Bob Hope, Roseanne, Magic Johnson, Buzz Aldrin and Stevie Wonder…five very different public figures, five icons to say the least, and all with something quite noteworthy in common. Something, in fact, that daytime talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz now shares with this quintet.
This group, plus more than six-dozen others (including that beloved duo, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Ron Howard, William Shatner, Susan Lucci and Marie Osmond) have all served as Grand Marshal for “The Hollywood Christmas Parade.”
Presented and produced by Associated Television, this annual family tradition — the ultimate celebration — took place on Hollywood Boulevard on Sunday, November 26 with Dr. Oz as Grand Marshal. The parade’s telecast, hosted by Erik Estrada, Laura McKenzie, Dean Cain and Montel Williams, with co-hosts Elizabeth Stanton and Garrett Clayton, ran on The CW on Friday, Dec. 15 from 8-10 p.m. ET. It is also presented to more than one million American service men and women worldwide on the American Forces Network (and will run on The Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel on Christmas Day at 5 p.m. ET).
Based on the fast affiliate ratings from Nielsen, “The Hollywood Christmas Parade” rose to the network’s most watched Friday night in two years (on Nov. 17, 2015, featuring a line-up of Christmas specials).
The parade, this year benefiting the Marine Toys for Tots program, included celebrity guests, live performances, character balloons and floats, equestrians, celebrity filled cars and, of course, Saint Nick himself, Santa Claus. And the roster of stars featured the casts of “The Young And The Restless” and “Days of Our Lives;” Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow, who reunited for the 60th Anniversary of classic comedy “Leave It To Beaver;” Jermaine Dupri; Reno Wilson; the cast of new reality series “Cash Cowboys;” “Batman” star Burt Ward; Lou Diamond Phillips; “Sharknado’s “Tara Reid; and the casts of “The Bay” and Daytime Emmy Award nominated comedy “This Just In.”
Performances included a 40th Anniversary performance by The Village People; CeeLo Green; “American Idol” winners Ruben Studdard and Nick Fradiani; “The Band of Merrymakers,” featuring Tyler Glenn (“Neon Trees”), Zach Barrett (“American Authors”), Jeremy Ruzumna (“Fitz & The Tantrums”) and Kay Hanley (“Letters to Cleo”); Nickelodeon star Breanna Yde of “School of Rock,” Thomas Barbusca and Asia Monet; and magic performances by the stars of CW staple “Masters of Illusion,” Tommy Wind and Farrell Dillon.
Additionally, the 175-member “Spirit of Worthington” Trojan Marching Band in Minnesota was present among the masses gathered in celebration of this rousing holiday spirit.
“’The Hollywood Christmas Parade’ has been a long honored holiday tradition and a remarkably popular event to attend here in the city of Los Angeles,” said Cyle Zezo, Manager, Alternative Series, Specials, and Digital Programming at The CW. “This is our third broadcast of the parade, and we enjoy sharing this tradition with our viewers, and helping to raise awareness for an amazing charity such as the Marine Toys for Tots.”
The Marine Toys for Tots was featured in a performance by artist Ludacris.
The Origins of “The Hollywood Christmas Parade”
What started as “The Santa Claus Lane Parade” on Hollywood Boulevard in 1928 where merchants transformed a one-mile stretch of Hollywood Boulevard into “Santa Claus Lane” to boost shopping, now signifies for Christmas what The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York is for the annual day of giving. As the largest Christmas celebration in America, the “Hollywood Christmas Parade” is a gathering of family and friends — up to a million people of all nationalities, all denominations and all faiths — who unite for fun and celebration, togetherness, and the sheer joy of giving at a time where our country comes together in a unified spirit.
“Festivities like this remind us all what it really means to be human and to be together,” noted Dr. Oz. “The Hollywood Christmas Parade” is an emblematic opportunity to step out and make a positive difference. If I did my job right as the Grand Marshall I made the point that coming together for this parade is actually a health need for the community. These celebrations connect you with tradition, as your children will pass it on to their children and they will remember those moments long after the parade is over.”
“The Hollywood Christmas Parade” celebrates life, which can only benefit your long term health and state of well being,” he added. “Many of us feel very lonely this time of year and this is the exact type of event that can actually save lives.”
-This year marked the 86th annual festivities, which if you do the math does not add up to its 1928 debut. The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 due to World War II,
-The parade was the brainchild of businessman Harry Blaine and the Hollywood Boulevard Association, and the plan at the inception was to draw more holiday season shoppers to the area, which was being promoted as the “world’s largest department store.”
-After eventually moving away from live trees in the parade, Santa Claus Lane’s organizers experimented with metallic wreaths that featured film stars’ faces in the center. Two such stars were Oscar winners Claudette Colbert (“It Happened One Night”) and Fredric March (“The Best Years of Our Lives” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”).
-In 1946, singer Gene Autry was inspired to co-write holiday classic “Here Comes Santa Claus” (“Right Down Santa Claus Lane”) after riding his horse in the parade where crowds of spectators chanted, “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
-In 1978, the annual event had been renamed the “Hollywood Christmas Parade,” which coincided with a shift to its scheduling from Thanksgiving Eve to the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
-Michael Landon was the Grand Marshal in 1984 shortly after his second long running series, “Little House: On the Prairie” concluded its nine season run on NBC. His first series, “Bonanza,” aired on the network from 1959 to 1973.
-Thirteen years after his Grand Marshall stint, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2003, began the first of two terms as the 38th Governor of California.
-At age 89, Bob Hope in 1993 is the oldest person to serve as Grand Marshal. He appeared alongside beloved wife Dolores and lived to the ripe old age of 100. Dolores Hope, meanwhile, made it to 102!
-Perhaps the oddest combination of Grand Marshals was Dennis Hopper and Frankie Muniz in 2000, with Frankie in the junior position. Dennis Hopper, of course, is remembered for his role as Billy in the iconic theatrical “Easy Rider” in 1969. And Frankie Muniz, who came in third place in the recently concluded fall edition of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” was smack in the middle of season two of Fox sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” at the time.
A Family Tradition for the Ages
“Get a seat, sit back, hug your partner and relax,” said one attendee of “The Hollywood Christmas Parade. “It’s fun, sometimes silly, interesting and magical. Music, equestrians, balloons, star cars, costumed characters and marching bands! It really makes me feel the holiday spirit. It’s a tradition and a great way to ring in the holidays.”
“At these heightened times of often despair and anguish, the tradition of this parade reminds us of the importance of love, support, tolerance and good will to all,” said media analyst Robert Russo of RNR Consulting. “If nothing else, it unites a country and stresses the importance of our family and our friends. The value of ‘The Hollywood Christmas Parade” is truly immeasurable.”