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From the Pages of Orlando Weekly: PBS painter Bob Ross lived and died in Central Florida; a new Netflix documentary explains why you might not have known that


If you didn’t know that painting icon Bob Ross — he of the “happy little trees” — began and ended his life in Central Florida, don’t beat yourself up. Yes, Ross was born in Daytona Beach, and he passed away in Orlando in 1995. But many of the details of his life and death have been obscured in the effort to sustain a multimillion-dollar empire in his name.

A new Netflix documentary reveals that mystery wasn’t entirely an accident. Certainly not a happy one.

The makers of Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayals and Greed, claim that Ross’s legacy was co-opted for profit by his business partners, Walt and Annette Kowalski. According to Ross’s surviving friends and family, the Kowalskis helped make Ross a cultural icon with his long-running PBS series, The Joy of Painting. And then they ruthlessly went about securing legal rights to his name, image and reputation, especially when it became clear that Ross was terminally ill. They even tried to keep Ross’s funeral a secret (he’s buried in Gotha, by the way).

The documentary makes it painfully clear that the issue isn’t how happy a little tree might be — it’s who gets to own it.