Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just Clowning Around

Bozo the Clown first popped up in 1946 after writer-producer Alan W. Livingston created the character. Bozo was first portrayed by Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice for Walt Disney’s Goofy. In 1949, Los Angeles, California became the first location to start broadcasting its own Bozo the Clown under a royalty agreement with Livingston.

Eventually, Larry Harmon, an actor who had previously portrayed Bozo, purchased the licensing rights in 1956. Harmon added to the Bozo image and made it into the recognizable character known to so many children. On July 4, 2008, Larry Harmon died at the age of 83. He had portrayed the clown for more than 50 years and trained over 200 Bozos across the country and even a few international Bozos. In a 1996 Associated Press Interview, Harmon said, “You might say, in a way, I was cloning BTC (Bozo the Clown) before anybody else out there got around to cloning DNA. . . I felt if I could plant my size 83AAA shoes on this planet, (people) would never be able to forget those footprints.”

Little Rock was lucky enough to have its own Bozo. Gary Weir served as Bozo the Clown for Arkansas children for 25 years. Recently the following images of Arkansas's own Bozo the Clown at the 1972 and 1974 Rand Food Fair at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock were added to the Butler Center collections:

The above pictures can all be found in MSS 05-14, the Dave Wallis Papers. This collection is in the final stages of processing and will be available to researchers in the very near future.

Personally, I have very fond memories of growing up with Bozo. I was 100% convinced that I could beat the Bozo Bucket Bonanza Game and win the big prize, if only I could get on the show. I never made it on the show, but I imagine I would have been the coolest kid on the block if I had.

What about you? What memories do you have of Bozo?
Need to jog your memory? Watch the clip below.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette
KAAY Radio Blog

Contributed by Stephanie Bayless, Manuscripts Department.


Anonymous,  July 25, 2008 at 8:48 AM  

Oh, I remember Bozo (Gary Weir) very well! I raced home from grade school every weekday so I wouldn't miss a minute of the Bozo Show.

What I remember most was that Bozo would ask the craziest, silliest questions,such as "Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?", which totally flummoxed most kids. I would laugh myself silly over that particular query!

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