LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - From 1966 to 1991 Gary Weir, also known as Bozo the Clown, entertained thousands of Arkansas children.
He had a slight stroke recently. With only a little slurred speech and nothing wrong with his mind, Weir can recall stories easily and told THV11 why he was picked to become Bozo by the station manager.
"He said 'You've been here two years, and you haven't done anything serious yet,'" he recalled. Before he went on for the first time, Gary was taught how to fix the clown's makeup just right. "It took me about 45 minutes to completely get ready."
Bozo was a franchise at that time. It was on in markets all across the country, but Gary had a revolutionary idea to change the format of the show. Three weeks before he was to start, Gary flew to Boston to watch their Bozo, and he didn't like what he saw. When he came back, he had a better idea.
"I told the manager of the station, I said 'We need to make the children the star of the show and Bozo's the host,'" he explained.
And did he ever follow through in so many ways.
He and the children played games, and Bozo would lead them in dance moves, with each kid getting close-ups. The most famous segment of all was Bozo's interviews. He would occasionally try to throw in life lessons, and stress manners by encouraging the kids to say 'Yes, Sir.' or 'No, Sir.' Kids were able to get their photos taken with him, too. Many people still have them today.
His plan worked, and soon, there was a 5-year waiting list to be on the show.
"People would call in and say 'My little girl is three. I want to get her to on the Bozo Show.' Okay.
You can bring her when she's 8," he said.
He entertained for a quarter of a century, and earlier this year, Gary was voted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
"This person called or emailed me, and said 'I was on your show when I was 8 years old. My next door neighbor was never on the Bozo Show,' and she said 'I think she really resents the fact that I was on there but her birthday is coming up. She's gonna be 53 years old do you have a picture you could send her?'" he added.
When Bozos across the country would come and go, Gary Weir, and the Arklansas Bozo had staying power. But why? What was it? Why him?
"We did an appearance at McCain Mall and there were 5,000 children there that stood in line for hours and I had to remember this: that last little boy that walked up to me? As far as he was concerned, he was the first one, and I had to make him fell like that," Gary said, letting us in on his secret.
Bringing Bozo's story up on the THV11 Facebook page brought forth a huge response, and people still remember Gary. To read these, or even leave a memory of your own, go here: http://on.kthv.com/16HiycI