Biography of Larry Harmon (January 2, 1925 - July 3, 2008) better known as Bozo the Clown
(Feel free to read more about Bozo and others at our sister site, 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, where he majored in theater and was drum major in the Trojan marching band. While Larry Harmon was attending USC, he started acting in radio and movies and, in the early 1950s, he starred in the Commander Comet TV series. He later auditioned for the role of Bozo the Clown, and 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, and 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, and 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 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, appearing 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.