Friday, January 11, 2008

Jolly Johnny Hollywood

Johnny Grant, the irrepressible, famously friendly Honorary Mayor of Hollywood is dead at 84.
If you've ever seen photos of those Hollywood Walk of Fame events where luminaries get their Star on the Walk then you've seen Johnny Grant. Johnny personally inducted more than 500 celebrities into the Walk of Fame.
Johnny Grant led the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and boosted Hollywood during its glory days, through its sad slide in the 60s, 70s and 80s and into its dazzling re-emergence in the 1990s and renaissance in the new century. He never, ever wavered in his love for the entertainment industry and Hollywood. Since 1991 he lived atop the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
In the LA Times Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler described Grant as "the bridge between Hollywood's golden past and what's happening today."
Everything about Grant seemed true: from his boyish first name to his jolly manner. Those present at a brief memorial ceremony on the Walk of Fame yesterday said Grant's demeanor was constant, even when he mingled with Hollywood's biggest names. "He never changed. He just added weight," said someone who first met Grant in 1946.
I never met Johnny Grant but I remember seeing him every year in the Hollywood Christmas Parade. To me he epitomized authenticity in the midst of a vast but nonetheless captivating charade. Of course, Ron and Nancy Reagan were among the greats befriended by Grant over the years. Yesterday, Ronald Reagan's uniform from "Brother Rat" was still there in Grant's penthouse apartment along with other treasured Hollywood mementos.

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