The Honorary Mayor of Hollywood Has Died
Johnny Grant, a unique Hollywood icon for decades passed away in his sleep Wednesday, January 9, 2008. He was 84 and to his last minute he was an active and intrinsic part of the town that he loved.
If you have lived in Hollywood, CA you more than likely have heard of Johnny Grant. But you may not know why. In short, Mr. Grant was the single greatest supporter of the Hollywood tourist community the area has ever known. A recognized figure around the world, Grant hosted the Hollywood Christmas Parade and Walk of Fame Star ceremonies for decades. An exuberant little man with a perky smile and contagious enthusiasm he was the perfect cheerleader for a famed (and often infamous) town that has seen its share of bright lights and glamour as well as tarnished avenues marred by litter and neglect. All through its ups and downs, Mr. Grant remained its constant supporter.
Simply put, Johnny Grant loved the idea of Hollywood in all its glory and believed that that’s exactly the way visitors should experience it – as the ideal dream they’ve envisioned all their lives. And Grant believed it was up to Hollywood to live up to those dreams and not let her fans down by being anything less. So, Grant took it upon himself to keep that Hollywood ideal going strong. He made appearances, he produced parades, he staged celebrations and hosted ceremonies about, for, or in Hollywood.
I had the honor to meet Mr. Grant not once, but twice. The first time was during the shooting of a movie where Mr. Grant was in a scene where he played himself at a ceremony honoring Robert Wagner (also playing himself). It was a big chase scene where the hero runs after the bad guy through a crowd gathered to watch Robert Wagner immortalize his hands in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. After the last take it was my job to guide the men through the crowd. When I asked them to follow me, Mr. Wagner asked, “why?” to which I responded, “Mr. Wagner, you’re finished”. The veteran actor and honorary mayor knowingly looked to one another before Mr. Wagner said, “My dear, never tell an actor he’s finished”. At which point Johnny Grant laughed heartily as I led the two friends through the crowd. I say friends not because of any first hand knowledge I have of a friendship between the men, but because that was what Johnny Grant was to every Hollywood luminary, a sincere and gracious friend who easily fit in and comfortably ingratiated himself.
The second time I met Johnny Grant was at the 60th anniversary screening of Gilda. It was a rather luminous event hosted by the American Cinematheque, populated with many stars of the more glamorous days of Hollywood including Martin Landau, Shirley Jones and Ann Rutherford. Ann Rutherford! Wholly cow, she was in Gone with the Wind! She was Andy Hardy’s girlfriend Polly! And on this night, Johnny Grant was among the group escorting Miss Rutherford to this special screening at the Egyptian Theatre. When I had the opportunity to remind Mr. Grant of our previous meeting, he was very kind and seemed very sincere when he said he remembered me. It really doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t, because he was just so damn nice about the whole thing. I believe he must have left that impression on many people.
And that is what Johnny Grant will be remembered for. He was a sincerely nice man who truly loved promoting the Hollywood ideal. He loved Hollywood so much he devoted his life to it, and in return Hollywood loved him back. It is very unlikely that such a town, known for its facades and illusions will ever again have as sincere and deeply devoted fan as Johnny Grant.