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Jewish World Review
July 11, 2008
/ 8 Tamuz 5768
Bye Bye Bozo
As you've probably heard by now, our old friend Bozo the Clown is dead. Well, actually it's Larry Harmon who has passed on. Mr. Harman died Thursday of congestive heart failure at 83 years old. Although Mr. Harman didn't invent Bozo, he is the man responsible for turning the character of Bozo the Clown into a show business staple that delighted children on television for more than a half-century.
Larry Harmon portrayed the popular orange-haired clown in countless appearances and, as an entrepreneur, he licensed the character to others, particularly dozens of TV stations around the country. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos. Harmon trained more than 200 Bozos over the years to represent him in local markets.
So to be precise, the man who made Bozo a superstar has passed away. But Bozo the Clown himself, actually died seven years ago -- in August of 2001. That was when the last locally produced Bozo the Clown Show went off the air. At that time I wrote a column on it. As a tribute to Larry Harmon I'd like to reprint the 2001 coulmn here. So get ready kids -- here it is!
No More Clowning Around
I read recently that Bozo the Clown is being forced into retirement. That's right, after four decades on television, the last remaining Bozo show is going off the air on August 26 due to low ratings brought on by competition from Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and others. WGN-TV's "The Bozo Super Sunday Show" broadcast in Chicago has been the last locally produced program to feature Bozo the Clown. At one time Bozo had shows on more than 180 local stations around the country and was one of the most popular characters in television history.
So it's bye, bye Bozo. Will this mean my pal Bozo will be hanging up his fright wig and pratfalling off into the sunset? Will he retire to some senior clown community, exchanging his blue jumpsuit and slap-shoes for polyester plaid slacks, white shoes and white belt? Will he lay down his trusty seltzer bottle and learn to play bridge? Will he be happy trading "goofing around" for golfing a round? Maybe he'll meet up with one of his old friends like Captain Kangaroo or Clarabell and they'll get together for a game of cribbage every now and then. Maybe he'll join a clown junket to Las Vegas or Atlantic City but instead of chartering a bus to their destination, they'll all crowd into one of those little circus cars just for old time's sake.
I worry about Bozo. I hope he has adequate retirement heath insurance you know, "supplemental clowncare" to cover clown-related injuries like slipping on banana peels and getting whacked by slap sticks. And to help pay for things like orthopedic slap-shoes, prescription grease paint, and new red rubber noses. There is Medi-Care and Medi-Cal, but as far as I know, no Medi-Clown government programs exist. And that's a shame.
But suppose Bozo isn't ready to retire? Or can't afford to? What does he do now? Where does he go from here? Let's face it, there aren't a lot of opportunities out there for middle-aged clowns. Most of the circuses are gone, and Ringling Bros. with their Florida clown college, hire their own. It's not like he could work part time at McDonald's, either they've already got their clown, they don't need another one. And working kids' birthday parties is kind of a passť thing. Today's kids are way beyond clown entertainment they get hip-hop acts to perform at the house now.
For an old time clown like Bozo, finding employment is going to be tough. For one thing all the really good positions these days are going to women and minority clowns. And then there's the age problem. Companies want to hire the younger clowns. Young clowns know all the newest tricks, they're more in touch with the youth market, and besides, they'll work for peanuts. I suppose he might consider a career change going into some related field like politics or law. Naw, come to think of it, Bozo's got too much class.
Let's just hope that Bozo doesn't get desperate and hold up a novelty store or joke shop or something. A clown who hits the skids is a terrible thing to see smeared clown make-up, laughing to himself and pushing a shopping cart full of balloon animals it's a sad, sad sight. Imagine him standing at a freeway on-ramp with a sign, "I will do shtick for food." No, I'm sorry. This isn't the America I know! How can we as a people have sunk so low? How can something like this happen in the greatest country on earth? Where is the moral outrage? Bozo the Clown forced out to make way for Rugrats, Rocket Power and Angry Beavers! Is nothing sacred?
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby