Whether you know him as the curmudgeon Lou Grant on TV’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” or Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar hit “Up,” come July you’ll know Ed Asner as the grand marshal of the Fourth of July Parade.
Asner will ride with his seven grandchildren in the most anticipated event of the year in Pacific Palisades.
But Asner was not an easy catch for Palisades Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Arnie Wishnick, who every year has the daunting task of securing a well-known celebrity, in a busy Hollywood town.
“Two years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that his client was Ed Asner,” Wishnick told the Palisadian-Post. Wishnick’s ears perked up since he’s always on the search for a grand marshal, and he called Asner. “He answered and was as cantankerous on the phone as he was on the screen. He was Lou Grant.” Asner turned him down; said he had other things going on.
“Two years went by and I was having a rough time; everybody turned me down,” Wishnick continued. Asner was traveling with his one-man show “FDR,” but Wishnick figured, why not? He fixed up the courage to talk again to Lou Grant, but this time by e-mail.
“Ed’s people answered that he would be happy to participate if his grandchildren could ride along,” Wishnick said. The deal was cinched.
Committed, versatile and eloquent aptly describes the film, television, stage and voice actor, and former president of the Screen Actors Guild. From the time Asner served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, appearing in plays that toured Army camps in Europe, he has stuck pretty close to a stage or screen.
In the mid-1950s, Asner became a part of “The Second City” extended family before he headed to New York and began to make inroads as a television actor.
His star glowed bright when hitched to Lou Grant, who was first introduced on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1970. In 1977, after the series ended, Asner starred in his own show, “Lou Grant,” a dramatic contrast to the half-hour comedy show. The hour-long drama about journalism aired for five years and won an Emmy that stands alongside the Emmy he had won for the same role in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Throughout his busy professional career, Asner has been politically active in progressive causes, both on the national scene and in within industry. He played a prominent role in the 1980 SAG strike, opposed U.S. policy in Central America and worked to establish single-payer health care in California.
If that weren’t enough, Asner is also engaged in charitable causes that parallel his political philosophy. He serves as an advisor to the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which benefits children of political activists, and the Comic Book Defense Fund, a free-speech organization that protects comic book creators from prosecutions based on content.
With all this, the Palisades is lucky that Asner will represent the patriotic fervor in the town.
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