Willard Scott originated the Ronald McDonald character

He also played Bozo the Clown.

The Everett Collection

Read to Me

Like McDonald's, Bozo the Clown is a franchise. Pinto Colvig was the first fellow to play the character, shortly after World War II ended. The clown was used as a mascot for Capitol Records before making his television debut in 1949. A few years later, Larry Harmon bought the rights to Bozo, and began playing the clown on a syndicated series called Bozo: The World's Most Famous Clown.

But Bob Bell is likely the man in the makeup that comes to your mind when you think Bozo. Harmon began licensing the Bozo character to location stations across the country (and, eventually, the world). Bell slipped into the giant red shoes for WGN in Chicago, and his Bozo's Circus became the most widely watched Bozo show in the land. You know, with Cooky and "The Grand Prize Game" of buckets.

Other cities had their Bozos. Frank Avruch in Boston… and Willard Scott in Washington, D.C.

Scott will forever be known for wishing happy birthday (along with Smucker's) to centenarians on The Today Show. However, he got his start in clowning.

Scott's role as Bozo in our nation's capital led directly into the creation of another iconic clown. In the early 1960s, the future weatherman came up with the character Ronald McDonald, the "Hamburger-Happy Clown." Ronald popped up in three ads in the D.C. area, the first-ever to feature Ronald.

The Everett CollectionScott as Bozo the Clown

"There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids," Scott told the Food Network in 2008. "That's why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald's people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo's place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald."

Now, this early iteration of Ronald would likely look unfamiliar — if not strange — to modern kids. In his first ad, he had a paper beverage cup over his nose and a box with a combo meal atop his head. He wore a costume of yellow and red vertical stripes. However, he would eventually adopt the look of the more familiar garb — wide red grin, yellow vest, etc. — after Ronald received a makeover in 1966 courtesy of Michael Polakovs, a.k.a. circus legend Coco the Clown. Polakovs became the public face of Ronald, though Scott would continue to dress up as the burger-loving clown for D.C. TV.

Later in life, Scott became more associated with jellies and jams. But let's not forget he had fries with that.

Watch The Three Stooges on MeTV!

Two Full Hours

SATURDAYS 6 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

38 Comments

Post a comment
Moverfan 9 days ago
Born and raised in southeastern Michigan and I remember watching Bozo on channel 9, which was the Canadian Broadcast System (also great children's shows like The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup). We got to go over to Windsor at least once and be in the audience--may have been with my Brownie troop, but I'm not sure.
MrsPhilHarris 12 days ago
I am not a fan of clowns.
Then, obviously, this lyric quote would not apply to you: "Be a clown, be a clown. All the world loves a clown...." Or this song title: "Send In The Clowns."
I quite like "Send in the Clowns."

It certainly applied to certain presidential administrations.

''...don't bother, they're here."
LoveMETV22 12 days ago
According to Larry Harmon Pictures Corp., 183 people played Bozo in cities all over the world.
That's a lot of Bozo's
There's more than that, in Washington D.C.!
texasluva LoveMETV22 11 days ago
Older clowns did not bother me. After Killer Klowns From Outer Space (I showed that awhile back, a year or so) they did. Then came IT and bunch of others and I am not watching. Jokers are okay though. Circus and evil type clowns are OUT .
LoveMETV22 texasluva 11 days ago
Yes, and there a lot of clown based movies, unfortunately most evil. Guess there's no profit in good clowns, that went by the wayside after Bozo ended.
harlow1313 12 days ago
I just don't have much admiration for the advertising world.

At the circus, I liked clowns on stilts. "Killer Klowns from Outer-space" is watchable. Otherwise, I have no use for clowns.
justjeff 12 days ago
The dyed-red yak hair wig shown for Williard Scott was the closest resembling Alan Livingston's creation of "Bozo, the Capitol Clown " for Capitol Records, and looked great.

If you go onto YouTube and search for Bozo the Clown, you'll see many of the TV Bozos with wider, taller, wilder and even droopier hair. It seems that Larry Harmon (at one point) either sought a change for the character's looks or just didn't enforce his standards that strongly, as long as he received his licensing fees...

Even Bob Bell [beloved to the Chicago market] had for a time wore a red suit instead of the standard blue one...
Yes he did wear a red suit. He wore it in the '60's. That's the one he was wearing when I saw him. All these years later, I still can't believe I was one of the fortunate ones to see BC in person. I think the only reason[obviously,] is because it was so popular and tickets were hard to get. Oh, and also, to me this falls under the category of something that happens to someone else, but not you. Like me seeing Neil Diamond and all 4 Monkees. Ahh... memories....
...especially since Neil Diamond wrote two of the Monkees' biggest hits... "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"...
Moriyah 12 days ago
Thank God Gomer never dressed as neither one of those mascots! However, there was an episode where he did dress up as one of them creepy crappy things (clowns). Who agrees with me on all of that? (Let me know)
Load previous comments
stephaniestavr5 Moriyah 11 days ago
Of course I know. The population was only around 17,000. The place is considered a village, due to its size.
Moriyah MrsPhilHarris 11 days ago
Who's Perriot?
MrsPhilHarris Moriyah 11 days ago
He is a French clown. He is friend with Pierette and Columbine. If you look at Gomer, the costume he is wearing is Perriot’s.
Moriyah MrsPhilHarris 11 days ago
I just looked it up, and you're right. He did look like Pierrot
Michael 12 days ago
I thought he did weather on the.Today Show. The birthday greetings was secondary.


I don't suppose Larry Harmon is related to Mark, or Tracy Nelson's mother.
daDoctah Michael 12 days ago
Apart from Bozo, Harmon is best known for trying to franchise Laurel and Hardy as cartoon characters.
ncadams27 12 days ago
So Willard Scott played a clown in Washington. Some might argue he wasn’t the only one.
justjeff ncadams27 12 days ago
Yeah, but the others weren't *playing*!
LoveMETV22 12 days ago
RIP Willard Scott. Thank you for your role as Bozo the Clown , and your inspiration for Ronald McDonald.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?