Longtime voice actor and announcer Gary Owens has passed away at the age of 80. Owens is one of those individuals who has had his hands in numerous pots over the years, influencing generations of fans over the decades. Whether you know him from his animated voice work, heard his voice during Sesame Street or The Electric Company, or watched him join the craziness on Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-In, it’s obvious that Owens made an impact. From Variety:
Owens was probably best known as the announcer on NBC’s “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” (1968-73), with his trademark hand-over-the-ear announcing style. On the show, John Wayne once imitated Owens announcing. The phrase Owens created on his KMPC radio show, “Beautiful downtown Burbank,” later became a nightly catchphrase on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”
Owens also lent his voice to more than 3,000 cartoons, providing the voice of “Space Ghost” as well as Blue Falcon, Roger Ramjet, Powdered Toast Man and even Batman. He was animated as himself in “Garfield and Friends,” “The Fantastic Four,” “Eek the Cat” and “Bobby’s World.”
For me, Owens will always be Powdered Toast Man. It was a send up of the Space Ghost and Birdman characters he voiced earlier in his career, but ended up being an absurd masterpiece. It was definitely a stand out from my childhood.
I wasn’t too familiar with Laugh-In, but you can’t deny the influence when you look back. It was SNL before such a thing existed and Owens was their Don Pardo. He was part of the show, so much that John Wayne did an impression of him during one appearance. He’s a part of television history and he will certainly be missed.