Bozo the Clown dead at 83
July 3, 2008 3:15 PM   Subscribe

With a big red shoe, Bozo has kicked the bucket. Larry Harmon, AKA Bozo the clown, gone to heavenly syndication.
posted by longsleeves (69 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by fixedgear at 3:17 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by arcticwoman at 3:20 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by gcbv at 3:22 PM on July 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Interesting facts from the linked article:
"Although not the original Bozo, Harmon portrayed the popular clown in countless appearances and, as an entrepreneur, he licensed the character to others, particularly dozens of television stations around the country. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos.

...Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice for Walt Disney's Goofy, originated Bozo the Clown when Capitol Records introduced a series of children's records in 1946. Harmon would later meet his alter ego while answering a casting call to make personal appearances as a clown to promote the records.

He got that job and eventually bought the rights to Bozo."
posted by ericb at 3:23 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by jayCampbell at 3:25 PM on July 3, 2008

Cram it, clown.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:26 PM on July 3, 2008

He kicked bucket number six, to be exact.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:27 PM on July 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Willard Scott was D.C.'s 'Bozo' for three years. He then to became McDonald's first "Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger-Happy Clown"
"At the time, Bozo was the hottest children's show on the air. You could probably have sent Pluto the Dog or Dumbo the Elephant over and it would have been equally as successful. But I was there, and I was Bozo... There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids... That's why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald's people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo's place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald."
posted by ericb at 3:29 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by subgear at 3:34 PM on July 3, 2008

Man, I always HATED those kids who would walk right up to the bucket and brazenly deposit their ping-pong ball during the bucket game! He explicitly told you to stand with your toes BEHIND THE LINE, you milk-breathed little cretin! And that's the way you comport yourself on national TV?! Jerks.

But Harmon was such a classy guy, that he'd always let it slide, while gently correcting them so they wouldn't screw it up on the next throw, which they inevitably did anyway. *fumes*

So long, Bozo. As a clown, you were a far better man than I'll ever be a clown.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:41 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Brazilian Bozo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:47 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oddly enough, his show was a staple of my childhood, catching it every schoolday afternoon on Chicago's Very Own Channel 9. Gone off to the great gig in the sky. You'll be missed, you clown.
posted by papafrita at 3:48 PM on July 3, 2008

...on Chicago's Very Own Channel 9.

Bozo on Chicago TV
"The Chicago Bozo franchise was the most popular and successful locally-produced children's program in the history of television. It also became the most widely-known Bozo show as WGN-TV became a national cable television Superstation in 1978. Chicago's Bozo debuted on June 20, 1960 starring Bob Bell on a live half-hour show, weekdays at noon, performing comedy sketches and introducing cartoons. It evolved into Bozo's Circus on September 11, 1961, as a live hour-long show with additional cast members, a 13-piece orchestra, circus acts, games and prizes before a 200+ member studio audience."
posted by ericb at 3:51 PM on July 3, 2008


Then only clown I wasn't scared of as a child.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:52 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

A little song. A little dance...
posted by hal9k at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

What a Bozo.

posted by JHarris at 3:55 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by brundlefly at 3:59 PM on July 3, 2008

I worked with a couple of clowns when producing a short film six or seven years ago, and not surprisingly, Bozo was still the gold standard for their work.

Professional and Semi-professional clowns know just how hard it is to do what they do and not come off as creepy or down-right scary. Bozo never came across as anything other than a genuine, wonderful, zany clown who loved to bring joy to children.

He'll be missed.

posted by Navelgazer at 4:01 PM on July 3, 2008

On second thought, the film I linked to involves a little bit of Clown Morbidity, which I'd forgotten about. It might be in bad taste. Approach with caution.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2008


A part of him remains in our memories.

He was a staple of my childhood. I watched him in the morning (I don't remember if it was weekends only or weekdays), often with my grandma, on WGN. I wanted to go on the show so bad, because I saw the kids always miss the Big grand Prize, but you know, for some reason, that never happened (5 hour drive to Chi-town, probably). I even tried to make my own, by placing bowls from the kitchen and golf balls.

One of the segments 'Boz Goes' (complete with theme music) sticks in my mind where he went to various museums and things around Chicago. And he did book reviews, if I remember correctly.

At least, he'll be up there with grandma.

