Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: A youngster who fails in his efforts to win a treasure chest full of toys on a live Bozo the Clown show expresses his displeasure by exclaiming "Cram it, clown!"
Example: [Los Angeles Times, 1994]
The legend has been advanced as true in recent years by none other than Larry Harmon, the purported creator of Bozo and the original portrayer of the red-haired clown on television. Harmon claimed in a 1996 article (the year that marked the fiftieth anniversary of Bozo's creation) that the "Cram it!" incident occurred while he was producing Boston's local Bozo the Clown show "in the early sixties," and he reiterated the same claim a few years later for a TV Guide piece on television legends:
[TV Guide, 1998]Larry Harmon has some credibility issues, however. First of all, although Harmon stated that he's been "asked about the story for years," he apparently didn't start claiming it was true until it had been circulating for nearly three decades. Secondly, although he has repeatedly identified himself as both the creator of Bozo and the first person to portray Bozo on television, he is in fact neither of those things. (Bozo was created for Capitol Records in 1946 by Alan W. Livingston, and he was first portrayed on television for
It took place during a game, Bozo's Treasure Chest, which boasted a huge cache of toys as a prize. "One day this young, underprivileged kid was competing and his eyes were as big as saucers looking at those toys," Harmon recalls. The boy had to toss three Ping-Pong balls into a barrel. He landed the first two, but missed the third. The show's ringmaster said to the boy, "You're never a loser on the Bozo show, you're just an almost-winner," and handed him a Bozo towel as a consolation prize. "The kid looks at the towel," Harmon says, "he looks at the ringmaster, then looks at Bozo and says, 'Cram it, clown!'" Bozo's response? "That's a Bozo
This legend is plausible in that most of the Bozo shows were broadcast live, and thus an incident like this could have made it onto the air. Moreover, the Boston Bozo program was syndicated to markets that didn't have their own Bozo show, which could account for people in several different cities all reportedly having seen the same thing. (As well, this isn't the type of incident whose non-appearance in media reports would be surprising; a tot acting up on a local children's TV show isn't exactly big news.) Nonetheless, the legend appears to have originated around 1964 or 1965, spread by word of mouth and (like the apocryphal Uncle Don remark) eventually
Additional information: The RealAudio sound clip below is a "recreation" of this legend from a 1960s bloopers record.
Last updated: 5 August 2007
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