Thursday, July 3, 2008

“…remember what your ol’ pal Bozo always says: keep laughin’!”

Larry Harmon, whose shrewd merchandising skills made him both a popular children’s entertainer and the richest clown in the world, has passed on as a result of congestive heart failure at the age of 83. He died at home, according to his publicist, Jerry Digney.

The story of Harmon’s success into making Bozo the Clown a household name can be read here in an October 2007 post I composed at the old Thrilling Days of Yesteryear site at Salon. In addition to his entrepreneurship of Bozo, he also made a significant pile of clown clash by merchandising the likenesses of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy—keeping their memory alive for a generation that just as soon could have forgotten them.

I’ve heard as many individuals criticize Harmon as praise him, and while I have mixed feelings about the man I can certainly attest to this: he made my niece Rachel laugh fit to beat the band. I like to think that counts for something in the long run.

R.I.P., Mr. Harmon. Here’s hoping you continue to entertain in the afterlife’s center ring.

4 comments:

Craig Zablo said...

I have a fond memory of going to school in a Bozo Halloween costume... was the highlight of my senior year. [Ok, I'm kidding about the senior year part... it wasn't the highlight... ok, ok, I was in elementary school and I really did go in a Bozo suit.]

RIP Larry Harmon

Andrew Leal said...

Your niece loved the Bozo cartoons, or was it some other peoject?

I'm sorry he's gone, but I can't say I'll miss him personally, and only hope this means the Laurel and Hardy estates will now be able to make a buck on Laurel and Hardy stuff. And to me, the true voice of Bozo (who Harmon imitated in the cartoons) is Pinto Colvig. I do like the Boston Bozo with Frank Avruch, but Harmon's DVD release of said included pointless CG pop-ups ruining the footage. So I didn't hate him, but I'm not going to pretend to venerate him now either.

I did rather enjoy the Belgian Tintin cartoon series he had dubbed (with Harmon as Tintin in the episodes I have, and Paul Frees as Haddock, the Thompsons, and others).

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Your niece loved the Bozo cartoons, or was it some other peoject?

She loved both the Bozo cartoons and the Boston Bozo shows. (In fact, she was a little put out when I had to tell her I sold the two sets on eBay.) It's an amazing thing about kids--they're not very discriminating when it comes to animation...as long as something is moving, they go with it. Personally, I've seen Bozo shorts that make Terrytoons look like Disney, but it didn't bother her in the slightest.

I'm sorry he's gone, but I can't say I'll miss him personally, and only hope this means the Laurel and Hardy estates will now be able to make a buck on Laurel and Hardy stuff.

Well, I think you and I are of the same mind on this--I self-censored my opinion in the post because the last time I tried to be honest and forthright some Gerard person got his knickers in a twist. I will say this in Harmon's defense: my first exposure to Stan & Ollie was through those cheap-ass cartoons he made with Hanna-Barbera, so if they were able to inspire me to see the duo's true work, then that's okay in the Big Picture of life as far as I'm concerned.

Andrew Leal said...

That makes sense. As a kid, I remember seeing the "new" Pogo strips in the newspaper in the late 1980s and early 90s. I was dimly aware of Pogo's history (and the run included the occasional Kelly reprint). It wasn't the best revival (though not the worst) and some of the attempts to be hip and modern were just sad (like Howland Owl as "Robin Hoot, Prince of Thieves.") *But* it was my first prolonged exposure to Pogo and inspired me to seek out the genuine Kelly collections later on.

That said, I'll probably still cringe whenever I enter our local memorabilia store and see a framed "cel" mock-up of Bozo, Stan, and Ollie in a car, signed and mass produced by Larry Harmon.

So far, the best Harmon obit I've seen, neither demonizing him nor praising him unreasoningly, comes from someone who worked on a local Bozo show (and concludes by saluting Harmon as "a tireless entrepreneur and pitchman," which he unquestionably was.) http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com/2008/07/mr-bozo-larry-harmon-dies-at-83.html