LOS ANGELES (AP) – Gary Owens, the droll, mellifluous-voiced announcer on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and a familiar part of radio, TV and movies for more than six decades, has died. He was 80.
The veteran voiceover star died Thursday at his Los Angeles-area home, his son, producer Scott Owens, said Friday. Gary Owens had struggled with complications from diabetes, which he had since childhood, family spokeswoman Vicki Greenleaf said Friday.
Owens hosted thousands of radio programs in his long career, appeared in more than a dozen movies and on scores of TV shows, including Lucille Ball and Bob Hope specials. He also voiced hundreds of animated characters, was part of dozens of comedy albums and wrote books.
On “Laugh-In,” the 1968-73 sketch show starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Owens was shown on camera in a parody of an old-school announcer, with his hand cupped firmly over his ear. But his voice was always the real thing, rich and authoritative.
Owens had “such a great voice, so smooth. That was his real voice, even if he was ordering in a restaurant,” said Tom Kenny, the “SpongeBob SquarePants” voice actor who worked with Owens on cartoons including “Dexter’s Laboratory.”
“Laugh-In” creator and producer George Schlatter, who knew Owens but said he hired him for the show after hearing his voice boom through a restaurant restroom, called him a “lovely, lovely man.”
“He had a whimsical, fey sense of humor and he brought a lot to ‘Laugh-In’ in the way of thoughts, words and jokes,” Schlatter said.
Given Owens’ jam-packed resume, was he a workaholic?
“Gary did not work. Gary played,” Schlatter said. “He was a very charming, creative, witty guy who had a good time.”
Owens, a native of Plankinton, South Dakota, was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Washington D.C. in 1995 and into the National Television Hall of Fame in 2001.
In his early career, Owens hopscotched from radio jobs in states including South Dakota and Colorado. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1961.
He was heard on a variety of Los Angeles radio stations including KMPC, KFI and KIIS FM, and hosted a national show on The Music of Your Life Network. He was part of Armed Forces Radio for 10 years and host of the syndicated “Soundtrack of the 60s.”
The catchphrase “beautiful downtown Burbank,” employed by Owens on his KMPC show, became a favorite of Johnny Carson on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”
Owens’ animation voiceover credits include “Space Ghost,” ”Blue Falcon” and “Garfield and Friends” and “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”
“National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” ”The Green Hornet” and “Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue” were among his film credits.
Besides son Scott, Owens is survived by his wife of 57 years, Arleta, and their other son, Chris, a musician and producer. A memorial service was pending, the family said.
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