Reliving Fond Memories
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Pinto left Disney in 1937 to go into radio. He provided sound effects for several shows, like Jack Bennys Maxwell and Dennis Day's hiccuping horse. There he met and became friends with Mel Blanc.
Hired by producer Alan Livingston of Capitol Records (Livingston later signed Frank Sinatra and the Beatles to his label), Pinto recorded several albums as Bozo the Capitol Clown. At that time, Bozo only existed as a painting, but Pintos warm-heartedness made the character real. The 78-rpm albums were huge hits, selling over five million copies, with titles like "Bozo Under the Sea", "Bozo and the Birds" and "Bozo on the Farm". Countless children learned to read with the Bozo reader albums. Pinto wrote some of the songs, but performed them all, as well as all the sound effects. The albums are considered collector's items today.
Later, Larry Harmon bought up the Bozo character when the copyright lapsed, and Bozo began appearing on TV screens all across the country. Here in Los Angeles, Pinto donned the makeup and became one of the first live Bozos. Later on, his son would continue in his fathers red oversized shoes.
By the way, the name "Bozo" is actually an old clown term meaning tramp or hobo clown.
"People are always asking me if clowns are broken hearted. No, not any more than all people are broken hearted. Because clowns are just people, with homes and families just like anyone else. I've been happily married for 35 years, and I have five sons, and five grandchildren."
Pinto also liked to play to the children's hospitals. " I don't go in to sympathize with sick children in hospitals. I start 'em to laughing. I use the medicine of laughter. And both the kids and adults - they love it. And you know, I'm very careful about my makeup. I try to make it funny, but never grotesque - because it might scare little children."
After a long and busy life, this generous, eccentric man passed on in 1967, a victim of lung cancer. Before his death, he helped lobby for warning labels on cigarette packs to keep people from ravaging their lungs as he had done (he was a heavy smoker).
Pinto left behind him a colorful tapestry of entertainment to children of all ages. He will always be remembered as Goofys recognizable voice, dumb but so big-hearted its hard not to like him.
Pinto was made a Disney Legend in 1993.
A unique individual, drawn to the greasepaint of the circus, and to the child-like comedy of the silent films to cartoons, he was a rare talent from distant time. Pinto Colvig came from the era of human entertainment, face to face in the dance halls, vaudeville houses and circuses. The comedy was joyous, not cynical and angry, reflecting the life of a rural America. His art was his body, interpreting the undulations of his mind. A style of entertainment that is faded and gone, but comedy that remains embedded in the cultural subconscious. Those sensibilities echo in the media today, in the early morning reruns. Pinto Colvig is one of the giants on whose shoulders the artists and animators of today solidly stand.
Many thanks to Rebecca Clines at the Disney Archives for her generous help in the writing of this article.
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-- David Mink
Reliving Fond Memories is posted the third Wednesday of each month.
The opinions expressed by our David Mink, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted September 17, 2002