July 4, 2008 / 5:05 AM / 10 years ago

Bozo the Clown's Larry Harmon dead at 83

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Larry Harmon, the alter ego behind Bozo the Clown for more than 50 years, died on Thursday of congestive heart failure at age 83, his spokesman said.

Larry Harmon (R), who popularized the "Bozo the Clown" character and portrayed "Bozo", is shown in this December 1, 1996 file photograph at a VIP party hosted by the Hollywood Christmas Parade with "Bozo", one of the more than 200 clowns he has trained to play the role. Harmon, 83, died of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles on July 3, 2008 according to his publicist Jerry Digney. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Harmon, a native of Ohio, died at his home in Los Angeles, his spokesman, Jerry Digney said.

Harmon was not the original Bozo, but he portrayed the flame-haired clown in numerous appearances over the years.

More importantly, he purchased the copyright and trademark to the clown in the 1950s, and as a result was responsible for keeping Bozo working in the entertainment industry for more than half a century.

Since the 1950s, the live “BOZO Show” has aired in 183 U.S. television markets, and 156 BOZO cartoons have played in almost every country around the world. In Chicago, the first “BOZO Show” began airing in 1961 and stayed on the air until 2001.

Over the years, Harmon trained some 200 actors to portray the clown for various local TV stations and other programs franchised around the country.

“We didn’t have satellite, syndication and networking like today,” Harmon once recalled. “So, I created my own network of local clowns and productions, a cross-country operation that kept me on the road for 50 weeks a year for decades.”

Willard Scott, who went on to appear as the weatherman on NBC’s’ weekday morning program “Today,” was one of those recruited by Harmon.

For a time, Harmon also ran a large animation studio in Hollywood, producing cartoons based on comedians Laurel and Hardy, as well as the characters Popeye and Mr. Magoo.

He is survived by his wife, son and four daughters.


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