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'Beautiful downtown Burbank' creator wants 'Tonight Show' to stay

March 22, 2013|By Joe Flint
  • Gary Owens (in 1996) is still a fan of Burbank and hopes "The Tonight Show" stays put.
Gary Owens (in 1996) is still a fan of Burbank and hopes "The Tonight… (Los Angeles Times )

The man who came up with the phrase "beautiful downtown Burbank" is not happy that NBC is considering moving "The Tonight Show" back to New York City.

"Burbank is a great little place," said Gary Owens, who coined the phrase from his radio days then made it famous when he was the announcer on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" from 1968 to 1973. "If you are in show business in any way, shape or form, you must be here." 

Johnny Carson, who moved "The Tonight Show" from New York to Los Angeles in 1972, also used the "beautiful downtown Burbank" line but never tried to take credit for it.

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"He said, 'We're using "beautiful downtown Burbank," and I told him, 'That's fine — not a problem,'" Owens recalled.

Burbank paid Owens back for his kind words by honoring him along with "Rowan & Martin" executive producer George Schlatter as part of a celebration of the city's founding. 

Carson and others who quoted him invariably delivered Owens' line with more than a hint of sarcasm.

But Owens, who also had a long radio career and is in the Radio Hall of Fame, said Burbank is still beautiful and "a lot more fun to say than New York City."

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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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