Hollywood casting call for new ceremonial "mayor"

Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:56pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood has an opening for a new "mayor," and the leading nominees include a co-star of the 1960s TV comedy "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and a buxom, middle-aged model who promotes herself on billboards.

The high-profile but entirely ceremonial post of Tinseltown mayor was left vacant January 9 by the death of Johnny Grant, the show business figure who reigned tirelessly as booster-in-chief over Los Angeles' landmark Hollywood district for 28 years.

Grant, who was 84, was best known for presiding over the ceremonies that honor luminaries of movies, TV, music and radio with pink terrazo stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He also headed up the Walk of Fame selection panel, organized the annual Hollywood Christmas parade and oversaw efforts to revitalize Hollywood Boulevard as a tourist destination in the 1990s after it had fallen into disrepair.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which administers the Walk of Fame and appoints its honorary mayor, said this week it had yet to formally undertake a search for Grant's successor.

But several contenders are already vying for the role, with longtime radio and TV personality Gary Owens, 71, seeming to have an inside track. As a longtime Chamber of Commerce member, he occasionally filled in for Grant as a Walk of Fame emcee.

Owens, cupping hand to ear, introduced "Laugh-In" as broadcast from "beautiful downtown Burbank" -- a line that helped cement the unglamorous L.A. suburb in the public's mind. He now says he's working on a new catch phrase for Hollywood.

"I'm certainly one of the people up for (Mayor)," he said, adding that he has been a featured speaker at dozens of Walk of Fame ceremonies for his celebrity friends over the years.   Continued...

<p>Actor and radio personality Gary Owens is shown in Los Angeles in this August 27, 2003 file photograph. Owens is one of the persons interested in taking over the role of honorary Mayor of Hollywood, since the death of honorary Mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant on January 9, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files</p>