Most clowns are created and performed by one individual. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Harlequin, a character from the Comedia del Arte. A more contemporary exception is Bozo the Clown, who is owned, copywritten, and trademarked property of Larry Harmon. But although Mr. Harmon has done an admirable job of marketing Bozo the Clown worldwide, the story of Bozo does not begin with him. Instead, it begins at Capitol Records, in 1946.
In 1946, Capitol Records was a rather small company, attempting to make an entrance into the children's market. They hired a young man named Alan Livingston, who came up with an idea for a book that would have a record included -- children would listen as they read, with an audio signal to turn the page. This was the world's first "read-along" book, and was a huge hit for the small company. It starred a clown narrator, named Bozo.
Alan Livingston had hired Pinto Colvig to be the voice of Bozo the Clown. Pinto Colvig was a former Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey clown, who at that time was doing character voices for Walt Disney, including Goofy and Grumpy, among others. And the book, "Bozo at the Circus," written by Livingston, illustrated by Fred Dick, and voiced by Pinto Colvig, sold over a million copies. This was a success unheard of at that time for a children's recording.
The success of "Bozo at the Circus" generated more read-along books, including 15 that featured Bozo. The continued success led to various spinoffs, including Bozo dolls, and a demand for Bozo in person. In 1949, on KTTV in Los Angeles, California, Pinto Colvig became the first televised Bozo the Clown, with Bozo's trademark hair, suit and white faced clown make up.
In order to meet the demand for personal appearances by Bozo, Alan Livingston had hired numerous actors in several cities to perform as Bozo at various events. One of them, named Larry Harmon, became a pivotal point in Bozo's history.
Colvig As Bozo
Together with a group of investors, Larry Harmon purchased the rights to the Bozo character from Capitol Records. Larry Harmon had a great talent for marketing, and by the late 1950's had created local Bozo TV shows in nearly every major U.S. market, and across the world in places as fara waay as Thailand, Greece and Brazil.
At this point, the history of Bozo diverges wildly, as numerous Bozos were operating simoultaneously across the world. Notable individuals include Bob Bell, who portrayed Bozo for WGN-TV in Chicago for decades, eventually retiring and being replaced by Joey D'Auria. In Washington, D.C. Bozo was portrayed for a time by Willard Scott, now well known as NBC weatherman. In Boston, Frank Avruch wore the giant shoes. And Larry Harmon created a well-known series of cartoons featuring Bozo as well.In recent years, Bozo has appeared to be in decline, as most of the TV franchises have gone away, in favor of nationally syndicated morning programming. However, DVD's are now available of Frank Avurch's portrayal, as well as a new, computer-generated series of cartoons. In addition, a new music record (CD, actually) titled "Get Down with the Clown" -- proving that everything old is new again.
Krusty The Clown
Was Bozo The Inspriation For Krusty The Clown?
Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons, has confessed to being mortally afraid of clowns ever since a clown like Krusty humiliated him as a kid. Groening has also said that Krusty was based on a local TV clown named Rusty Nails that he used to watch as a kid in Portland. But like every character on the Simpsons, there are many dimensions to Krusty - and some of those sides seem to appear inspired by Bozo The Clown (especially Krusty's personal greed, shortcomings, and unclownlike viciess - just like Larry Harmon's wilder personal life). But there's much more than just Bozo - there's always a little Johnny Carson, David Letterman, and even a little Dean Martin and Al Jolson in there.
News Monster Archive
The Frances Farmers Revenge Web Portal