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Happy Birthday to Himself

“The town (Hollywood) needed some jazzing up!” said the town’s honorary mayor, Johnny Grant. That’s why he tossed himself his 84th birthday party lunch, Wednesday in the Oscar Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel–where he has a lifetime lease on the penthouse apartment. He picked up the tab for the steak-shrimp-salad, cake and ice cream and “open bar” party.

Also for the “jazzing up” of Hollywood, Grant said, “I’d run half of those T-shirt shops (on Hollywood Boulevard) out of town–and get some fine stores in!” The guest list and speakers included Police Chief Bratton, who took time between meetings on the Griffith Park Fire and the May 1 MacArthur Park melee to toast Grant. How come? Bratton recalled being in the Army and stationed in Long Binh, South Vietnam, when Grant and the Bob Hope troupe flew in to entertain ’em.

Other tributes abounded by many of the 125 guests who had experienced the appearance of Grant and USO troupes around the world. Johnny was seated between Angie Dickinson and Mamie Van Doren, two of those who toured service bases with him. Grant allowed of his affection for Angie, “She is the most beautiful woman I ever pinned a badge on. When she starred in ‘Police Woman,’ I wanted to take the law in my own hands.” He is starting to assemble stories for his book “I Layed 600 Stars.” Of course, he’s referring to the concrete stars he’s layed on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Although the Hollywood Christmas Parade (which Grant originated) has been KO’d, he will be Grand Marshall of the Christmas Parade at the Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay this year. He recently appeared there and reported on what the prison looked like. (A no-holds-pulled commentary on the brutality in the prison was the major theme of Tuesday’s May 8 “Boston Legal.” If you missed it, TiVo it!). A “happy birthday” phone call from the Guantanamo naval base was one of several calls connected to Grant on the podium. Others were from Mike Reagan and Stefanie Powers.   

Mickey Rooney, 86 was very vocal about the “old Hollywood” when called upon for a bow by Grant. Rooney was the reason, explained Johnny, why he came out to Hollywood. He’d seen Mickey in “Boys Town” in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and was determined to come to Hollywood and be a part of the movie biz. He met D.W. Griffith in the lobby of the Knickerbocker Hotel and–as they say–the rest is (Hollywood) history. However, Honorary Mayor Gramt now admits he’s headed to retiring the title and suggested these three as possible successors: Leeza Gibbons, Gary Owens or Kent McCord. Todd Lindgren, Senior Vice-President of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who m.c’d the program, asked Grant who was the most interesting person of all he’d ever known–“Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin,” Grant answered, unhesitatingly, praising the longtime leader of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple who died July 17, 1984.

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