Gary Owens, longtime LA voice and media figure, dies at 80

Gary Owens, whose family announced today that he died Thursday at home in Encino, is best known on the national stage for the fame that came to him as the on-screen announcer on the groundbreaking NBC comedy, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” which debuted in 1967. Owens got work for a long time off his "Laugh-In" exposure, where he was known for intoning that the show came from "beautiful downtown Burbank" — it was filmed on Stage 1 at NBC. But Owens worked in radio, TV, films and comercials in six decades, both before and after "Laugh-In." This is a Los Angeles career.

He began on Los Angeles radio as a disc jockey at KFWB (AM 980) in 1961 and is better remembered for his two decades years at KMPC (AM 710.) He was declared by Billboard magazine the Top Radio Personality in the World in 1979. Owens voiced the original "Space Ghost" super-hero, "Powdered Toast Man" on "Ren and Stimpy" and many other characters, and appeared on many TV shows including "Batman," "The Munsters," "McHale's Nany" and "That '70s Show" — along with six episodes of "Sesame Street." He was also in "Midnight Cowboy and "The Love Bug."

Owens received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980, at 6743 Hollywood Boulevard.

Don Barrett at LA has posted some of the tons of reaction he's getting. His site:

Gary Owens, veteran of KFWB in the Top 40 heyday, two decades with the Station of the Stars 710/KMPC, KPRZ, KKGO, KFI, KLAC, and KGIL, has died, at the age of 80. A diabetic since the age of 8, Gary died in his home surrounded by family.

Gary was voted the #1 disc jockey for the second half of the 20th century, by readers of Los Angeles Radio People. He was nationally known for holding his cupped hand over his ear while announcing the comedy breakthrough show Laugh-In. Gary is one of the most famous broadcasters in Los Angeles radio history….

Gary has made over 1,000 national on-camera tv appearances, been on over 10,000 radio shows, nearly 3,000 cartoon episodes, 35 videos, 20 albums and CDs (six Grammy nominations), 12 books on tape, thousands of commercials (he has won over 50 Clio awards) and appeared in 12 motion pictures.

Gary worked every episode of the Emmy award-winning Laugh In, making famous the phrase "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" which he had been using for years on his radio show. R&R and Billboard called him "a legend." Advertising Age and Adweek said he’s "the most decorated man in broadcasting." He was the emcee for the 1969 Grammy ceremony and the nighttime host of "The Gong Show."

Gary's comedy writing included "Bullwinkle" and "Fractured Flickers."

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Obituaries stories on LA Observed:
Doug Jeffe: a remembrance
Jonathan Gold, LA's preeminent food writer, has died at 57
Harlan Ellison, dangerous visionary
Murray Fromson, a fighter to the end
Cory Iverson, 32, California firefighter dies on Thomas Fire
Bruce Brown, surfing filmmaker of 'The Endless Summer,' dies at 80
A salute to Anacleto Rapping, photographer
LA Observed Notes: Photos of the homeless, photos that found homes