Bob Ross Was a Tyrant and Hated His Perm, Says Former Manager

The signature hairdo started out as a way to save money.

Bob Ross in "The Joy of Painting." Photo via YouTube.

Though it became a trademark look, television personality Bob Ross despised his perm, it turns out.

Annette Kowalski, business partner to the “Joy of Painting” star, revealed this key fact to NPR.

It started out as an impulse toward thrift, Kowalski says: “He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts. So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again.” But then he became trapped in a trademark look, she says.

Ross, of the “happy little trees,” remains a sensation online, with tens of thousands of viewers tuning in to website Twitch just last year, even in an age of solo binge-watching, as artnet News’s national art critic, Ben Davis, pointed out.

Kowalski reveals to NPR that Ross’s rise was a happy accident, and that it arose partly out of tragedy. She signed up for a painting class with another television art instructor just to get out of the house after her son had died in a car crash. By the time the class came around, the instructor had passed the job along to Ross.

While at first she was disappointed at the switch in teachers, Kowalski tells NPR that it was Ross’s hypnotic voice that let her know he was special, and she arranged to become his manager.

Don’t let Ross’s calm affect fool you, though, says Kowalski. Off-camera, she says, he was “a tyrant.”

“Do you really think this company would be as successful as it is,” she asks, “if he didn’t insist that everything be done a certain way?”

All the same, she says of Ross, who died in 1995 of lymphoma, “He was wonderful. I want Bob back.”


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