BOZO EMPIRE

Published on: July 7, 2008
BOZO EMPIRE

Larry Harmon, the Bozo the Clown franchise magnate, is dead at 83 of congestive heart failure.

Harmon, a precursor to the McDonalds and Starbucks franchising empires, purchased the copyright and likeness of the beloved buffoon back in the 1950s.

Bozo had originated as a series of children's novelty records created by writer producer Alan Livingston on the Capitol label.  The clown was first played by Pino Colvig (the original voice of Disney's Goofy).

Harmon first landed the role after auditioning to make personal; appearances as the big footed jester.

Harmon then recruited a veritable army of Bozos training them to host local kiddie show Bozo the Clown shows. 

One of those Bozo was Willard Scott, later The Today Show weatherman.

"We didn't have satellite, syndication and networking like today," Harmon 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."

The kiddie shows, cartoon spin offs and army of 200 Bozos made Harmon millions.

In the 1960s, Harmon convinced an aging Stan Laurel to sign over the licensing rights to the Laurel and Hardy characters which he mined in a series of forgettable cartoons and live action films which featured neither the real Laurel nor Hardy.