Willard Scott loves to celebrate life: witness his heart-warming tributes to centenarians. Hired by NBC in 1980 to do weather for The Today Show, Scott was held in high regard by audiences. One admirer suggested he give birthday greetings to people who had reached 100 years of age, or greater, as part of his weather report. Scott liked the idea and began the tributes in 1983. Even though he left the show in 1996, he periodically makes appearances to deliver the tributes which are now sponsored by Smuckers Jellies.
Because of his generous remembrances of the aging, and for other reasons, I hereby give Willard Scott the title: “A Man of the Centuries.” An additional title belonging to Scott is that he is recognized by many to be the original “Ronald McDonald.” Before I delve into that amazing story, and speaking of titles, I might as well tell you, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I feel a special affinity to Willard Scott because my last boss-lady dubbed my husband with the nickname “Ronald McDonald.” My husband didn’t look anything like Ronald McDonald, nor like Willard Scott, but his first name was Ron. He took a liking to my boss’s cheerful greeting, “Howdy, Ronald McDonald!” (she was from West Virginia) each time she saw him. After she died, he often reminisced about her habit of tagging people with “character monikers.” She called me “Snoopy!”
But back to Ronald McDonald. In Willard Scott’s book, The Joy of Living, (1982) Scott wrote that he was asked by McDonalds to create the role of Ronald McDonald. One wonders if the idea of Ronald McDonald was born from a previous children’s character that Scott brought to life called Bozo the Clown. For it was from 1959-1962 that Scott appeared on children’s programs produced by local DC TV stations as Bozo the Clown, and he subsequently enacted Ronald McDonald from 1963-1966. We look at the photo showing Scott with a box on his head and a cup on his nose and realize that the evolving Ronald McDonald, somewhere along the line, hired a new costume designer and a different make-up artist. AND today the modern Ronald McDonald persona, embodied by numerous actors, reaches far and wide into many kinds of special events, parties, and hospitals. But let’s not forget that the trend-setter for the Ronald McDonald character was Willard Scott. Just being himself, to this day, Scott brings cheer and good-will wherever he goes.
There’s another large part of Scott’s life that touches a major chord with me since I am a novice radio show host myself. Are any of you old enough to remember the Joy Boys Radio Show? Well, it was aired nightly out of NBC owned WRC-AM in Washington DC (1955-1972) and two more years out of another DC radio station. Who were the Joy Boys?
They were Willard Scott and Ed Walker and improvised comedy was their schtick. Ed was blind, in fact, blind since birth, so their method of preparation for the show was unique. They discussed a situation to use as basis for the broadcast, then developed characters which their voices would portray, and Willard wrote out some lead lines to use as the “situation” unrolled on the show. Before the show, Ed would memorize their discussion. Then they’d go live and proceed to entertain, enrich, uplift, and encourage all those within earshot. Just a couple of Joy Boys, the two men remained fast friends.
If I had a trophy or medal, I’d hand it to Willard Herman Scott along with the title “A Man of the Centuries” because he has reverence for the aging, he has a sense of humor, and he vigorously celebrates life. Do these activities promote harmony in our society? Indeed. Carry on, Mr. Scott.