Larry Harmon may be a Bozo. But he's not the original Bozo, even though he's claimed otherwise.
Harmon owns the rights to Bozo. Two years ago, The Wolf Files took him on, revealing that the 76-year-old show business entrepreneur has frequently stuck a Bozo-sized, big, red, floppy shoe in his mouth, taking credit for creating Bozo and bringing the clown to TV.
Both assertions are, at the very least, highly questionable — and they detract from the two men who can take credit for breathing the first life into the greatest clown legend.
Now, the only remaining Bozo TV show is being canceled. WGN-TV in Chicago taped the final episode June 12. Dozens of articles have been written in the past few weeks. But nary a word has been spoken of the clown who first appeared as Bozo on TV and records — Pinto Colvig.
It's time to set the record straight. The Father of Bozo Speaks
If Bozo has a father, that man is Alan Livingston, former president of Capital Records, who created Bozo at the Circus in 1946. It was the first read-along record — a milestone in children's entertainment — and it sold more than a million copies.
It was so successful, Livingston branched out into TV in 1949. The show debuted on KTTV, Channel 11 in Los Angeles. Colvig, who provided Bozo's voice, stepped in front of the camera. Livingston was the writer and producer. Harmon had nothing to do with it.
[Take a look at the original Bozo.]
"Larry Harmon was just an out-of-work actor when I hired him to do some promotional work," says Livingston. "Years later, when Capitol got out of the children's entertainment business, we sold it to him and some partners. But he's been misleading everyone — and taking credit for Pinto's work."
Harmon stopped speaking to The Wolf Files in 1999, when inquiries were first made into Bozo's origin. In a fax that year, Harmon blamed the media for making mistakes.
"Thousands of articles have been written since I purchased all the rights to Bozo …" Harmon wrote.
"In some of those articles, I have been misquoted and blatantly misrepresented. I cannot be responsible for misquotes and incorrect information printed by the media and routinely recycled over and over again over a long period of time.
"I have always been extremely proud to say that Allen [sic] Livingston created Bozo The Capitol Clown when he was with Capitol Records in the middle 1940s."
But to believe Harmon, we must also believe The Associated Press, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and at least six other major newspapers misquoted or misunderstood him, often times repeatedly.
And Harmon has never explained apparent mistakes on his own products. On a videocassette of Bozo cartoons, Harmon is pictured in greasepaint with the caption "The Original Bozo."
When Bozo reached the half-century mark in 1996, Harmon's production company issued a brochure titled "50 Years of Clowning Around With Bozo." It credits only Harmon for the clown's origin.
"Bozo. You can't even say it without smiling," the brochure begins. "Bozo the Clown, created by Larry Harmon half a century ago, has gone from children's recording star to international TV star, joining the American vocabulary along the way." [Italics added.]
Harmon's Cold Relationship With Bob Bell