Friday, July 4, 2008

That's a Bozo Go-Go ... Gone

There's tragic news out of Hollywood. Larry Harmon (the licenser of the Bozo the Clown trademark) has died. Among those whom Harmon licensed to play Bozo were Willard Scott in Washington, D.C., Frank Avruch in Boston and Bob Bell in Chicago. But for those of us who grew up in El Paso, Bozo will always be that renowned celebrity Howell Eurich, the local weatherman on channel 4, KROD-TV (now KDBC-TV).

El Paso (due to its geographical isolation and large hispanic audience) is probably the strangest TV market in America. Celebrity status in El Paso is generally a terminal condition. Sure, a few El Pasoans have gone on to become semi-famous (e.g., silent movie cowboy Tom Mix, night club singer Vicki Carr, roundballer Nate Archibald, newsman Dan Rather, etc.), but achieving celebrity within the El Paso area seems to bestow world-wide anonymity; e.g., Steve Crosno of Crosno's Hop, Red Brown and Anna Lee of Saturday Circus, Marlin Haynes (a.k.a. Marlin the Magician) of the afternoon news and Saturday morning cartoons, Ted Bender of KTSM-TV Channel 9, Barefoot Baker, etc. And such was the case of Howell Eurich. I remember well when he hit the El Paso market with a big splash around 1964. He was not just the new Channel 4 weatherman, he was the premier announcer on all locally produced commercials. You couldn't listen to any radio spot without hearing his excited voice nor watch any television ad without seeing his grinning face.

Howell Eurich's career peaked with his casting in the title role of KROD's afternoon "Bozo's Big Top" cartoon show in 1967. The format was similar to the Howdy Doodie show of a decade earlier -- interviews with the peanut gallery and all -- but the old format that had worked well for us well-behaved post-war boomers was ill-suited to the impudent late boomers.

One afternoon (sometime in 1968 or 1969) I came home from high school, plopped down in front of our black-and-white television, and watched Eurich (a.k.a., Bozo) interviewing the grade-schoolers of the peanut gallery. He shoved his microphone in the face of this one scowling ten-year-old and asked him, "So what's your name?"

Satan's spawn hissed back, "Chris."

"So tell me, Chris, how did you like that cartoon?"

Chris sneered, "I thought it sucked!"

Eurich pulled back and said, "Oh Chris, that's a Bozo No-No."

Chris fired back loud enough for the mic to pick it up, "Aw, cram it clown!"

Eurich quickly turned to the camera and said, "Well, it's about time we went to a commercial break."

Now I know you're thinking, Hey, I checked out that story on Snopes and it says that the "Cram it clown" bit is an unconfirmed urban legend.

Well, I can easily understand why it would be unconfirmed. There was no video taping in those days, so if you didn't happen to see it (as I did) you'd just have to take someone elses word for it. I have no way of knowing what happened at the KROD studios, but I can easily envision old man Roderick (fearing FCC scrutiny) immediately putting out the word that no one was to ever mention the incident publicly.

Sadly, Howell Eurich is no longer around to address the issue. In 1982 while he was still working as Channel 4's local weatherman, he committed suicide following his very painful divorce from Gail Gordon (not to be confused with
Gale Gordon who played Lucille Ball's boss), Howell's fellow Channel 4 meteorologist whom he'd married just five years earlier.

This post won't settle the issue to Snope's satisfaction, but I know for a fact: Yes, Virginia, there was a "Cram it, clown" incident.

36 comments:

Jerry said...

I didn't see the "Cram it Clown" incident, but I do remember the buzz that is generated at the time, so I guess that I can offer some anecdotal support for you.

I spoke with Howell Eurich a couple of times, but never in his Bozo costume. One of the other things that he did was the live Melodrama, and I remember thinking one evening that his bawdy, risque performance was definitely a "Bozo, no-no".

Bob said...

Yeah, Howell seemed rather amused at that foul-mouthed brat, so I'm not at all surprised that he was oft given to bawdy humor.

joyce said...

I'll never forget that lady clown that I think you have blogged about when Andy asked for her to bend the balloons into a Delorian and she looked at you as if you put him up to it. That was a hoot. If lady clown looks could kill...

Bob said...

Thanks, dear. I just checked -- and no, I haven't told that story yet. I'll be sure to now that you've reminded me. I'm not sure how well it'll come across in writing. It's better when told verbally (using the proper accent and all), but I'll try. (Now, if I can only remember the name of that female balloon clown.)

mmranc said...

I wonder what happened to Gail Gorden. I lived in El Paso when Howell died. It was a shocking and sad storoy.

trisha said...

I can attest to the validity of the "cram it clown" incident. I am now 51, but do remember as a kid,seeing that classic moment. Bozo no no, or not it was pretty out there in those days. It's too bad that not much shocks us now.

Anonymous said...

