Friday, January 11, 2008

Premiere Hollywood Event Showcases Talent of Johnny Grant, Dead at Age 84

Another end of an era. Glitterati across America are in mourning over the death of the unofficial Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant. He was 84 years old.

Grant was unmarried. He did not leave behind any children. Some might say the entire town of Hollywood was his family. Grant was a human dynamo, a relic of a bygone time. Show business pulsed through his veins. He transformed a moribound event no one would attend into a world famous bells and whistle ceremony known as the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An actor himself, Grant may hold the record for hosting the most public events as master of ceremonies. He loved the spotlight, people, and hobnobbing with the powers that be. Johnny Grant was civic minded as well as patriotic. In the tradition of Bob Hope, he traveled overseas to encourage and entertain our troops.

I did not know Johnny Grant, nor did we ever meet in person. I'm sure he was the kind of guy I would have liked from the getgo. Last summer, I came across the hands and feet ceremony for Ocean's 13. Very early on in the video, an obnoxious paparazzo screams directions at Brad Pitt. Pitts's churlish reaction was not well received and event monitors quickly snuffed out a fire. Still, the harassment continued. Tensions started to mount. Johnny never missed a beat, not even when the front of his podium fell apart. He kept the crowd calm, put the paparazzi in their place, ad libbed when it was needed, and moved the ceremony along. Despite the common behavior of certain cameramen, the event remained quite classy.

I kept thinking to myself, Hollywood doesn't have a mayor. Who is this odd little man and why is he with all those glitzy Tinseltown superstars? He doesn't seem very glitzy himself. Yet anyone can see from this video that Grant evoked tenderness and respect from the highest echelons. I've never seen a man off the street so revered. Now, in his passing, I realize Johnny Grant was no ordinary man.

Go in peace and tranquility, little mayor of a town who will forever remember you as a man of great stature. May your embedded star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame serve as a beacon of light for all who dream of riches and immortalty.

As he once thought about Mickey Rooney, if Johnny can do it, anyone can.