Larry Harmon, who turned the character Bozo the Clown into a show business staple that delighted children for more than a half-century, died at his home Thursday of congestive heart failure at the age of 83.
Although not the original Bozo, Harmon portrayed the popular frizzy-haired clown in countless appearances and, as an entrepreneur, he licensed the character to others, particularly dozens of TV stations around the country. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos.
Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice for Walt Disney’s Goofy, originated Bozo the Clown when Capitol Records introduced a series of children’s records in 1946. Harmon would later meet his alter ego while answering a casting call to make personal appearances as a clown to promote the records.
He got that job and eventually bought the rights to Bozo. Along the way, he embellished Bozo’s distinctive look: the orange-tufted hair, the bulbous nose, the outlandish red, white and blue costume. The business, combining animation, licensing of the character, and personal appearances, made millions, as Harmon trained more than 200 Bozos over the years to represent him in local markets.