Yet another Bozo leaves life’s circus
Welcome to the Tuesday Lite Notebook, where we believe that when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it's not amore, but aggravated assault. Now, when the moon hits your eye like a big banana cream pie, that's comedy.
Which brings us to the death of Bozo the Clown. I got a sense of deja vu when I heard that Bozo died last week. I thought he had died several years ago. But my track record on covering the deaths of celebrities is not so hot. I once reported former Vice President Spiro Agnew dead only to find he had not technically died, but had only moved to Ocean City, Md. He died shortly after I reported him dead, which was darn decent of him.
And just last week, I referred to Edna Buchanan as the "late, great Pulitzer-prize winning Miami police reporter." While Buchanan is indeed great, she is not late. She is only retired from newspaper reporting and now writes mystery novels. I apologize to my favorite former police reporter.
So had I reported the death of Bozo prematurely, also? I found my 1997 column with the headline "I won't live in a world without Bozo," which concerned the death of Bob Bell at age 75, a guy who played Bozo for 25 years.
The Bob Bell obituary contained the unintentionally hilarious line, "This is a sad day in the history of Bozo."
But it also provided a clue to my confusion. You see, there is a long history of Bozo. In fact, there are a lot of Bozos out there, from your official Bozos to your run-of-the-mill lower-case bozos.
The Bozo who died last week was Larry Harmon, probably the best-known and longest-running Bozo. By all accounts, Harmon had a big heart, but it failed him at the age of 83. He had been Bozo for 50 years, but even he wasn't the original Bozo. The first was Pinto Colvig, hired by Capitol Records in 1946 to be the voice of a new clown character on a series of children's records. Colvig also became the voice of Disney's Goofy and Pluto. He played Bozo until 1956, when Harmon stepped into his big, floppy shoes. Harmon bought the rights to the Bozo character and turned him into the orange-haired, bulbed-nose icon that he is today. (Colvig died at age 75. Bozos apparently live long lives.)
Confusion about all these Bozos is not limited to humor columnists. It goes all the way to the International Clown Hall of Fame, which inducted Harmon in 1990 and then de-inducted him when it found out he wasn't Bozo's creator or even the first Bozo.
After Harmon's death last week, he was re-inducted, not as the character Bozo, but as the person who marketed him to television. The International Clown Hall of Fame claims Harmon actually was re-inducted last year, but they didn't get around to announcing it until after he died. The hall of fame deserves a big, fat banana cream pie in its corporate face and a healthy spray of seltzer down its pants for its duplicitous excuse-making and for its very unfunny treatment of Larry Harmon, the pre-eminent Bozo of our time.
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