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In Title Only : Honorary Mayors Enhance Hometown Images

May 18, 1986|NANCY GRAHAM | Times Staff Writer

They're an elite group, the honorary mayors past and present on the Westside.

They include such luminaries as actors Larry Hagman, Ted Knight, John Saxon, Dom DeLuise, Chevy Chase, Mark Harmon, Anthony Franciosa and attorney Paul Ziffren and KTLA executive Johnny Grant.

Celebrities all, they definitely don't need the increased visibility, and most say the job is purely symbolic. As honorary mayors, they receive no pay and say they have no political clout.

Their honorary titles were created by various Westside chambers of commerce to enhance the images of the communities of Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Hollywood and, Malibu.

Malibu's honorary mayor of 1985, Larry Hagman of "Dallas" fame, accepted the job but would not appear anyplace where anyone might ask him for his autograph. He did, however, show up for some Little League festivities, much to the delight of his young fans.

Attorney Paul Ziffren, chairman of the Olympic Organizing Committee, held the title in 1984.

The highlights of his term, he said, were the Olympic water polo competition at Pepperdine University and the morning the Olympic torch was carried through town.

"All of Malibu turned out," Ziffren said.

Actor John Saxon became Brentwood's 20th honorary mayor during a gala inauguration ball last month at Riviera Country Club, where he was inducted by his friend, actor Anthony Franciosa, the 1981 mayor of Brentwood. Saxon succeeded actor Mark Harmon.

Saxon, who has lived in Brentwood 15 years and whose 15-year-old son attends Brentwood schools, is concerned about local zoning and building patterns. He is active in the Mandeville Canyon Homeowners' Assn. and occasionally appears before the Planning Commission when he fears it is on the verge of making a decision that might adversely affect his community.

Saxon will ride in the Brentwood Memorial Day parade, he said.

"I want to see Brentwood grow, not in abundance, but in sophistication," he said. "As an art lover, I'm anxious to see the Getty Museum in Brentwood, but I want to keep the naturalness of the place. I don't want to see houses jutting off the hills."

Former Honorary Mayor Franciosa, his wife, Rita, and their children are longtime Brentwood residents.

"I think now that I have stayed in Brentwood for 12 years, I have become more aware of my neighborhood," Franciosa said. "I don't know if it's the price of housing or what, but my neighbors seem to be around for a longer time. People don't move as much. My children go to school here and they love it."

Franciosa said he did nothing as mayor, but others said he was always there when they needed him.

Writer-actor Chevy Chase is the new honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades, following on the heels of comedian Dom DeLuise, but the man Palisades residents are most apt to mention is Ted Knight, who served several terms as honorary mayor.

"I didn't have the political clout that Clint Eastwood has, but I got free coffee at the restaurants," Knight reminisced with a grin.

His duties included judging contests, riding in the Fourth of July parade and attending local chamber of commerce functions, he said.

As he showed guests the view from his Palisades hilltop home, Knight talked about the ambiance of the Palisades.

"People here pretend they are living in a small village," he said. "When you walk down the street, faces are familiar. This is one of the most unique communities in the world. It's great to raise kids in an atmosphere like this.

Knight, his wife, Dorothy, and their three grown children have lived in the Palisades for 12 years.

Knight said he has no political ambitions, but in 1982 he and neighbors Walter Matthau and DeLuise were photographed demonstrating against the planned sale and demolition of the community's oldest building, the Santa Monica Land and Water Co. The two-story building on Sunset Boulevard at Swarthmore Avenue was built in 1924. The demonstrators prevailed, and the building has been completely restored and now houses, in addition to a number of small businesses, the Palisades Chamber of Commerce office.

"I'm proud of the fact that I'm involved quite extensively in the No Oil situation," Knight said, adding that many residents believe that drilling would be detrimental to the area.

No story about honorary mayors would be complete without mention of the quintessential honorary mayor, Johnny Grant of Hollywood.

Even before the smiling, silver-haired Grant acquired the honorary title four years ago, he was the man everyone called when they wanted to know something about or get something done for Hollywood.

He has been part of Hollywood since he joined Golden West Broadcasting, now KTLA, 35 years ago as a disk jockey. He is now a vice president and director of public affairs.

Grant is on the Hollywood Christmas parade committee and spends a lot of time planning to make it bigger and better each year. He is also chairman of the selection committee for the Walk of Fame and emcees all installation ceremonies on the boulevard. He received his own star in 1980.

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