Sorry kids, the Harrier jet will not be landing in Anaheim Stadium during the Angels’ “All-Star Celebration Week.”
There will be cartoon characters, tanks, rodeo ropers, Mariachi bands, Marine reconnaissance units and laser beams bouncing off low-flying balloons. But if you want to see a British-made, single-engine, vector-thrust turbo jump-jet, able to land and take off vertically, well, let it never be said that Johnny Grant didn’t try.
If he had his way, there would be a conga line of Harriers rhythmically landing and taking off to the “Top Gun” theme. But such is the attitude of Major League Baseball and the combustibility of stadium grass that the Harriers were deemed dangerous.
“They said something about blistering the field,” Grant said.
Blister, schmister, this is show biz. And now that the All-Star Game is no longer a game but A Major Event! , steps must be taken to honor it as such. And who better to take those steps than Grant, who has made his name as keeper of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Grant, 66, was hired by Angel owner Gene Autry to set up a week of events leading to the 60th All-Star Game, which is being hosted by the Angels July 11.
“We are the first club to have an All-Star celebration week,” said Tom Seeberg, Angel vice president in charge of public relations. “We want to make it as festive as we can.”
A reason for that is that the All-Star Game has become a bit like the Olympics. Teams and cities want to bring them home to show off and cash in. Cincinnati, which played host to last year’s game, made about $60 million in revenue--hotels, restaurants, bobbing-head dolls--according to Alan Hughes, executive director of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.
The way Hughes sees it, $60 million is Anaheim’s “base point.”
Translation: Cincinnati has a fine zoo, Anaheim has Space Mountain.
“Sixty million (dollars) is the least I would expect,” Hughes said.
Realizing that, and the natural tie-in to Orange County’s Centennial, the Angels began lobbying in 1983 for the 1989 game.
“We felt very strongly about getting the game in 1989,” Seeberg said.
But getting the game and putting on the event are two different things. Seeberg was working in the Cincinnati Reds organization in 1970 when it played host to that year’s game.
“It’s so much more complicated now,” Seeberg said. “It used to be you ordered some pins and printed up some programs. It’s a lot more sophisticated now.”
Grant, KTLA vice president in charge of special projects, was a natural for the assignment. Hollywood’s honorary mayor, Grant started in television in 1946 with “Stop the Clock,” a “Beat the Clock"-type game show ahead of its time.
He set up the events surrounding Hollywood’s 100th anniversary celebration, is producer of the Hollywood Christmas Parade, has made 44 trips overseas to help entertain U.S. troops and, through the Walk of Fame, has uncovered more stars in Hollywood than anyone.
This is a man who knows how to party.
July 4 will kick off the All-Star celebration. Beyond the usual fireworks display, Anaheim Stadium patrons also will see laser beams shot off large tethered balloons.
July 5 brings the Centennial Parade, an hourlong, in-stadium extravaganza with bands, floats, horses, Hall of Famers and Orange County celebrities. Of course, it could be so much more extravagant if they would let Grant use the entire field instead of just the perimeter. But baseball has rules about using playing fields as theatrical stages.
“In my dreams I’d like to have thousands of kids carrying thousands of flags across the outfield,” Grant said.
Which brings us to this--tanks, missiles and cannons sitting in front of Anaheim Stadium. General Noriega on holiday? Naaah, it’s just Salute to the Armed Forces Day July 6.
Yes, the fun begins with a Marine unit rappeling into the stadium out of a helicopter. Then come the four parachutists who will land on each base. Simultaneously the 3rd Marine Air Wing Band will be playing, Air National Guard jets will be flying overhead and 2,000 GIs will line the first- and third-base lines.
Even though the Harrier jets won’t be present, it’s still an impressive arsenal. By the way, how does one come by a personal army?
“I’m in the business,” Grant said. And by the business , he means the industry. “I know who to call.”
Which means that Grant’s trips overseas to entertain U.S. troops give him enough pull with the brass to scrape up a missile or two.
And how about when a guy needs covered wagons and rodeo performers for the July 7 Western Heritage Night? Well, Grant does work for Gene Autry.
Cowboys, stunt men, Mariachi bands, rodeo stars. . . . Once again, the performers will have to stay off the field, so patrons hoping for a re-enactment of the settling of Oklahoma are out of luck.
“It’s been a little frustrating because I didn’t understand their rules and regulations,” Grant said. “But now that I do, I can work within them.”
Then comes Fan Appreciation Day July 8, with television and movie personalities drawing names of fans for prizes.
Grant wanted to put on a celebrity baseball game at 6 that night, but NBC decided to make the Angel-Minnesota Twins game its game of the week. That pushed game time to noon, which meant the celebrity game time would have had to be moved to around 10 a.m.
“I could never get 50 celebrities out of bed before 10 a.m.,” Grant said. “Especially for free.”
After that comes the perennials, which Grant has nothing to do with. The Old-Timers game will be July 9, and the All-Star workout and home-run hitting contest July 10.
Who could possibly ask for more?
Oh yeah, the All-Star game is July 11.