— The Wolf Files has learned that a first-class clown will be inducted into the Hall of Fame — and I'm certainly not talking about Pete Rose.
After a circus of controversy, Pinto Colvig will finally be inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame as TV's first Bozo. The announcement will be made later this week, sources tell The Wolf Files.
Let the custard pies fly! Just don't expect a painted smile on every clown — especially Larry Harmon, who owns the rights to Bozo and has been claiming for years that he created the TV legend.
A 1999 Wolf Files investigation concluded that Harmon's claims were highly questionable and his plaque at the Clown Hall of Fame has been removed from display.
"There's no longer any doubt Pinto was the original voice and face of Bozo," says Katherine O'Dell, executive director of the Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee.
In 1946, Colvig's Bozo became a top-selling recording star for Capitol Records. Three years later, the celebrity clown hosted a kiddie show on KTTV in Los Angeles.
"So many other clowns have been TV Bozos over the years, but Colvig was clearly the first and deserves the honor," says O'Dell, who plans posthumous induction festivities in May.
Greasepaint legends around the world are expected to honor TV's beloved clown. Harmon, however, is one Bozo who's not expected at the Bozo salute. Clowning With History
Harmon did not respond to several requests to talk about Colvig, who died of lung cancer in 1967.
However, Harmon recently reasserted his claim that Capitol Records chose him to star on a 1952 Bozo TV pilot.
"After auditioning as many people as I remember from New York, Hollywood and everywhere, I was fortunate," the 78-year-old entertainer recalls on a newly released Bozo DVD. "They decided to pick me."
But it's questionable these auditions even took place.
"Harmon is fantasizing, and this isn't the first time," says former Capitol executive Alan Livingston, who wrote and produced the first Bozo read-along records.
"We had a world-class clown in Pinto Colvig," Livingston says. "Harmon was an out-of-work actor who I hired to dress up as Bozo for promotional work … We sent him to shopping centers and schools."
Colvig led the quintessential clown life. Born in 1892, he ran of to join the circus as a teenager. Walt Disney hired him to be the original voices of Goofy and Pluto, as well as Grumpy and Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He also wrote the lyrics for "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"
As Bozo, Colvig was an instant success. By the early 1950s, Capitol had sold more than 8 million Bozo records, and the clown became the company's mascot.
"Those were great days in TV," recalls Lee Carrau, floor manager on the first Bozo TV show. "It was a live show, two cameras in a small studio, with animals and screaming kids. We never knew what would happen, monkeys jumping around everywhere. Every week was absolute pandemonium."
Carrau, 81, remembers Colvig well. "He used to go to the bar after the show in Bozo costume for laughs," he says. "He was a fun, fun guy." TV Franchising Becomes Child’s Play
In the mid-1950s, Harmon and some partners bought the rights to Bozo, and everyone agrees he did a great job franchising live clown shows to local TV stations across the country and even in select foreign markets.