August 4-9, 1999
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Mayor of Hollywood
Johnny Grant and Hollywood are synonymous. He is a two-time Emmy-winning television producer and host, who for 20 years, executive produced the nationally telecast "Hollywood Christmas Parade," the Ceremonial Mayor of Hollywood and Chairman of the Walk of Fame Selection Committee.
When spectacular Hollywood special events are presented, more often than not Johnny Grant is at the helm. He served as chairman and executive producer of the Hollywood Centennial Celebration, orchestrating Hollywood's year-long birthday extravaganza. He was the creator and producer of the "Welcome Home Desert Storm" parade and observances in Hollywood honoring America's fighting men and women from the Persian Gulf War. Television audiences around the world regularly see him dedicating stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and helping immortalize the world's greatest motion picture stars in cement in the forecourt of the fabled Mann's Chinese Theatre. Johnny Grant is Hollywood's most recognized spokesman and its greatest booster.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences paid tribute to Mr. Grant in 1988, awarding him their highest honor, the Los Angeles Area Governor's Award. It was the second time that he had won the coveted Emmy, having had a total of ten nominations.
As Hollywood's Ambassador of Goodwill, Mr. Grant has contributed his boundless energy and extraordinary enthusiasm to the community he adopted more than 50 years ago.
When Hollywood celebrated its centennial on February 1, 1987, Mr. Grant created a year-long birthday extravaganza that featured the glamour, excitement and glitter of the most famous community in the world. News media descended on Hollywood to cover virtually every aspect of the star-studded Johnny Grant production. Television audiences from England to Egypt and from Rangoon to Russia watched in awe at the myriad of celebrities and events from the town where dreams are made.
The Hollywood Christmas Parade is another recurring example of Mr. Grant's dedication to the revitalization of Hollywood. When the town's annual Santa Claus Lane Parade lost its luster, the parade's organizer, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, called Johnny Grant. When he signed on as parade producer in 1978, it was a reasonably popular, but strictly local, event. Mr. Grant rounded up 100 of Hollywood's most popular stars, the committee changed the name to The Hollywood Christmas Parade, and with the drive of Johnny's talent and personality, his 20-year tenure transformed the Parade into a nationally televised festivity that has become one of the world's largest celebrity events.
Mr. Grant's legendary accomplishments in Hollywood draw strongly from his roots in radio and television. He was one of the television medium's earliest pioneers and stars. Beginning in 1946, he was host of the game show Beat the Clock, which aired alterntely on Dumont Television in New York City, WBGR-TV, Schenectady, New York, and WPTZ-TV in Philadelphia. In 1949, Johnny Grant provided the color commentary to Tom Harmon's play-by-play of Pacific Coast Football games broadcast over one of the first regional TV sports networks. In 1950, Mr. Grant served as the daytime host for four hours daily on KECA-TV (later to become KABC Television).
Back to his first love, radio, Mr. Grant created and hosted Los Angeles radio station KMPC's "Freeway Club," from 1951 to 1959. He was the first disc jockey in the nation to intersperse regular traffic reports between his records and famous-name guests.
Mr. Grant appeared on the NBC Television Network from 1953 to 1954 as co-host of 7 to 8, one of th fledgling industry's first infotainment shows immediately preceding The Today Show with Dave Garroway on the West Coast.
In January 1965, Mr. Grant was accredited as KMPC's White House Correspondent. His keen insight into national politics combined with his warm style and occasional irreverent wit brought accolades from not only the listening public but a long string of White House residents.
The years 1969 to 1971 saw Mr. Grant again as a daily regular on television. He hosted KTLA's Johnny Grant at Universal Studios, featuring celebrities from all walks of life and capturing some of their more candid conversations. This heralded the era of live television shooting regularly, for the first time, on a movie studio lot.
He also did a three-year stint on KTLA's News at Ten, with his nightly feature "Johnny Grant Backstage in Hollywood." In addition, Mr. Grant was also one of the first afternoon and prime-time movie hosts.
Johnny Grant made his show business debut on the radio in 1939, as a local newscaster for his hometown radio station, WGBR, Goldsboro, North Carolina. He received national recognition for his unprecedented coverage of North Carolina's Irby Holmes murder trial. Mr. Grant convinced the judge to allow him to stand in the courtroom doorway and broadcast live periodic reports of the progress in the trial. According to court and station officials, this was the first time that a live microphone had been allowed in a courtroom. The defendant, a part-time preacher, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He asked the judge for permission to preach a final sermon and was refused, but he was allowed to write his sermon and Mr. Grant delivered it on the air.
During World War II, while serving in the Army Air Corps, Mr. Grant broadcast from Seymour Field, North Carolina, and was aired on his "alma mater" station WGBR. He also was heard over New York's WINS Radio, where he hosted a special daily show for the millions of servicemen and women stationed, living, and simply passing through New York City on military duty. The show was called "Strictly GI," and featured not only news of interest to the troops, but interviews with some of the greatest and most popular entertainment stars of the day.
Back on the commercial airwaves after the war, Mr. Grant continued doing news features with WINS. To this day, he has vivid memories of the wide variety of stories he's covered throughout his career. He was on the scene in 1945, shortly after a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building and was the only radio reporter on the air March 8, 1946, when Andrei Gromyko angrily walked out of the United Nations Security Council Chamber.
Mr. Grant also recalls his chats with the legendary Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Ty Cobb, Eleanor Roosevelt, Great Britain's Sir Anthony Eden, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Admiral William F. Halsey and more.
