Do YOU Live in “Beautiful Downtown Burbank”?

by Susie Hodgson

Do YOU Live in “Beautiful Downtown Burbank”?

And have you ever wondered how Burbank got that slogan?

Well, you have to go back a ways. You need to go back in time to the 1960’s. Remember Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In? It started in 1968. There was a certain radio announcer at the top of the show who announced it: The show was coming to you from Beautiful Downtown Burbank! That velvety-voiced announcer was none other than Gary Owens, who had worked in (real) radio his entire career.

But wait, you say. You distinctly remember Johnny Carson wise crack all the time about Beautiful Downtown Burbank, right? (And yes, when Johnny said it, it was dripping with sarcasm.)

Sorry folks. It wasn’t Johnny who coined the phrase. It wasn’t really even Laugh-In.

Gary Owens was born in 1934. With a voice made for radio, he started working in that medium in South Dakota. Several states later, he hit the lottery of radio and landed a gig in Los Angeles. (For a while he was on the same station as Dick Whittinghill. Remember Dick Whittinghill?) And it was here in the Southland, in 1961, that Gary Owens first starting saying – on the radio – "Beautiful Downtown Burbank.” Yes, Gary Owens coined the phrase.

Owens would go on to national fame with Laugh-In. According to Hollywood legend, Laugh-In producer George Schlatter was in the restroom at The Smoke House when he first heard that unforgettable, golden voice of Gary Owens. (Acoustics are always better in the bathroom!) And Schatter supposedly exclaimed something to the effect of, “That’s it! That’s the voice I’ve been looking for!”

And so Gary Owens became the radio-style announcer on Laugh-In. He even cupped his hand over the “microphone” the way they did it in the old days to amplify the acoustics.

So how did Johnny Carson start using “Beautiful Downtown Burbank”? He simply told Gary Owens that he was going to do it. To that, Owens wisely replied, “That’s fine.” (You don’t mess with Johnny Carson!)

Want to learn more about Burbank? Come visit us!

The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site:

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