“Parade night, right here in this area, it will be snowing,” Johnny Grant says, standing on the sidewalk of his beloved Hollywood Boulevard across from the landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. “They’re doing the musical “White Christmas’ at the Pantages, so they’re going to open singing “White Christmas.’ And then we’ll have the snow machines and everything, and it will just start snowing.” It will be a great bit of old-fashioned Hollywood schmaltz to kick off tonight’s 74th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, and the end of an era — this is the last parade with Grant at its helm. He still will be Hollywood’s honorary mayor but, at 82, would like to have some free time to write his memoir. Next year, the parade will be run by Todd Lindgren, 33, who is vice president of the event for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “I love it, but I’ve got to move on to other things,” Grant says. “And I think the parade needs to get some young blood and young thinking. “I don’t know all these young people. When I was (first) doing it, I was young and the people I got were young. But we all grew up and most of them are gone now. And when you’re dealing with TV across the country, you’ve got to kind of play to a certain audience. “They bring stars to me and I say, “Who?’ And they say, “Oh, that one’s hot.’ “ He’s not as out of the loop as he portrays himself. As the only full-time resident of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, he monitors the comings and goings of the barely legal A-list at two hot spots there, the Tropicana poolside bar and Teddy’s, the new club formerly known as the Cinegrill. But he remembers a time when he’d pick up the phone and dial stars’ home numbers to ask them to take part in the parade, and they would reply simply, “When do you need me?” Grant says he has changed his approach in recent years. “You know, you come here and you use the most famous brand name in the world and you pay nothing for it,” he tells them. “Now why don’t you give back to the community?” But he’s up against the stars’ desire to get out of town — for TV series regulars, Thanksgiving week may be their first break since July — and he’s confounded by some publicists who don’t even pass along the invitation to their clients. His frustrations with “Hollywood the industry” aside, Grant will always retain a reverence for Hollywood the neighborhood. “The old days were more collegial than they are now. The merchants all knew each other, and they would all come out and sweep their own sidewalks and talk to each other. “We had all these wonderful stores and all this elegant merchandise, and you would walk down the boulevard and you ran into the famous faces and their families. Everyone was out window-shopping. Then on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, we had one of those news streamers, and we would stand there, and it was kind of like a community meeting. We’d get a good crowd, and everybody’d watch the news streamer, and then we’d discuss what was going on. It was very friendly.” Grant has been a staunch supporter of many efforts to restore the area’s luster, such as the palm trees planted this past week along the boulevard, as they were when Clark Gable and Carole Lombard attended premieres there, and the 154 new streetlights turned on earlier this month that are modeled on those of the 1930s. His efforts are met with mixed emotions by today’s vendors of postcards, fake Oscars and other tourist come-ons. Sure, they want the neighborhood to look nicer and bring more visitors, but they worry about the effect on their rents. Still, he is greeted warmly by name out on the Walk of Fame by merchants, as well as look-alikes of Spider-Man, Elton John and Batman, and Japanese tourists who recognize him from his internationally broadcast appearances with every celebrity’s star unveiling. There is something elfin about Grant at any time of the year, with his short stature, his ready smile and his generally chipper demeanor. But reminiscing about parades past really brings it out. There was the time a Beverly Hills hairdresser decided to make himself a star by hiring a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce and working his way into the parade lineup. The impostor was spotted, the police caught up with him, the driver ran off, the hairdresser spent the night in jail and the rented Rolls was impounded. There was the year that Disney had a performer dressed as Tinkerbell “fly” to the castle on a wire as its float went by. She flew in just fine, then dangled over the boulevard for about a half-hour because the cable pulley was jammed. “On one occasion, the parade was about to end and I’m saying, “Bring on the Santa float. Where is the Santa float? Give me the Santa float. We’re running out of time.’ “And somebody ran over and said a little lady was standing right by the Santa float and decided to give birth. So the paramedics are there, and they’re delivering a child, and they finally got the float in.” This is Grant’s swan song as executive producer of the parade, but he has no plans to give up the position of honorary mayor of Hollywood, with all its duties and privileges. In the famed forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, he pauses to look at his own hand- and footprints and laments the large horizontal and vertical cracks running through the cement. “I may have to redo this,” he says. “It’s getting a little shopworn.” Back at the Roosevelt Hotel, he shows a photo of himself taken a week earlier in China, where he took part in celebrations of that nation’s 100th anniversary of film. There he was on the Great Wall, holding high a banner-sized photo of the Hollywood sign. “If you’re going to be the hypemeister of Hollywood, you gotta be ready,” he says with a chuckle. Valerie Kuklenski can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (818) 713-3750. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!