The "cram it clownie" incident actually arose from the boy's inability to get a ping pong ball to bounce into a cup in one of the show's popular games. He first said "aww shit" as he missed his first attempt. on his next attempt he missed again and said "Shit"and bozo admonished him by saying "that's a bozo no-no" to which the boy literally replied " cram it clownie"

Anonymous said...

I watched the show that morning and laughed all day afterward. It was talked about in my elementary school for a good while after.

genshi said...

I know this is an old post, but I was trying to research who played Bozo in El Paso and wound up here... I was actually on the Bozo show when I was about 4 or 5 years old (1968-69.)

I remember being picked to play musical chairs and though I was the smallest kid, I still came in second (being beat out for the last chair by an amazon of a girl... at least to a little 4 year old like me!)

My Father must have got me on the show through his connections as he was a DJ and Program Director for KHEY Radio at the time.

Finding this post on Bozo brought back some fun memories...

F said...

I remember Bozo the Clown. Good Ol Howell Eurich. I never made it to his show becase I lived in La Union, New Mexico and that was a hike to get there. He was a great cartoon artist He would ask one of the kids to write a one or 2 digit number on his big sketch pad and then he would create a humorous cartoon with it.

kelly said...

i was on bozo show i think in 68 me my sister and brother i was 5 my mom worked at the long horn bar her name is bonnie they from the bar watch the show that day my sister that day the red hed won a rubber bozo

Anonymous said...

Howell Eurich is my Grandpa. I never got to meet him, my mom (his youngest daughter) was pregnant with me when he passed. It's wonderful to read such amazing things about him. I would also like to know what happened to Gale Gordon... does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

He was my grandfather as well. Anonymous, is your mom Stephanie?

If anyone reading this has any Howell Eurich memorabilia, I would love to see it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Sept 3, 2010 and Anonymous Nov 5, 2010 - Your grandfather gave me more enjoyment than you can imagine when I was in elementary school in EP. I was a latchkey kid. Your grandfather on TV helped fill the time after school until my mother came home. As Bozo, he was delightful and took rude kids' comments in stride. May God cover the sadnesses he felt in life.

Anonymous said...

I could swear I saw an episode where Bozo in Scouthern California had a kid come down and try the spoon trick to win all the toys .Bozo showed kid how to do spoon trick and when bozo told kid to do trick the kid looked at him and said cram it clowny .Bozo said thats a bozo no no and he told kid to return to his seat then they went right to cartoon .I was about 8 years old so my memory is fuzzy .

Anonymous said...

I TOO WAS ON THE SHOW.I REMEMBER HOWELL SO MUCH MORE NOT ONLY FROM HIS SHOW BUT MY DAD HAD HIM COME TO OUR HOUSE AS BOZO FOR A BACK YARD CANIVAL OR SHOULD I SAY B-DAY PARTY WE HAD.BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!! HE SIGNED PICTURES AND BROUGHT TOYS. HE WAS A GREAT MAN IN MY EYES BACK THEN.SURE WISH I WOULD HAVE KEPT ALL THAT STUFF.NEVER REALIZED I'D BE WANTING THAT STUFF NOW. GOD BLESS HIM!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Nov 5, 2010. Yes my mom is Stephanie.. I'm Kristen. Which grand child are you?

Again, Thank you to all of you who post wonderful things about my Grandpa!

Anonymous said...

Howell very sadly committed suicide and it was tragic to those of us who knew and loved him so much. He awas always outwardly happy and pleasant. He was a person from our town of El Paso who truly had the talent to be a great actor. He just never got the break. Rest his soul!

Today in Tango said...

What a wonderful person Howell was...I worked at the bar at the melodrama theater a couple of times and knew him...he was really, really a kind, out going, cariung person...so many, many yeasr have passed since that time (40) and I still remember his eyes gleaming and him wide smile syaing hi to me....I had intuited that he was a very sensitive person...I remember his wife Gail; beautiful girl...Howell could have been nationally famous; of this I am sure...some one should do a film on him

Jennifer said...

This is really very sad news for all.But he played some fantastic roles.He played the character in bozo costumes
was really awesome!

Andacar said...

I remember Howell Eurich quite well and watched his show faithfully for many years when I lived in Las Cruces. He worked with Snappy Pappy, who usually came in with some kind of awful joke that bozo would then chase him off the set for. For instance:
“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“I don’t know Snappy Pappy, why did the chicken cross the road?”
“To avoid Colonel Sanders!”
I never saw "the incident" but I do remember that at least five of my friends took credit for being the perpetrator. I also remember watching his last time as the weatherman. He was nearly in tears half the time, and he mentioned that incident and denied it ever happened. I was only about 11 at the time, but even then I knew something was wrong. He was just miserable. I loved Hal very much and I’m glad folks who remember him haven’t stepped on his name here.

Caryn said...

RIP. I was on the Bozo show with Howell Eurich May 1970. It was my 6th birthday and I was 'Belinda of the Day'. I posted one of my picts on Facebook's page for bozotheclown.org for you to see. Read about Hal's story at the following sites:

http://suicidehotel.the-4thworld.com/kingandqueen.html
http://elpasotimes.typepad.com/morgue/2009/04/index.html

Anonymous said...