Along with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, Mr. Grant co-hosted the first national telethon ever produced, a fund-raiser to help send America's Olympic athletes to Helsinki in 1952. He was one of the creators of the Arthritis Telethon and was affiliated with the show as producer/co-host for 20 years. Mr. Grant also served as producer of the United States Marine Corps Reserve's "Toys For Tots" Telethon for ten y ears.
With his ebullient style, Mr. Grant is one of the West Coast's most sought-after masters of ceremony, and, to date, has emceed more than 4,500 civic and charity events. Through his humanitarian efforts, Mr. Grant has also produced hundreds of these events, raising millions of dollars for the USO, Boy Scouts of America, the Arthritis Foundation, police and fire services, veterans organizations, etc.
Mr. Grant is one of America's most enthusiastic, energetic and vocal supporters of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. His service to his country includes 14 trips to Korea and 14 gut-wrenching tours to combat bases throughout Vietnam ... in all, a monumental 50 USO and personally organized visits to bring laughter, encouragement and the spirit of America to GIs overseas.
Some of the then-aspiring actresses who accompanied Mr. Grant on his tours included: Angie Dickinson, Debbie Reynolds, Connie Stevens, Diane McBain, Jayne Mansfield, Rita Moreno, Ann Sheridan, Stephanie Powers, Patricia Neal, Linda Darnell, Terry Moore, Julie Newmar, Piper Laurie, Mala Powers and Vicki Lawrence. His good friend Bob Hope often quips that he (Hope) is the "rich man's Johnny Grant!" During the Korean War, Mr. Grant's "GI Phone Fund" provided wounded servicemen with free telephone calls home when they arrived at California's Travis Air Force Base hospital.
Mr. Grant's 12th trip to Vietnam brought high praise from General Creighton Abrams, Commanding General of the U.S. Forces there, as he pinned Mr. Grant with the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. Since then, his amazing dedication to our armed forces personnel has been recognized with Distinguished Civilian Service Medals from the Department of Defense, Department of Army and Department of Navy on behalf of the Marine Corps.
Mr. Grant spent Christmas of 1982 and 1983 entertaining Marines in Beirut, Lebanon, and was the only Hollywood personality to make two trips to visit our troops in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Storm.
To date, he has made three visits to the Balkans to spend Christmas with the peacekeepers stationed there. During these trips, he had an opportunity to reestablish a long association with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service by appearing on the Christmas Day Specials on the AFN in Frankfort, Germany, whose radio signal covers almost half the world. During both the Korean and Vietnam wars, Mr. Grant hosted daily hour-long disc jockey shows for AFRTS.
Mr. Grant is a retired Major General in the California State Military Reserve, the all-volunteer backup and support force of the California National Guard. In 1982, the State of California showed its appreciation for Mr. Grant's 30 years of service by awarding him The Order of California, the State's highest honor. Governor George Duekmejian, in an unprecedented act, awarded Mr. Grant a second Order of California at the State Capitol in 1990. General Grant is also the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal.
Mr. Grant served as chairman of the California Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. In this role, he headed the statewide committee that assured members of the reserve forces that they would receive fair treatment by their employers, would not be penalized for absences for military service, and would be guaranteed their old jobs after demobilization.
Mr. Grant has a long list of honors and awards. He is the first -- and only -- recipient of the Bob Hope Combat Entertainer Award from the International Korean War Veterans Association for his entertainment of tours to the front lines. The award was presented personally by Bob Hope. He is also th recipient of the General Matthew B. Ridgeway Award for patriotic and valorous service above and beyond the call of duty.
The Los Angeles Press Club honored Mr. Grant in 1987 with their prestigious "Legends of News Award." It is presented to persons who, through the years, both locally and nationally, have played a major role in keeping us informed of worldwide events.
Among his other major awards are The Variety Club's Heart Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Pepperdine University, Childhelp USA's Annual Sweetheart Award, Holland's Golden Heart Award for his service to the Walk of Fame/Europe, The Order of Merit from Russia and the USO's Distinguished American Award, which puts him in th company of President Gerald Ford, General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, Bob and Dolores Hope, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Nancy Reagan and General James Doolittle. On December 5, 1997, Mr. Grant was the first recipient of USO's highest honor -- The Spirit of Hope Award -- presented to him aboard the USS Intrepid.
A man of many and varied interests, Mr. Grant has served with distinction as Chairman of the Los Angeles City Fire Commission, Los Angeles County Social Service Commission, the Police Commission of Burbank, as a White House appointee to the national USO Board of Governors, as International Ambassador to United Nations Forces for the International Korean War memorial and presently is Chairman of the Selection Committee for the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chairman of the Hollywood Historic Trust. He has served on boards of the Bob Hope USO, the Arthritis Foundation and the Los Angeles Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Gen. Carl Be. Mundy, President and CEO of Worldwide USO has appointed Mr. Grant as Ambassador of Goodwill for that organization.
Johnny Grant received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980 for his contributions to television and support of the Hollywood community. His star is located in front of the Chinese Theatre, between those of Zsa Zsa Gabor and his one-time Army Air Corps Commanding Officer, Glenn Miller. Mr. Grant's ceremony drew one of the largest crowds ever to attend a Walk of Fame dedication. It included Southern California's top civic, political and entertainment industry leaders and stars, a special fly-over by aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol, a task force from the Los Angeles City Fire Department saluting their former commissioner, and the California Army National Guard's 40th Infantry Division Band performing their newest composition, "The General Johnny Grant March."
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