/ends rambling, goes to dig up the VHS tape of Bozo's Last Show, taped by Grandma.
posted by fizzix at 4:09 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by swift at 4:10 PM on July 3, 2008

A little song. A little dance...

...a little seltzer down your pants.

Was he shucked to death?
posted by tkchrist at 4:12 PM on July 3, 2008

I remember the first time I ever went to an Aladdin's Castle, which completely blew my mind compared to the arcade at the mall in my small town. Right in the front was a Grand Prize Game setup, with authentic Bozo voice and everything. It really did seem like the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:17 PM on July 3, 2008

<< . >>
posted by netbros at 4:19 PM on July 3, 2008


I didn't realize he was still alive.
posted by mike3k at 4:22 PM on July 3, 2008

The funeral procession will consist of a single car.

With 25 clowns in it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

How can you call yourself a clown and not know who Bozo is?
posted by milquetoast at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

My friend Rob was on the Bozo show when he was a kid, maybe seven years old. He has the tape to prove it. On the show he competed in a game where he and a teammate held each end of a plank, and another teammate stacked blocks on the plank. They got about five or six blocks high before they tumbled. When this happened, the camera happened to be zoomed right in on Rob. You couldn't hear what Rob said, because there's no mic on him, and there's about a billion screaming kids in the audience, but you could definitely read his lips. This little four-foot tall red-headed freckled kid just opened his mouth wide and screamed:


For real. He's got the tape.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:32 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

"For real. He's got the tape."

Youtube link or it didn't happen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:35 PM on July 3, 2008

Always laughed. Never cried.
posted by Gungho at 4:40 PM on July 3, 2008

we could rarely get channel 13 from grand rapids, so i had to settle for buck barry on channel 8 - he was a cowboy and we were all his little buckaroos ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:44 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:47 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think my older brothers and sisters were on the Bozo show. I remember seeing exclusive clips of Empire Strikes Back, on the Ray Rayner show. I also remember the Banana Splits, the Groovy Ghoulies(sp). I'm tryin to tell ya'll, TV was the shit in the 70s and 80s. Being Bozo had to be a great job. I know he got paid in the CHI. Long good life. Bravo.
posted by Flex1970 at 5:00 PM on July 3, 2008

I never choked on a jagged metal Bozo O.

He was alright by me.
posted by clearly at 5:02 PM on July 3, 2008

True story about bozo:

It was sometimes in the early 80s, perhaps '83 or '84. I was home for the summer and would watch Bozo on WGN every morning.

My favorite part of the show was the ping pong ball toss into the buckets. For each successful toss the kid would win a prize. The coolness of the prize would increase in proportion to the distance of the bucket. If you made it to bucket number six you got something like an Atari 2600 or a Huffy.

Anyway, it was my favorite part of the show because the featured a lot of Hasbro toys and I was at that perfect age for obsessing over Transformers and G.I. Joe.

So this one kid, a lad perhaps 7 or 8-years old get's up to bucket number four or whatever and Cooky brings out some G.I. Joe toy and while he is explaining what it is the kid is tugging on Bozo's sleeve.

When Cooky's done Bozo leans down with his long mic and says, "Yes, what is it, son?"

And the kid says, "Uh, I already have one of those."

That's right, the ungrateful little scamp was complaining because he already had a G.I. Joe whatsit with go-go action hips. Or whatever.

And suddenly the smile was gone from Bozo's face. He went completely out of character and as coldly and sternly as I've ever heard any adult speak to a child before or since says, "Well. Now you have two."

There were icicles in the air. The kid instantly recognized that he had done something tremendously rude. I think he missed the next bucket and was shuffled off camera.

For me it was one of those moments that we all have in childhood, where we realize that things aren't always as they appear. Bozo was a clown, but then suddenly he was just some guy who didn't want to deal with a spoiled child.

A part of my childhood died that day.
posted by wfrgms at 5:04 PM on July 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Awesome story wfrgms.. It's one of those that where you know something different just happened, but the understanding comes later. I saw stuff like that on the Milton Berle show. He'd snap at people on live tv. I was like .. uhm isn't this comedy? He'd probably wouldn't want to do the a Bozo show these days. Kids are kinda out of control.
posted by Flex1970 at 5:12 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 5:24 PM on July 3, 2008

But at least Bozo lived long enough to see a fellow clown in the White House.
posted by orthogonality at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2008

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Bozo on WGN-Chicago! I grew up far away from Chicago in the wilds of Arkansas, but we still got a lot of WGN shows (syndication? not sure how). But the Grand Prize Game, in hindsight the most low-tech, low-budget game show with 6 aluminum buckets and a pingpong ball, was utterly riveting television.

