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Fort Wayne TV icon 'Happy the Hobo' dies

Monday, November 5, 2012 - 1:57 pm

A longtime Fort Wayne icon passed away Sunday.

According to news partner WANE-TV, Ch. 15, Mike Fry – more famously known as “Happy the Hobo,” the star of a children's show for years – died in Indianapolis after an illness.

Fry portrayed the clown from 1982 to 1990, leaving to run a fortune cookie business. The show in for which Fry starred, “Happy's Place,” continued until 1997.

Fort Wayne attorney Steve Shine, who did “news update” segments for years on WFFT, said guests on Happy the Hobo “loved and respected” Fry because “he got on the same level as kids; he was a big kid at heart.”

Shine said the Happy the Hobo was, for a time, among the highest-rated shows on local television. “People still stop me and say, 'I saw you on 'Happy the Hobo,' ” Shine said.

A self- described high school class clown, Fry graduated from Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey's Clown College in 1981 and then spent the summer with the circus, he said in a 1990 interview with The News-Sentinel.

Fry left "Happy the Hobo" in November 1990 to move to Chicago and try to get involved in the city's famed Second City comedy troupe, the 1990 article said.

In 1988, he and a partner also launched the Fancy Fortune Cookies company, which originally offered cookies containing funny fortunes. The cookies also came in a variety of flavors.

Fry and the cookies were featured on cable television's QVC shopping network in August 1995, a News-Sentinel story said.

The company, now run by Fry and his wife, Erin, and located in Indianapolis, has expanded over the years and now offers fortune cookies in about 25 different flavors, Fry wrote on the company's website, http://fancyfortunecookies.com/.

Fry also was an avid inventor. One of the early products he created, for example, was a child's pillow containing a small cassette tape player, which would play a recorded bedtime story as the child goes to sleep.