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The Nicest Man in Show Business: Laugh-In & The Amazing Gary Owens
Man of 3000 Voices- Cartoon Characters including Space Ghost, Powdered Toast Man (Ren & Stimpy), Roger Ramjet

While we have written recently about talented performers such as Andy Griffith, Jackie Gleason and Leo Gorcey who were not always the nicest people you might meet, today we look at one of the kindest most gentle man you would want to encounter- the multi talented Gary Owens.

You may remember Gary as a longtime radio personality, a star of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In ( introducing the show from “beautiful downtown Burbank”), the voice of Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost, Ren and Stimpy’s Powdered Toast Man or doing the voices of over 3000 cartoon characters for over 50 years for Hanna Barbera etc. He appeared in guest spots on countless tv shows such as McHales Navy, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, The Green Hornet and countless others. His career credits are seemingly endless. Even though Gary passed away two years ago this week ( Feb 12,2015) at the age of 80, you can still hear his voice occasionally on Antenna TV.

I met Gary over 10 years ago when he did several commercials for me. He was a real pro- If you needed a one minute spot- on the first take he would do it perfectly in :59.5. Amazing. His voice was instantly recognizable.

The great thing about working with Gary was that it took five minutes to do the work and for the next hour he would spin his tales. From Sinatra to the Three Stooges to Walter Winchell. He was a master raconteur. Gary’s stories about his dear friend Frank Sinatra were masterpieces. Whenever Frank was being introduced at an event etc., Frank demanded that they use his friend Gary Owens.

Frank even had Gary record comedy albums for Reprise, his record label. Gary’s 1966 album, Sunday Morning with the Funnies- which is a classic.

Comedian Shelly Berman once told me “For me, just listening to my friend, Gary Owens, is a special pleasure. His easy and compelling voice is matched only by his easy and compelling wit.”

Gary’s voice was booming, much like that of the great Orson Welles. Both were commanding voices that made you listen. The voices were so distinctive that I always felt that you could close your eyes and know right away who they belonged to were in fact, his and Welles. Owens, who is well known for holding his right hand up to his right ear while speaking into a gimbaled boom microphone, adding to the appeal of Laugh-In that for that time, late 60’s – early 70’s was way ahead of its time.

In 1980, Owens received A Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, and in 1994 he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

I need to include a Gary story about Sinatra and here is one from him:

“I knew Frank for about 45 years practically. Over the years, I had done a number of things with Frank and he was always a gentleman to me. As a matter of fact, I do have a story for you.”

“Nicky Blair’s was at one time a top restaurant on Sunset Boulevard and I was to introduce Frank and Nancy, his daughter, who just had a book come out about her dad. I got off the air at about 6:00 PM and I was late in getting out of the station so I phoned for Frank to let him know if he wanted to go on without me. That would be fine.”

“I rushed around in my car to get over there and by the time I did, I was about 25 minutes late. Frank was actually waiting for me. Nicky Blair the owner told me “No, No he is waiting for you.” I felt so bad about it, but got up there and did the announcing and it turned out to be a great event for her book which sold many copies.”

Gary knew everyone from Walter Winchell to Bruce Lee ( Gary appeared 8 times on the Green Hornet) to Goldie Hawn. His stories were endless. He is pictured above with Frank Sinatra and Sugar Ray Robinson ( Gary loved boxing and boxers).

He was also the nicest man you would ever meet. He was married nearly fifty years and had two wonderful kids. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Gary. In Gary’s case, I couldn’t tell you one negative story. In Yiddish he is called a Mensch.

I’m leaving out so many aspects of his life and career- there isn’t the room here. He was always working.

I once asked Gary if there is a saying you live your life by?

“When you get up quickly, don’t run into doors.”

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