Performer Larry Harmon Dies
Iconic 'Bozo the Clown'
Larry Harmon, a performer and businessman who turned the character Bozo the Clown into a show business staple and established a lucrative licensing empire, died July 3 of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 83.
Although not the original Bozo, Harmon portrayed the popular clown in public appearances for years and also licensed the character to others, including dozens of television stations around the U.S. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos.
In addition to Bozo, Harmon acquired rights to the Laurel & Hardy names and likenesses in the mid-1960s and worked to preserve licensing rights for deceased celebrities. He produced several other cartoon shows including Laurel and Hardy and Popeye.
Bozo was originally created by Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice for Walt Disney’s Goofy, when Capitol Records introduced a series of children's records in 1946.
Harmon, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, and became interested in theater while studying at USC, answered a casting call to make personal appearances as a clown to promote Colvig’s records. He got the job and appeared in a TV pilot for an early Bozo show. Over time he acquired licensing and TV rights to the character, modifying Bozo’s look along the way with the addition of orange-tufted hair, a bulbous nose and an eye-catching red, white and blue costume.
The business, which combined animation, licensing of the character and personal appearances—made Harmon wealthy. To expand the endeavor, he trained more than 200 Bozos over the years to represent him in local markets.
The character enjoyed widespread exposure thanks to the Chicago version of Bozo, which ran on WGN-TV in Chicago for 40 years and was seen in many other cities after WGN became a superstation with the advent of cable television. By the time the Chicago Bozo ended in 2001, it was the last locally produced version.
On January 1, 1996, Harmon dressed up as Bozo for the first time in a decade when he appeared in the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
He is survived by his wife Susan, an executive at Larry Harmon Pictures, a son and four daughters.