I remember the Grand Prize was always a BMX bike for boys, and I think something else for girls. There was only one time I saw a kid get the pingpong ball in the last bucket and win the bike, and it was pandemonium in the studio.

I also remember they brought up one kid who was too young, maybe only 4 or so, and the kid missed the first bucket. The first bucket. I guess it had never happened before because Bozo missed a beat and didn't know what to do about it for a second, and they took the kid offstage, who was oblivious to the tragedy that had befallen him.
posted by zardoz at 5:35 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by scottymac at 5:45 PM on July 3, 2008

I used to watch every morning on WGN right after the Ray Rayner show. I always wanted to be on the Bozo show. But from the linked article it looks like that would have been near impossible. The Bozo show

was so popular that the waiting list for tickets to a TV show eventually stretched to a decade, prompting the station to stop taking reservations for 10 years. On the day in 1990 when WGN started taking reservations again, it took just five hours to book the show for five more years. The phone company reported more than 27 million phone call attempts had been made.

posted by Sailormom at 5:47 PM on July 3, 2008

I was on the Bozo show once, and won a box of GooGoo Clusters. Some other stuff too, but the only thing that really mattered was the candy.

A good clown, he was.
posted by dogwalker at 5:52 PM on July 3, 2008

Bozo was the only clown of which I wasn't scared shitless. RIP, PIF.
posted by sciurus at 5:55 PM on July 3, 2008

Oddly enough, his show was a staple of my childhood, catching it every schoolday afternoon on Chicago's Very Own Channel 9. Gone off to the great gig in the sky. You'll be missed, you clown.
posted by papafrita

Same here. He's the only reason I ever got up early enough to make it to school when I was a kid.

Well, him and cookie.
posted by justgary at 6:01 PM on July 3, 2008

"You might say, in a way, I was cloning BTC (Bozo the Clown) before anybody else out there got around to cloning DNA," Harmon told the AP in a 1996 interview.

Clone me, Doctor Memory!
posted by Kinbote at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2008

Always loved the bucket game growing up, and especially loved the sound effects; Bozo was just awesome

posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2008

My cat's name is Bozo.

Reading this thread from that lens is quite funny/sad.

Like a clown.
posted by billder at 6:38 PM on July 3, 2008

I was on the L.A. version of Bozo when I was 6, and he DID scare the shit out of me, just because he was so much bigger than he looked on TV... especially the hair and the shoes. I got on for one of his competitions - a musical chairs-ish thing where I was the first one eliminated. But during one of the cartoons, they did an off-the-air competition for parents, and my mother won a stove-top sandwich grilling gadget (prehistoric by current panini machine standards).

Larry Harmon is less remembered (and less praised) for his management of "the Laurel & Hardy brand" since the '60s, including a series of cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera and featuring Harmon doing the voice of Stan Laurel and Jim MacGeorge as Oliver Hardy (who sometimes portrayed Laurel in some live action stuff). The cartoons were better than most HB productions of the mid-60s (and way better than the Abbott & Costello cartoons done a couple years later - Harmon had NOTHING to do with those), but their 5-minute length was just too short to give the characters and their schtick time to breathe. The cartoons were subject to a legal battle with David L. Wolper ("Roots") who had acquired rights from Laurel's estate while Harmon had previously bought the rights from the Hardy estate. It was weird for a kid seeing the names of the guy who does Bozo and a guy who did serious documentaries I didn't stay up to watch in the same credits for a cartoon.

Harmon made a few attempts to "revive" Stan and Ollie as characters in live-action films, most recently with Bronson Pinchot as Laurel and Gailard Sartain as Hardy. Yikes. No wonder the "Sons of the Desert" fell out of love with him.

I'm betting that Mark Evanier's blog will have one of the best summaries of Harmon's whole career, but apparently he is FAFK (far away from keyboard) right now.
posted by wendell at 7:00 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

That show and Good Times were the best of WGN back then.
posted by winks007 at 7:14 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by ZachsMind at 7:31 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by saslett at 8:41 PM on July 3, 2008

Wow. An entertainment pioneer - RIP, Larry/Bozo.