I also remember seeing the "Cram it Clownie" incident in Southern California. But it was after the fact, so it must have been taped and gotten airplay afterward.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up in EP and was on the Bozo show a couple of times for my Birthday with my cousins around '68. I remember receiving a tootsie roll whistle maker. We even named our first dog after Snappy Pappy. Great memories...

Carol Clueless Curler said...

Didn't grow up in El Paso myself, but lived there a number of years, late 60's, early 70's courtesy of my ex and the US Military. My then pre-school son absolutely loved Bozo. Having been from the greater NYC area, my younger brother grew up watching the original Bozo, Larry Harmon, so I thought that Eurich's impersonation was remarkable and as close to the real deal as one could get. Also, we would venture downtown to an entertaining review he and a number of talented locals presented at a theater called "Turn of the Century", if I'm correct. Do recall that he had just married a gal substantially his junior, she was a dancer or something. Are sorry to hear of his recent demise..My favorite was the Slappy Pappy sidekick of his...could never figure out if he was really aged, or a young guy trying to look old!!

Dave Cole said...

To the grandaughters: My name is Dave Cole, and for a brief time my mother was married to Jay Overton's father, Hal. It was during that time Holly married him, and I got to know Holly and her younger sister. I don't remember her name, but we had cookouts and hung out at dinner parties a lot. Howell's daughters were beautiful (I had big crushes)! I think of them, and Howell often. I too had a birthday on the Bozo Show long before I "met" Howell. He was a great guy and lots of fun to be around in person. I was truly saddened by his loss long after losing touch with everyone.

Anonymous said...

I am his son. Dad was an amazing person and did so much for so many. He would spend countless hours in the hospitals cheering children up. I am proud to be his son and have such fond thoughts of him and his acts of kindness.

Anonymous said...

Oh, where to start? I was the poster child for the UCP telethons for years when I was a kid and Howell was the MC. My mom worked at the station and Howell was a family friend. I have so many memories. I too saw the "cram it clown incident when it happened.

Howell meant a lot to me growing up. He was one of the few people connected with UCP who saw me as a kid, not a prop. I miss him to this day.

Anonymous said...

I remember beautiful, blonde Stephanie and Rick Drost (we went to school together) and others affected by his passing. My sister and I were on Howell Eurich's Bozo show. My family was so sad when he died. I was young and never expressed to his family any condolences. It had to be so hard - I cannot imagine. I have such good memories of him. Stephanie and Rick - hope you're doing well.
--an old classmate, Judy

Gonzalo Hernandez said...

I wonder if that little asshole, is still alive.

Nancy Hubbard said...

I was on the Bozo Show, too. The camera panned the kids in the stands, when it got to me, I stuck out my tongue... My mom was horrified. Howell lived couple blocks from where I grew up near album park and was a kind and gentle soul. I am sorry he left us so early.

Anonymous said...

It is not urban legend! But it did happen in D.C. on Willard Scott's Bozo show... I was in the audience, it was a kid from my Neighborhood, Vincent C. who cursed and was admonished by Willard Scott: "that's a Bozo No-no", to which Vince replied: "Awww, CRAMMIT, clownie"...

Anonymous said...

I spent kindergarden and part of first grade in El Paso and was also on the show. I was picked to play the game to run down, get a balloon, run back and sit on it to pop. It must have been Pappy who told me to use my fingernails to pop them (there were three total) but I bit them and had nothing to use. I lost and got some kind of Hostess or Dolly Madison chocolate treat with marshmellow filling. My father owned a bar in Sunland Park, the old Carousel, which was still there 14 years ago, or at least the sign was and Howell interviewed him on some show, not in costume of course. Great reading all the comments.

Mark Reynokds said...

R.. I knew your Dad very well as my Brother the poster child states on the next Post!! Our Mom was blessed to have worked with him and I was blessed to get to watch h get into Character on many occasions! Your Father was one of the greatest role models in my life! I am not a celebrity but I do a lot of Santa Clause charity work because of the impact your Dad made in my Life! I got back from Germany in Sep if 82 and never got the chance to visit your Dad! I was there for his celebration of life! Your entire family can be very proud of your dad! A true class act Gentleman!!!

Mark Reynokds said...

R.. I knew your Dad very well as my Brother the poster child states on the next Post!! Our Mom was blessed to have worked with him and I was blessed to get to watch h get into Character on many occasions! Your Father was one of the greatest role models in my life! I am not a celebrity but I do a lot of Santa Clause charity work because of the impact your Dad made in my Life! I got back from Germany in Sep if 82 and never got the chance to visit your Dad! I was there for his celebration of life! Your entire family can be very proud of your dad! A true class act Gentleman!!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah...Bozo...Snappy Pappy...and never forget ....Gardo the Clown from Frito Lay a.k.a. Mr. Vega...GOD bless them all for what they did for the kids ...thanks krod tv!