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Legendary announcer Gary Owens dead at 80

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Photo courtesy Greenleaf & Associates

Photo courtesy Greenleaf & Associates

The legendary announcer of the classic TV series “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” has gone silent. Gary Owens reportedly passed away  peacefully at his home in Encino yesterday surrounded by family, according to a news release.  No exact cause of death was given, but Public Relations specialist, Vicki Greenleaf, told Media City Groove his passing was related to age and diabetes.

Owens’ distinctive baritone voice with its smooth dulcet tones and his skills for comedy, as well as deadpan deliveries, made him a star. Owen started off as a gag writing cartoonist. He got his first break at 14 when “Peanuts” creator, Charles Schulz, selected him as the winner of an art scholarship. While working as a 22-year-old news director in Omaha, Nebraska, the regular disc jockey walked out and Owens had to fill in. In two months, Owens was number one in the ratings and that kick started his career in radio, television, and motion pictures.

Owens had one of the longest and most successful careers in Hollywood. He was seen in every episode of the famous NBC series “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” (1968-1974). He reportedly appeared in more than a thousand TV network episodes of shows like “The Jack Benny Show,” “Batman,” “The Gong Show,” and  “Mad About You.” Also, he was in movies like “The Love Bug” (1969).

He has hosted more than 10,000 national, syndicated and local radio shows. It was reportedly on his KMPC radio show in Los Angeles where Owens first coined the phrase “Beautiful Downtown Burbank,” which later became a favorite catchphrase of ” The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” For over four decades, Owens was one of the busiest commercial voice over and TV promo announcers in the business with more than 30,000 commercials and promos to his credit.  Also, Owens has been the voice of cartoon  characters or the narrator for thousands of cartoon episodes.  He has received numerous awards and accolades including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980.

Owens loved to work and reportedly voiced some TV promos a month before his death. Owens is survived by his wife of 57 years, Arleta, his sons, Scott and Chris Dane, both producers. A memorial is pending. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Children’s Diabetes Foundation childrensdiabetesfoundation.org .

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