Happy Accident: The Career of Icon Bob Ross Started in Coeur d’Alene
If you grew up watching PBS you are no stranger to the joy it was to watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. The afro-clad, soft spoken painter spent 31 seasons from 1983 to 1994 soothing audiences with "happy trees" and positivity before sadly passing away from lymphoma. The iconic series lived on in syndication, which is how myself along with countless millennials and gen z-ers have been fortunate enough to enjoy Bob Ross and learn one of the purest most wholesome mottos in pop culture history: "There are no mistakes. Only happy accidents."
But behind the scenes of his legacy is a sordid tale. A story that Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone are sharing in a new Netflix documentary about the late painter; Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed. One tidbit I learned years ago is that Bob Ross wanted to cut off his signature afro, but he was told no. Little did I know there were far darker things at play. But we may not have ever known Bob Ross if it weren't for this great state of ours.
Alston Ramsay details in a piece for the Daily Beast that "the business of being Bob Ross begins in the quaint lakeside hamlet of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. And it starts with a chance encounter between then-U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Robert Norman Ross and a former Nazi conscript named Wilhelm “Bill” Alexander."
Bill Alexander was a painter on PBS who Bob admired greatly and aspired to be like. As luck would have it, Bill Alexander was teaching a seminar in Coeur d'Alene back in 1978, just an hour from where Bob lived. He attended the event, met Alexander, and thus began the journey to becoming one of the most beloved pop culture icons in modern history. So a big thanks to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for its part in launching the career of a man who helped raise this latchkey kid.