Biography of Larry Harmon, promoter of Bozo the Clown

Biography of Larry Harmon (January 2, 1925 -€ July 3, 2008) better known as Bozo the Clown

Born as Lawrence Weiss, he was better known to the world as Larry Harmon, the man who purchased the licensing rights to  Bozo the Clown from Capitol Records, and turned Bozo into an international sensation.

Larry Harmon was born in Toledo, Ohio, on Jan. 2, 1925 as Lawrence Weiss, and was raised in Cleveland. After  Larry Harmon served in the Army during World War II, he moved to Los Angeles where he attended the University of Southern California.  He majored in theater and was a drum major in the Trojan marching band.   While Larry Harmon was attending USC, he started acting in radio and movies.  In the early 1950s, he starred in the  Commander Comet TV series.   He later auditioned for the role of Bozo the Clown.  He was one of many hired for various promotions for Capitol Records.

Together with a group of investors,  Larry Harmon bought the licensing rights to the Bozo character from Bozo’s creator Alan W. Livingston and Capitol Records. Larry Harmon marketed the Bozo property very aggressively.  By the late 1960s, Harmon had licensed local Bozo TV shows in nearly every major U.S. market.  And across the world in places as far away as Thailand, Greece and Brazil.   In addition, Larry Harmon marketed virtually everything imaginable related to Bozo the Clown, from lunch boxes to bedsheets to the classic  Bozo Bop Bag.   He also created the company that produced the  Bozo the Clown cartoons shown on the various Bozo the Clown shows.  He supplied the voice for Bozo as well.   He also produced other cartoons, such as Popeye and the Laurel and Hardy cartoons.   Years later, he was the executive producer on  The All New Adventures of Laurel and Hardy in ‘For Love or Mummy’.

On New Year’s day 1996, Larry Harmon dressed as Bozo for the first time in 10 years.  He appeared in the Rose Parade in Pasadena CA, to a deafening reaction from a thrilled crowd.

In 2004, Larry Harmon and Bozo the Clown were in the news when the  International Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee announced it was revoking its’ Lifetime of Laughter Award given to Larry Harmon in 1990 for being Bozo’s creator, and posthumously inducted Pinto Colvig as the original Bozo the Clown.

Kathryn O’Dell, the International Clown Hall of Fame’€™s executive director at the time, stated that they had been duped into believing that Larry Harmon created Bozo the Clown, and did not discover the truth until  Buck Wolf, an ABCNews.com columnist, reported that Larry Harmon was wrongly laying claim to having created the character.

On July 3, 2008, Larry Harmon died in his home of congestive heart failure at the age of 83 in Los Angeles, California.   Larry Harmon is survived by his wife Susan, his son, Jeff, his daughters, Lori Harmon, Marci Breth Carabet, Ellen Kosberg and Leslie Breth; and four grandchildren.

Larry Harmon quotes

  • Bozo is a combination of the wonderful wisdom of the adult and the childlike ways in all of us.   Bozo is a star, an entertainer, bigger than life. People see him as Mr. Bozo, somebody you can relate to, touch and laugh with.
  • We didn’t have satellite, syndication, and networking like today.   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.
  • Isn’t it a shame the credit that was given to me for the work I have done – they arbitrarily take it down, like I didn’t do anything for the last 52 years. (referring to having his induction into the  Clown Hall of Fame rescinded)
  • What I created for the world was me and my image: what I sound like, what I look like, what I walk like, what the costume looked like.
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