David had much to do with this.
    David passed away last year from cancer…………we honor his time here on earth and hope to continue his memory through ” The Bear Search & Rescue Foundation’s
    David Bale Award for Most Extraordinary Service to Humanity”.
    This award event will take place on board The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum Sept 17th 2005 (and every Sept in David’s name. Dr Jane Goodall will give the award in David’s name.
    Capt. Scott Shields Commander Search and Rescue WTC Sept 2001/
    Father of Bear the most decorated dog in American history
    Bear Search & Rescue Foundation
    “The following tribute was written by David’s partner, Gloria
    Steinem, for the 2004 journal of the Genesis Awards in Hollywood.
    This annual event of the Humane Sociery of the United States awards
    media that expose cruelty to animals, and help preserve species and
    their habitats worldwide.”
    September 2, 1941 ——– December 30, 2003
    “David Bale was born in South Africa, and grew up in England, Egypt and the Channel Islands. As a solitary child of parents who were often traveling, he found love and constancy with a beloved dog that was part of his life for fourteen years. This began an empathy with animals that would never end. David became a pilot, entrepreneur, environmentalist, and animal rights activist who gave his own four children a love of animals and the natural world. In 1991, he moved with his two younger children, Christian and Louise, then teenagers, to Los Angeles where they could continue their careers in film and theater.
    Soon, animal rights activists in the South Bay became aware of a tall man in a black shirt and black sneakers who brought injured animals into clinics, found homes for strays, and stopped on freeways to rescue hurt animals or set their bodies aside with words of respect.
    Indeed, he tried never to pass a living thing in need, whether this meant driving a homeless person to a shelter, helping over-burdened single mothers in the street, or fighting against developers to save wetlands for migrating birds. As an activist, he also lobbied for such issues at the upper levels of politics and society. As an individual, he took loving care and gave a home to many stray cats, any birds or migrating ducks who visited the backyard, and a series of dogs, including an L.A. street dog named Mojo who soon was traveling back and forth by plane to New York when David also began to live there.
    In April when he was first hospitalized for symptoms of primary brain lymphoma, he had been on the board of the Ark Trust and the Genesis Awards for five years, and was also a board member of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and World Education Inc., a creator of nonformal education programs in developing countries. Together with Gloria Steinem, whom he married in the fall of 2000, he was exploring ways of organizing the women

  5. Capt Scott Shields

    Davids inspiration lives on in 11,000 people in Louisiana. David was part of the reasons behind the Bear Search & Rescue Foundation.
    Hope you are aware that the Bear Search & Rescue Foundation http://www.bearsearchandrescue.org established by the law firm of Proskauer Rose in the name of America’s most decorated rescue dog played a key role in the rescue operations in Louisiana.
    Our actions ultimately responsible for 11,000 people being alive in Louisiana today. We have incredible shots of the first animal rescues and human rescues using small boats. You may also enjoy knowing that the Foundations last major course in New York Harbor for twenty six agencies June 4-6 was “Responding to the Five Hundred Year Flood”.
    The Foundation deployed 27 teams (that it had funded or trained the last four years) they averaged 220 rescues per team and hundreds of animals. The special boat teams I led for the 3rd Brigade 82nd Airborne (with 45 boats supplied by the Foundation) rescued just under 6000 people with boats and boat crews provided by http://www.bearsearchandrescue.org In all 11,000 people and hundreds of animals ar alive today because of the Foundation. We also started the policy of rescueing anything that lived. You’ll love the attached story and the second attachment with its simple country lawyer quality that got around the whole FEMA system that minimizes rescue. I gave orders that anything that lived be rescued!
    The Foundation just started (two months ago) a program with the USCG to support local SAR teams around the country, it is called the Bear Boat Program (Boat Emergency Action Response). It will provide boats and coxswains from the USCGA to support on a consistent basis local SAR, Fire, Police and EMS services.
    What we did in Louisiana made all we did at theWTC like a pebble on the beach, but it set the stage for this greater good.
    When I called Gov Blanco of Louisiana to deploy teams I gave my name, rank, the units, it all meant nothing to her, then out of desperation I said “do you remember Bear from the World Trade Center” and she said “I read the book, I know who you are……..how many units and when can they be here?”
    I knew that Bear would become a legend, I wanted to turn that legend into a legacy to keep people (and now animals) alive.
    Bear lives! David lives!
    Scott Shields
    732 713 6298

  6. ML Wagner

    David Bale: What I will always remember about him is he always called me “Treasure”. It was endearing & I’ve occasoionally used his presence.
    I’ve known him for many years, & although he’s gone, I think that I shall know him forever.

  7. Tom

    I remember David vaguely from when I was a kid. My dad and him were very good friends for a few years in the late 60s.
    My mother lent him money so he could get his pilots license.
    Sadly he never paid it back.
    I guess even the brightest suns have a dark side.

  8. donna

    Having read the tributes, in response to Tom of June 15, 2007…..it would seem to me that rather than “paying back” David “paid it forward”. No dark side.

  9. Erica Shelby

    I met David in 2002 when my mother Velda received a Gloria award from the Ms. Foundation. I was only 18 at the time but I had a good conversation with him about film and activism. He told me to come visit him and Gloria in California. Well I’m 25 and I’m here now and I was sad to learn that he passed away 5 years ago. I’ll never forget our conversation. He was an inspiration to me then and he still is. I thank him for getting me out of my element and I hope to do good things with my life as he did now that I am here in Los Angeles.

  10. Peter

    David was a charming man. They say you shouldn’t speak badly of the dead but, sadly, he was a very believable conman and something of a Walter Mitty. In 1979, after a 7 week trial in the Middlesex Crown Court in Parliament Square, London he was convicted of theft. As for his claims of being a commercial pilot …I don’t feel great about posting this note – but when reading all the adulation surrounding him, I realise that I wasn’t the only one taken in by him.

  11. Alfred

    To Peter and Tom…. I knew David Bale very well, working for him and his son for many years. He was charming, seemingly caring, but there was an incredibly sad side to his life. I hope one day the story comes out about how this sometimes fierce and always resourceful man did whatever he had to do to stay in the US and to help his son.

  12. Ted

    I have to agree with the assessment of David as a charming human being who also happened to be a conman.
    He and I were very close for a number of years, and I miss his friendship. But, like all of us, he had his flaws, and one of them was adopting into his biography the man he WISHED he was, rather than the life he actually lived.
    I introduced him to a pilot who actually did save countless lives by coordinating and flying airlift missions in Africa. David was so fascinated with the idea, that he eventually incorporated those ideas and stories into his own biography as though they were his own experience.
    I also agree with your doubts about his claim to have been a commercial pilot. I also have good reason to doubt David was ever a pilot, let alone a commercial pilot.
    We would often talk for hours on end, and I often got to see his more vulnerable, true self as well.
    I could go on, but my point is that both aspects of his life are true: He was both a charming man and a good friend, with a genuine love for humanity, yet he was also a conman who was tremendously insecure and obsessed with finding ways to make or come into money, and who tried to mitigate this by creating a public persona that was disingenuously larger than his true self.
    Yet he did indeed have a way of genuinely inspiring people, even if his own biography was less than genuine.
    David was flawed, I can’t deny it, but I loved the guy, and I still miss him.

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