The zany Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In announcer died on Thursday at his home in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, at the age of 80.
The radio announcer’s son, Chris, said that the cause of death was complications from his long fight with diabetes.
Owens, with his baritone voice, once said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times back in 1980 that he had “overheard a doctor tell my parents he didn’t expect me to live past my teens… So from that time on I engaged in all kinds of one-upmanship to prove I was as good or better than anyone else.”
He had been a diabetic since the age of 8, according to Variety. The report indicated that he was probably best known as the announcer on NBC’s Laugh-In, which ran from 1968 until its end in 1973.
His KMPC radio show catchphrase, “Beautiful downtown Burbank,” eventually became a nightly catchphrase on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
The voiceover performer lent his voice to thousands of cartoons, providing the voice of “pace Ghost as well as Batman, Powdered Toast Man, Blue Falcon, and Roger Ramjet. He was animated as himself in The Fantastic Four, Garfield and Friends, Eek the Cat, and Bobby’s World. He was also of the original contributors to The Electric Company, a PBS series, and the announcer on Sesame Street since its inception in 1969. Big Bird recently sent his first tweet on Twitter as himself, the Inquisitr reported.
The longtime radio personality, who was born Gary Altman on May 10, 1934, hosted the Music of Your Life Network, a national radio show, for 30 years. He collaborated with Jonathan Winters to create three hit comedy CDs and he also wrote for the Rocky & Bullwinkle series.
He grew up in Plankinton, where he graduated from high school. Later, he enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan University but left after a year of studying.
His first job in radio was at KORN in Mitchell, where he served as the news director.
The late voiceover star, who served as VP of Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasters, is survived by his 57-year-old wife, Arleta, and his two sons, Scott Owens and Chris Dane Owens. Both sons are producers, however, Chris is also a musician. Their father received his start as a radio newscaster in Mitchell, South Dakota.
In 1961, Owens moved to Hollywood, California. The same year, he began his career in television, doing four TV specials a year for the Chris-Craft Corp. and their TV station KCOP. He also worked for KFWB upon his arrival in Hollywood.
His daily KMPC Los Angeles radio show ran for 20 years.
Chris was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as having said that he’s heard recordings of his dad’s voice when he was 13 and at such a young age, he “already had the voice.”
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[Image via EW]