Gary Owens, Announcer, died at 80

  Dead Famous

Famous announcer Gary Owens died on the 12th of February 2015; Mr. Owens was born Gary Altman in Mitchell, S.D., and got his first broadcasting job at 16, when he became the news director of radio station KORN there. (The surname Owens would be bestowed on him later, by the owner of an Omaha radio station for which he worked in the 1950s.)

After studying at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, he worked for radio stations throughout the Midwest, and in Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis and San Francisco.

In 1961, he became a disc jockey at KFWB-AM in Los Angeles, later moving to KMPC-AM there, where he worked for two decades.

Mr. Owens fell into television as a writer for several of the animated series produced by Jay Ward, the creative force behind the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Hearing his sonorous voice, the producers quickly conscripted him as a performer.

Billboard Magazine named Owens the Top Radio Personality in the World in 1979. He was inducted into The National Radio Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.  In 1995, into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago in 1996, and into The National Television Hall of Fame (by the National Association of Broadcasters-the NAB) in 2001. In addition to announcing on “Laugh-In” for 140 episodes, he was the announcer on “The Wonderful World of Disney” and NBC’s “The Gong Show.”

He also did voice work on children’s shows, including PBS’ “Sesame Street” and “Electric Company.” His prolific career even stretched into cartoons, most notably with the cult series “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” on which he voiced Space Ghost.

Owens moved from South Dakota to Hollywood in 1961 and got his start disc jockeying for Los Angeles radio stations, first at KFWB-AM and later at KMPC-AM, where he maintained a daily radio show which ran for 20 years.

The veteran talent, who enjoyed a long career as a radio DJ, voice performer and TV announcer, served as the announcer for NBC’s “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” from 1968 to 1973.

His trademarks included the catchphrase “beautiful downtown Burbank” — said in a deep, booming voice — and holding his hand over his ear while he announced.

He also appeared in over a dozen films and TV shows, including appearances as himself on I Dream of Jeannie, The Electric Company, and the 1980 Bob Hope for President television special.

Owens is survived by his wife of 57 years, Arleta, and their sons, Scott and Chris. Owens suffered from diabetes and the family asks that donations be made to the Children’s Diabetes Foundation in lieu of flowers.

Mr. Owens never stopped working after Laugh-In, doing commercials, variety specials, cartoons, radio shows, and even theme-park announcements in his deep voice that was one of the most famous in show business.

He could have slowed down, but his frantic pace was set early in life. At 9, he was diagnosed with diabetes. “I overheard a doctor tell my parents he didn’t expect me to live past my teens,” Mr. Owens said in a 1980 Los Angeles Times interview.

“So from that time on, I engaged in all kinds of one-upmanship to prove I was as good as or better than anyone else.”