And in the year 2008, doesn't it seem somehow...quaint?...that so many of us used to watch a clown on TV. No video games. No Cartoon Network. No Nick. Just a clown and an audience.

Which reminds me...besides the Eric The Clown on Seinfeld, I'm also fond of the clown in Uncle Buck; best line: "What are you, Mother Cabrini? You never touch the stuff?"
posted by davidmsc at 8:41 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by recoveringsophist at 8:45 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by Tesseractive at 8:55 PM on July 3, 2008

How ironic. I just taught my toddler today how to play THE GRAND PRIZE GAME! And speaking in all caps is not easy, but she got the importance of the game.
We loved every moment of it.
Thanks Bozo!
posted by czechmate at 9:03 PM on July 3, 2008

There has never been a more appropriate use of the "phobias" tag.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 10:32 PM on July 3, 2008

posted by brandz at 10:47 PM on July 3, 2008

He died as he lived...surrounded by laughter.
posted by aftermarketradio at 10:50 PM on July 3, 2008

I can hear the coulrophobics breathing a sigh of relief...
posted by Lukenlogs at 10:53 PM on July 3, 2008


posted by -t at 1:45 AM on July 4, 2008

posted by romakimmy at 2:49 AM on July 4, 2008

Then why is he standing outside my window in the rain and lightning?
posted by sidereal at 3:23 AM on July 4, 2008

On a family trip to Great America in Gurnee, IL, my then-four-year-old brother managed to wander off in the middle of a crowd. Thankfully, he had been trained to go up to someone in uniform and tell that person his name and address, and that he was lost.

The uniformed person he found? Bozo the Clown, who got my brother back with his family, but not before taking a couple pictures with the little bastard.

The six-year-old me couldn't have been more jealous.
posted by GamblingBlues at 5:04 AM on July 4, 2008

I was on the NYC (WPIX Channel 11) Bozo show in the early 1960s. It was sponsored by Bosco chocolate syrup and they used to give some of the kids chocolate milk made with Bosco. I, of course, wasn't one of those lucky kids. It's the only part of the show I remember clearly.

Needless to say, my feelings about Bozo are mixed.
posted by tommasz at 7:33 AM on July 4, 2008

I was on the chicago show (the REAL bozo darnit) when I was about 8, about 1973. Our game was we had to put a ping pong ball on a paddle, zig-zag around 4 balloons and drop it in a bucket and then pass the paddle to the next player. Well, I was player number two.
The ball fell off the paddle, took a bounce of a camera cable, and shot back to the wall of the extremely small studio. Instead of traversing the web of cables strewn across the floor, I froze. I honestly can not tell you what happened next, but we did lose, and all we got for our troubles was a box of Maurice Lenell cookies.
To this day, the only place I ever heard of that brand of cookies was on Bozo.

Ringmaster Ned, Bozo, Cookie the Clown, and the live orchestra.
Bozo Buckets.
Empire Carpet ads.
That's my Bozo show.

/Ray Rayner and Garfield Goose for extra nostalgia points.
posted by exparrot at 7:43 AM on July 4, 2008

This little four-foot tall red-headed freckled kid just opened his mouth wide and screamed: "OHHHHHHHHH FUUUUUUCCCKKKKKKKK!"

Urban Legend: "Cram it, clown!"; "Ram it, clownie"; "Fuck off, clown!"; and "Right here, Bozo!" (while pointing at his crotch).
posted by ericb at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2008

Though, simply for his place in broadcasting history, Harmon certainly deserves a


I can't ignore my childhood reaction to watching Bozo (in any incarnation). That being that Bozo was shrill, loud, generally unfunny and, most importantly, scared the living piss out of me. Kind of like that creepy drunk uncle who thinks he's really entertaining.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:35 AM on July 4, 2008

Clowns scare me.

But anyway, I like this quote from the article:
"You might say, in a way, I was cloning BTC (Bozo the Clown) before anybody else out there got around to cloning DNA," Harmon told the AP in a 1996 interview.
If I ever "say, in a way," anything like that... please kill me. Thanks.
posted by jrockway at 1:41 PM on July 4, 2008

exparrot: Don't forget BJ and Dirty Dragon.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:13 PM on July 4, 2008

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