On The Town:

Ringing in 2008 with a former mayor

January 09, 2008|By DAVID LAURELL

While Americans indelibly associate the names Guy Lombardo, Dick Clark and more recently Ryan Seacrest with the ringing in of the new year, in Burbank a woman who lives in a beautiful hillside Tudor mansion comes to many locals’ minds when they think of ushering out the old year and welcoming in the new.

Since the early 1990s, former Burbank Mayor Mary Lou Howard’s annual New Year’s Eve parties have become legendary events that include coveted invitations that were nothing short of works of art.

From the formality of glistening gowns and black ties, to the boots and belt buckles of a Western motif, Howard and her guests have rung in the new year with themes that have included a New Orleans Mardi Gras carnival, an evening at the Academy Awards, a nautical cruise and a Las Vegas casino.


As 1997 rolled into 1998, the city’s first female councilwoman and mayor provided her guests with soothsayers, clairvoyants, palm readers and other prophets who rendered advice on their upcoming fates and fortunes.

This yearly extravaganza hit its crescendo in 2000 when the new millennium was ushered in with a celebration that transformed the Howard home into a futuristic world that included a huge extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over her front lawn. And, for the close of 2001, Howard presented a patriotic-themed evening that saluted safety service workers.

This year, taking a breather from her storied bashes that began to rival presidential inaugurals and Oscar night galas, Howard reeled in the over-the-top extravagance and hosted a more casual, relaxed celebration.

Throughout the last evening of 2007, guests mingled with friends, enjoyed the hors d’oeuvres and dinner catered by The Ramp restaurant, and took in the beauty of Howard’s magnificently decorated home that included two upside-down Christmas trees that served as the centerpieces for the winter-wonderland theme.

Always well attended by longtime Howard friends, past and present city employees, elected officials and local business leaders, this year’s celebration saw a guest list that included Mary Lou’s sons, Brett and Jon Howard, Burbank Airport Commissioner Don Brown, Councilman Gary Bric and his wife Shelly; Jack O’Neill, who serves as the chief operating officer of the Bob Hope Family Estate, Burbank Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis and his wife Cheryl; City Clerk Margarita Campos and her husband Vince, City Treasurer Donna Anderson and Mike Vail, Ernie and Angie Burger, Max Andrews, Dick Kowatch and his wife Josie; and Kent and Heather Vest.

Others attending were Henry and Kirsten Okland, Harry and Ellie Myer, former Mayor Stacey Murphy, Bob and Lee Paysinger, Bruce Redmann and Bunny Millar.

 DAVID LAURELL can be contacted at or (818) 563-1007.

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