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Johnny Olson, 'Come-on-Down' Man of 'Price Is Right,' Dies

October 13, 1985|SCOTT HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

Veteran television announcer Johnny Olson, who exhorted contestants on "The Price Is Right" to "come on down!" for the last 14 years, died Saturday morning in a Santa Monica hospital of complications from a stroke. He was 75.

Olson was admitted to St. John's Hospital last Sunday, a nursing supervisor there said.

"There was only one Johnny Olson," said Marc Breslow, director of "The Price Is Right." "He wasn't just an announcer. He was a performer. . . . He had this operatic voice and he could read an entire page in one breath, just like lyrics.

"And he was a wonderful man. You could ask everybody at CBS--from a guard to the top man--and they all loved Johnny Olson."

Mark Goodson, whose company produces the show, said Olson "can never be replaced."

Olson was honored in July at the daytime Emmy Awards banquet for his 40 years in television--a career that encompassed a wide array of hits and flops.

Olson began in radio in the early 1940s, first hosting the talk show "Ladies Be Seated" with his wife Penny, and later emceeing the game shows "Break the Bank" and "Whiz Quiz."

Then he moved to TV, hosting and announcing such short-lived shows as "Doorway to Fame," "Fun for the Money," "The Strawhatters," "Hold That Note," "Keep It in the Family" and "Play Your Hunch" from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.

During the 1960s, his voice became familiar across the nation as the unseen announcer of "The Jackie Gleason Show." Olson also worked as the backstage announcer for popular game shows "What's My Line?," "To Tell the Truth," "I've Got a Secret" and "Match Game."

But he was best known as the cheerful second fiddle to "Price Is Right" host Bob Barker, often performing in silly skits. His booming trademark--"Come on down! You're the next contestant on 'The Price Is Right!' "--propelled contestants screaming down the aisles. The line became so familiar over the years that stand-up comics sometimes used it to spice up their routines.

"He coined that phrase and he was stuck with it," Breslow said. "Every place he went, people would say, 'Aren't you the come-on-down man?' And he'd just say, 'Yeah, I'm the come-on-down man.' "

Olson never missed a taping of "The Price Is Right." He taped his last show on Oct. 2, and he will continue to be seen on the hour-long daytime show for five weeks, and the half-hour evening version for another five months.

Olson is survived by Penny Olson, his wife for 46 years. Funeral services were pending.

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