As a kid growing up in Steubenville and enamored by movies, Johnny DiLoretto knew just what he wanted to do with his life.
"I wanted to be the next Woody Allen, only better looking," he said.
Although DiLoretto did not go on to directing fame, most of his adult life has been linked in one way or the other with film and the entertainment industry.
It has included reviewing movies for The Other Paper, a stretch of 10-plus years at a local TV station, a stint of several years at the Gateway Film Center, an ongoing gig with Shadowbox Live's "The Not So Late Show with Johnny DiLoretto," co-hosting "Cinema Classics" with John DeSandos on the WCBE-FM public-radio station and his post as community-relations director at the station.
All that has combined to bring DiLoretto to his loftiest title yet: Less-Than-Grand-Marshal for the 35th annual Fourth of July Doo Dah Parade in Columbus' Short North.
DiLoretto, 48, a former resident of northwest Columbus who moved to Grandview Heights after a divorce, said he was honored when he received the email from Deb Roberts, who bills herself variously as "Mz Doo Dah," "ChairChick" and "Queen of Doo Dah."
"I told her, 'I'm in, a thousand times I'm in,' " DiLoretto said. "It's one of the great Columbus traditions, and naturally it speaks to me because it is out of line ... and out of bounds."
Roberts offered several reasons for selecting DiLoretto for the honor.
"He's a man about town," she said. "He's involved. He's gregarious. He's politically outspoken. He's a media maven.
"He's well-known, well-loved. He can poke fun at himself as much as he can poke fun at the political situation."
"This will be a challenge because now I represent WCBE, and I can't be as politically overt as I like," DiLoretto said. "I want it to be fun, obviously."
"He's ready to take on the duties with serious humor," Roberts said.
DiLoretto said he wanted to attend film school after graduating from Steubenville High School but opted not to do so.
"I didn't have the guts," he said.
Instead, he said, he enrolled at West Liberty Universityin West Virginia, but he did not have any clear career goal in mind.
"I immediately fell into the radio station," DiLoretto said. "That is really the beginning of my media life in earnest."
He transferred to Ohio State University, where he majored in film and English, and that led to freelance film reviews for The Other Paper. The oft-irreverent weekly ceased publication in 2013.
DiLoretto said Chuck Gillespie, a retired Columbus TV personality, was a fan of his writing and invited him to do reviews once a week on the "Good Day Columbus" show.
Not originally a paid job, DiLoretto said station executives eventually created an entertainment-reporter position for him. Management changes later led DiLoretto to move on.
"It was the old cliche: Get out before you get pushed out," he said.
The Gateway Film Center job followed, as did time with a public-relations agency and now his work at WCBE.
And soon, being Less-Than-Grand-Marshal for Doo Dah will be added to his resume.
DiLoretto will follow in the footsteps of former heavyweight boxing champ James "Buster" Douglas in 2017 and former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman in 2016.
The parade, which is billed on its website as "Where Liberty and Lunacy Are Still a Pleasure!" gets underway at 1 p.m. July 4 in the arts district.