Gary Owens, 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' Announcer, Dies At 80

LOS ANGELES (CNS/FOX 11) - Private funeral services were being planned Friday for radio and television voiceover personality Gary Owens, best known for holding his hand to his ear while serving as the announcer on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.''

Owens died Thursday at his Encino home at age 80, according to his publicist. He had been a diabetic since age 8.

A South Dakota native, Owens began in show business at age 16, working as a radio newscaster. He was a news director and DJ at a station in Omaha, Nebraska, in his 20s before moving on to Denver and eventually Hollywood in 1961, when he joined KFWB. He began doing television specials on KCOP and was an original voice on "Sesame Street,'' proudly announcing that a segment of the show "is brought to you by the letter M.''

During his career, his baritone voice hosted more than 10,000 radio shows. He also recorded more than 30,000 commercials and promotional spots.

His phrase "Beautiful Downtown Burbank,'' coined on his KMPC radio show, evolved into a catch-phrase on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show.''

He became a television fixture on "Laugh-In,'' holding his hand to his ear while speaking into a stand-up microphone, injecting humorous news-style quips to segue between skits. He went on to appear in hundreds of television shows, including "Roseanne,'' "The Gong Show,'' "The Jack Benny Show,'' "Night Court,'' "Batman'' and "Barnaby Jones.''

He also lent his voice to thousands of cartoons, including "Space Ghost,'' "Batman,'' "Blue Falcon,'' "Chip and Dale,'' "Casper the Ghost,'' "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop'' and "The Fantastic Four.''

Funeral services will be private, but a public memorial is expected to be held. The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Children's Diabetes Foundation at www.childrensdiabetesfoundation.org.

Owens is survived by his wife of 57 years, Arleta, and sons Scott and Chris.

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