Wednesday, July 09, 2008
One Less Bozo LARRY HARMON (1925-2008)
Just before July 4th...Bozo departed the bus. There he is, on the right, standing with one of his Bozo clones, tempting fate. Would you believe he lived another dozen years after that photo was taken?
Larry Harmon didn't originate Bozo the Clown, but when he bought the rights to the clown's image, he turned a minor kiddie character into an empire.
Bozo appeared in 1946 via some Capitol Records novelty tunes. The first "Bozo" TV show appeared on KTLA-TV in L.A. in 1959. In 1960 Harmon bought the rights to Laurel & Hardy, and soon hundreds of Bozos on local TV shows were hosting the cheap Bozo and Laurel & Hardy cartoons that Larry was making.
He proclaimed,"Bozo is a star, an entertainer, bigger than life. People see him as Mr. Bozo, somebody you can relate to, touch and laugh with." Larry claimed Capitol saw his potential almost from the start, and during early negotiations, suggested he be hired to play Bozo on a TV pilot. The real creator of Bozo, Capitol's Alan W. Livingston grumbled, "I can't believe Larry Harmon says we'd ever hire him to star in anything. Harmon is very good at marketing. He sold Bozo shows all over the country. But I suppose he never got over the fact that he's really not much of a clown."
In 2004, the International Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee took back the Lifetime of Laughter Award they gave Harmon in 1990, huffing that they'd been fooled into thinking Harmon originated the character. They put up a plaque to honor Pinto Colvig, the Capitol records voice instead. "Isn't it a shame," Harmon declared, "...like I didn't do anything for the last 52 years."
Born in Toledo, Ohio, on Jan. 2, 1925, the former Lawrence Weiss got into show biz after attending USC in Los Angeles, where he majored in theater and played drums in the Trojan Marching Band. And so it's fitting that the man who missed July 4th by this-much, is honored on the illfolks blog with a segment from one of his kiddie records where Bozo recites, with a marching band, the patriotic "Marine Corps. Hymn." Then he joins the crowd in singing a song about the Army, too. Why not. Let's remember
Red Skelton's words: "A clown is a warrior who fights gloom." Harmon and his army of Bozos put up a good fight, and while that hamburger Ronald may now be the world's most famous clown, there's no harm in saying bye-bye to Harmon...not the original Bozo, but definitely a real Bozo for over fifty years. He leaves behind a wife, four daughters and a son...as well as white grease, oversized shoes and a half of a red ping-pong ball with traces of snot in it.
BOZO MARCH! Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, passwords or porn ads.