Friday, July 4, 2008

Requiem for a Clown

Larry Harmon just died.
Larry was not the original Bozo, but with entrepreneurial zeal and orange-tufted hair, Harmon literally made the character his own, buying the rights to the clown’s persona and licensing it to dozens of television stations across the country. These stations subsequently hired their own Bozos. (Just how many of these clowns doubled as weathermen nobody knows; the skill sets being remarkably similar).

Unfortunately we were a Bozo-deprived family. The nearest Bozo belonged to Channel 13 up in Los Angeles, and could only be tuned in by those kids living near the top of our hilly neighborhood. Those of us dwelling on the lower slopes and beyond the reach of KCOP’s signal had to go clown-less; we were forced to make do with a paltry selection of channels that included XETV-6, broadcast (occasionally live) from a transmitter in Mexico. The days before Cable TV and The Internet were grim-- God bless Al Gore for inventing them both.

There’s a famous legend about Bozo that I originally heard from a kid in my third grade class. While this kid was notoriously flighty and a shameless copier of my test answers, his account of the Bozo legend was confirmed by my best friend Ralph, who was reliable and trustworthy. The story, as told at recess and passed on to you today, was that some kid in the Bozo Show’s studio audience had been picked to play The Grand Prize Game, muffed his chance at the loot, but secured a place in the annals of kid history by uttering a profanity to which Bozo reputedly responded, “That’s a Bozo no-no.” Then the kid supposedly compounded (or improved) the situation by blurting, “Cram it, clown.”

To this day nobody knows what happened to the kid. Maybe he was hauled off to FCC Headquarters for re-programming. Maybe he was the young Howard Stern, which would make perfect sense. And maybe it never really happened-- although it certainly seemed credible at the time. The point is that like most kids, I was boundlessly optimistic and willing to believe that anything was possible.

Many years have passed since then and today we celebrate our nation’s independence with a growing sense of unease. Things are looking bleak, especially when it’s time to fill our gas tanks or buy groceries. Our country’s policies are being hotly debated and our self-confidence is eroding. Here is what the president said:

“The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years.”

Those are pretty disheartening words-- except that they were spoken 29 years ago by President Jimmy Carter. As bad as things were in 1979 they eventually got better (right after the 1980 presidential election, as I recall).

According to Larry’s widow Susan Harmon, Larry was “The most optimistic man she ever met; he always saw a bright side.” So in Harmon’s memory, and in the spirit of Bozos everywhere, consider this: In the ten costliest countries to fill’er up, they’re paying TWICE what we're charged for gas today, and the two countries that pay the least for gas (Venezuela and Iran) are both ruled by de facto dictators.

So put that in your gas tank and drive it around some. God bless Bozo, and God bless America!

1 comment:

The Little Bro said...

I wish to help my older brother with his research into the Bozo universe. Here I humbly submit a link to a site called which researches such rumors. I was surprised to see they have addressed this issue to some degree.