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A dream job

November 11, 2005

WHAT A TOWN. WHAT A MAYOR. Well, not a town exactly; more like a famous sign, a storied intersection and a state of mind. And not really a mayor either; more like a guy with a genius for combined promotion of the "town" and himself.

Welcome to the land of Johnny Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood. He announced his retirement in the Sunday paper, but the truth (a term we use loosely) is that he may not actually retire, because Grant, 82, has made this announcement before. And he's not retiring as mayor (because it's not a real job), just from his paid gig as executive producer of the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

You can't quite place it? Well, it's not the Rose Parade or Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. But thanks to a rescue operation by Grant in 1978 and again after a dud of a street party in 2002, it survives as a charming throwback event in which old game-show stars ride in red convertibles and wave to sometimes puzzled post-Thanksgiving crowds.

This will be his last year, Grant says, possibly reasoning that because he snagged the real L.A. mayor as grand marshal and some cast members from "Lost" as participants in the Nov. 27 parade, he should go out on top.

Grant has a Hollywood resume longer than the parade route. Highlights include: first radio DJ to introduce regular traffic reports (mid-1950s on KMPC), White House correspondent for the same station (though the listing doesn't say he was actually in Washington) and countless trips to entertain war-zone members of the armed forces in the company of starlets such as Jayne Mansfield and Julie Newmar. He's even (sort of) a major general in the California National Guard.

Most important, he's chairman of the committee that determines who gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- maybe he can explain why the Olsen twins got theirs before Rod Stewart. (Grant was granted his own star in 1980.) No one tries to count the charity fundraisers he's emceed. He lives in a penthouse at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where he got in on the top floor before the once-seedy hotel became hip.

Grant seamlessly fused himself to Hollywood and rode its star, even more so after winning the honorary mayor title from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1980. So what if it isn't a town? He isn't a mayor, and he might not actually be retiring. At least his cheerful puffery hasn't gotten Hollywood into a foreign war.

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