Johnny Grant Steps In After Schwarzenegger Bows Out

Times Staff Writer

There's Arnold. Here's Johnny.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declined an invitation to head this year's Hollywood Christmas Parade, forcing the man who invited him to lead it in his place.

Hollywood Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant will serve as grand marshal of the Nov. 30 holiday processional, organizers announced Wednesday.

It was Grant who suggested that parade producers invite Schwarzenegger, after the Republican's historic recall election victory Oct. 7.

"I thought it would be a good way to welcome him back to town after being sworn in up in Sacramento," Grant said. "I told them I knew Arnold, so I'd invite him for them."

Schwarzenegger had said yes in 1990 when Grant, who is a former producer of the parade, invited him to be that year's grand marshal. The actor even cut short a trip to Japan to get to Hollywood in time.

Grant said he realized that this year's invitation might be a long shot, given the complexity of Schwarzenegger's new job. Nonetheless, he said he had no celebrity backup grand marshal nominees in mind when Schwarzenegger representatives finally told him that the new governor's schedule would keep him out of Hollywood on parade night.

So Grant -- who for half a century has been a familiar face at Hollywood events such as Walk of Fame star unveilings -- said yes when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce parade planners asked him to do it.

"The only thing I asked is that, since I'm 80, that they find me an 80-year-old car to ride in," Grant said Wednesday. Parade officials said that may be doable, because the presenting sponsor of this year's 72nd annual event is Chrysler -- which introduced its first Chrysler car in 1923.

Grant said he had ridden in past parades, but never as grand marshal. So he knows how to prepare for the two-hour ride, which starts at 7 p.m. on Hollywood Boulevard in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and will be broadcast live by KCAL-TV Channel 9.

"I'm not going to take my diuretic that day," Grant said.

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