Are there any real Bozos left?
The death of the best and brightest Bozo, Larry Harmon, at the age of 83 came as a surprise last night when the news broke and I was watching a ballgame. He was not the original, but he became the franchise.
A true entertainer of children and adults alike, Harmon trained hundreds of other Bozos (and made millions in trademarking the clown and its characture) in the fine art of clowning for kids who mostly believed there was only one Bozo. Each one was carefully selected by Harmon for energy, and a “gleam in their eye,” according to Harmon. They all portrayed Bozo within Harmon’s high standards of performance in their local Bozodoms.
I learned last night there was a 10-year waiting list for the Chicago live Bozo show in the 80’s (portrayed by Bob Bell) and in 1990 when they opened up the reservation list again it took only five hours to book the show for five more years.
I recalled and learned a lot about Harmon last night as I read about his mission. And this morning, while pondering life on a beatiful holiday morning on my deck with coffee I asked myself; “Why is it that there are no longer several significant human icons of quality entertainment and education for children?
It seems all the role-model characters for children these days are people hiding inside animal costumes (of weird colorful concoctions or are of some techno-gadget cartoon/video) with more adult qualities than an entertainer of children should have.
I have a theory on that.
My theory is that as parents became lazier and lazier they allowed televison and video games to supplant human follicking and sharing of the their own inner muse to pass the time. That’s not rocket science, but if you think further about what the children are missing by the type of direct human interaction from say a Bozo or Mr. Rodgers, or even Captain Kangaroo, it seems that we’re behaving as if it’s just not cool to frolic with your children. Give em the easy substitute and they’ll be fine.
Except that as generations pass, the inner muse of children and adults alike becomes muted and eventually goes away. And then it’s really not cool to frolick, you might be outcast or labelled as a pervert of sorts.
But all hope is not lost.
I know there are still people willing to let their inner-Bozo shine, I’ve met one personally in the form of Biffo-T-Clown. He (otherwise known as Steve Dolan) once embedded himself in the Ringling Circus as a reporter for the Daily Californian to write a story about a clowns.
Dolan loved making the children smile so much he made it an annual event for some time. One year, he even got me to serve as the Ringmaster for one night’s show. Later, I watched as a the master Ringling Bros. clown invited Biffo into his trailer to remove their makeup together. That’s the highest honor one clown can bestow upon antoher.
So let’s all remember that clowns are priceless at any age and still a requirement to spread the joy of the human spirit in our world today.
And the next time I call you “Bozo,” or someone refers to you as “a clown” take it as a compliment.
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