Friends of John Grandi are invited to join in a celebration of his many contributions to the Big Bear Valley on Friday, September 18, when the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (BBLIFF) will present him with the 2009 Community Appreciation Award.
The Community Appreciation Award is given to an individual who has contributed greatly to the well being of the local community. Film Festival Board President Ty Warren says, “John has been so active and visual in the community that to many he is thought of as ‘Mr. Big Bear.’ John is always at the forefront when it comes to donating his time and talent for the betterment of Big Bear Valley. The Big Bear Lake International Film Festival is delighted to be presenting the Community Appreciation Award to Mr. John Grandi.”
This is the 10th Annual Big Bear Lake International Film Festival but only the 4th time that a community member has received recognition. In 2000 Actress Shirley Jones was the first community advocate honored with the prestigious award. In 2007 and 2008 respectively, Channel 6 host Ron Seymour and Big Bear Mountain Resorts President Dick Kun were honored.
This year’s honoree is one of Big Bear’s living legends, who has shared his life stories on stage. “An Evening with John Grandi”, a charity performance for the Big Bear Branch Library, was so well received that a encore was produced at the Performing Arts Center as a Hospital Foundation fund raiser. John is a “people person” who has earned the respect of the community and has formed many enduring friendships. It is not surprising that his circle of friends come together to support John’s favorite causes – often sharing the stage with him.
With his usual good humor, Grandi claims to have “flunked retirement” and keeps busy writing, acting and generally helping wherever needed. His endeavors help make Big Bear a better place. As Grandi puts it: “I’ve been in the ‘people’ business my entire life.” This means spending his time doing things that benefit others, from acting in CATS productions to volunteering as a Rotarian and often emceeing the Eagles of Excellence Awards evening.
In addition to being an actor, musician and humanitarian, Grandi is a newspaper columnist; the Grizzly recently presented him with a ten-year award. He explains: “It all started eleven years ago when I emceed a show that a very special and talented lady, Shirley Jones did as a special benefit concert for the Healthcare District Foundation. I was shocked when I discovered that no mention was made in the local paper that an entertainer of Shirley Jones’ caliber was performing on the Hill. I contacted the then editor, John Emig, to ask why there was no coverage of such a premier event. I told him I would be retiring in a year and would like to write a column covering local happenings. I got the job and the rest is history. Shirley and I are still close friends and I’m still writing my column every other week.” Grandi’s popular column is interesting and informative, filled with wisdom and wit, promoting the people, projects and businesses of Big Bear. No entertainer, whether aspiring or seasoned, is left unsung; no worthy endeavor is unmentioned.
The 85-year-old credits his family with giving him an appreciation of music and the arts. He remembers his dad’s love of the opera but says that it was his mother who saved his life by encouraging him to play the trumpet. John reminisces “As a gung-ho 17-year-old I enlisted in the Army Air Cadets during WWII” and he continued with a chuckle, “I didn’t have the required year of college needed to advance so I was assigned to laundry detail – what a job – I spent the days impregnating clothes – It was the original chemical warfare.”
Grandi’s career path changed when he saw a sign recruiting a bugler, auditioned and was re-assigned to the band in Birmingham. He was never sent overseas and spent the war playing in the Army Ground Forces Band. After the war, he played the trumpet with many of he popular Big Bands, including the Russ Carlyle Band at the Avalon Ballroom. John recalls “Those were the days of the Big Bands but sadly, it’s a new era and the famed sounds of the Big Bands have faded – or moved on to Branson, Missouri.”
Grandi is a show business veteran, having traveled with the national company of “Mr. Roberts,” appeared with a repertory company in “My Three Angels” with a very young Jessica Tandy and appeared in “Solid Gold Cadillac” with Judy Holliday. He says that his favorite role was in “Our Town” with Burgess Meredith.
Grandi’s life has revolved around show business, but like many entertainers, he has held other jobs between gigs, including the automobile trade and marketing and advertising. It was while working in Los Angeles that he met and married the “Leading Lady” of his life, Julie. After thirty-eight years, John still says “Julie saved my life and now I’m making he most of it.”
The 10th Annual Big Bear Lake International Film Festival and Screenwriting Competition is scheduled for the weekend of September 18-20, 2009. During the Opening Night Awards Presentations, the spotlight will be on John Grandi. Tickets ($35) to the Gala Party and Awards Presentations are available for purchase at the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 39707 Big Bear Blvd., by phone at 909-866-4970 or online at bigbearlakefilmfestival.com. For more information, call 909-866-3433.