Friday, July 04, 2008

Mr. Bozo, Larry Harmon Dies At 83

My first paying job in television was playing Professor Tweedy Foofer on the local Bozo TV show here in Dallas. At that time it was live TV and on Channel 39 the first UHF station in the area.

During my stint as the Professor and in my other job as cameraman at the station I got to meet and work with Larry Harmon, the man behind the Bozo franchise. Larry lived, slept, and breathed Bozo. He was the first "Type A" personality I distinctly remember meeting.

Though he didn't invent the character, Larry made Bozo a household word. The late Pinto Colvig created the voice, he's the same man who did Goofy for Disney. He recorded the Bozo series for Capitol Records under the creative talents of Alan Livingston the creator of the character.

Larry bought the Bozo concept from Capitol and rolled it into a national phenomenon. He franchised Bozo's in TV stations across the country and before long the clown was entertaining thousands of children every day both live in the studios and on TV.

Our little show in Dallas became so well organized that Larry began using us as the Bozo University to trian clowns for shows across the country. The talents of Paul Osborne, who played the Ringmaster as well as did all the graphics for the show and Doug Lytton who was Bozo himself helped train dozens of Bozos over the years. Part of that training was the Bozo voice.

Larry could never reproduce Pinto Colvig's trademark characterization and so he changed Bozo's voice to a more easily mimicked voice with a foggy quality to it. My favorite thing to do was to torment Larry by doing my impression of Pinto Colvig, who I can almost duplicate, and watch Larry grow speechless. That was a rare thing for Harmon, who was rarely at a loss for words.

Larry was a tireless entrepreneur and pitchman and the world will be a little less bouncy because of his loss. Harmon died at 83. My best wishes and sympathy to his family and friends.
Even though I haven't seen Larry in many years, I will miss him.


James said...

Great Story Hardy

Mommy/Artist/Lawyer said...

I was on Bozo's Dallas show as a child in the late 60's. I was called out of the audience to play hot potato with Bozo and won a giant tootsie roll. It is one of my coolest memories from childhood. I have often wondered if film of any of the shows is still in existence.