Gary Owens, ‘Laugh-In’ Announcer and Voice Actor, Dead at 80

Longtime entertainer also worked in radio, cartoons and children’s programming

Last Updated: February 13, 2015 @ 5:45 PM

Gary Owens, the famous voice of “Laugh-In,” died on Thursday at his Encino, California, home after succumbing to diabetes-related complications. He was 80.

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.

Owens was the first radio star to be inducted into the Hollywood HaIl of Fame presented by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and is listed in the Gavin History of Radio as one of the greatest disc jockeys of all time, according to a statement from his representative, Vicki D. Greenleaf of Greenleaf & Associates.

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 chidren’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.

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.

For three decades, Owens emceed and did the play-by-play commentary for the Hollywood Celebrity Baseball Game at Dodger Stadium, working with stars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mark Harmon, Heather Locklear, Pamela Anderson and Garry Marshall.

He is survived by Arleta, his wife of 57 years, and his sons, Scott and Chris Dane Owens.

A memorial will be held at a later time. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Children’s Diabetes Foundation.

Gary Owens was 80.

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