Bob Ross was no stranger to most people; many knew him as the host from “The Joy Of Painting,” a show that taught viewers how to draw idyllic scenes in minutes.
He was the face of several memes, he was also the man who sat in front of easels and landscape paintings, with a famous catchphrase, “we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.” One would wonder why, in 24 hours, there’s been a surge in media chatter about him and his life. The reason wasn’t far-fetched– A documentary about his life, “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed” landed on Netflix on Wednesday, 25th of August.
This came to a couple of days after a mysterious teaser debuted on the 17th of August. The documentary was a deep dive into the painter’s life, his nice-guy reputation, his rise to fame, the behind-the-scenes dramas he dealt with between his business partners, and a complicated battle for his estate following his death on the fourth of July, 1995.
The hour-and-a-half-long movie was directed by Joshua Rofe. Here are the major takeaways from the movie starring Ben Falcone and “Bridesmaids” star, Melissa McCarthy.
Ross Had An Affair With His Business Partner
Ross had a great style of dressing and fashion. One of his signature looks was achieving his afro with a perm. This attracted a lot of women, and the documentary alleged his business partner, Annette Kowalski, was one of them.
They met after Kowalski attended one of Ross’ workshops, and like many of Ross’ adoring fans, Kowalski reveled in learning under Ross’ feet. She and Ross were seen on several episodes of “The Joy Of Painting.” Their relationship budded into a close one which sparked online rumors.
Although it remained an unfounded rumor, Ross’ son, Steve, eventually confirmed this in the documentary stating that “There was an affair between my father and Kowalski, yes.” He remembered a heated argument between his father and stepmother after she heard about the affair. He reported that they worked it out before his stepmother’s death in 1992, but the partnership between the Kowalski and Ross never remained the same.
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The Kowalskis denied the affair — and any rift with Bob Ross — through their lawyer in the documentary, which signified to viewers that ‘more than a dozen people who knew or worked with Ross’ didn’t want to be interviewed for the film for fear of legal repercussions.
Ross Struggled To Come To An Agreement On How His Legacy Should Be Preserved
Weeks after Jane died, Ross was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The documentary shared how he used the paint thinner to achieve his signature artistic expression and it was speculated that some chemicals contained in the thinner led to his cancer.
But despite the ticking time bomb that was cancer, the painter showed up constantly and continued tapping shows. This part of the documentary was particularly heartbreaking.
Steve, who taught his father’s methods and intermittently appeared on “The Joy of Painting,” recalled feeling pressured to do his father’s shows.
“There was a power struggle between us, I guess you could say.” They went several years without speaking and eventually reconciled as Ross got sicker. Steve alleged that, nearing death, the Kowalskis asked his father to sign a “memorial agreement.”
It looked to me like they were trying to get Ross to sign his name over to them and you could hear him screaming, “I’m not giving you my name.” Steve reported that this back and forth spanned over weeks, and always resulted in explosive arguments.
The Kowalskis didn’t come for Ross’ funeral, as mentioned by Steve. “Even worse, they tried to keep secret the fact that the funeral was even happening. They wanted people to believe that he was still alive and many people did,” Steve said.
Ross Developed His Voice For The Show
Ross figured delivering his catchphrase, “we don’t make mistakes, just happy accidents” in a gentle and honey-laced voice would appeal to his female audience.
He was right– as got a lot of racy and exciting fan letters over the years. His son, Steve, recalled his father’s reasoning, “A lot of the audience is women, so maybe I’ll try to whisper.”
An art expert who was interviewed in the documentary drew a parallel between the title of Ross’ show and other how-to-books that became prominent in American culture, including the “The Joy Of Cooking” and “The Joy Of Sex.”
His son confessed that he was trying to draw his female audience closer.
Insiders Say Ross’ Image Is Not Going According To His Wishes
Ross’ show is popular around the world and has been dubbed into several languages.
Despite that, It was rumored that the Kowalskis ran Ross’ show haphazardly following his death. A former employee of the company alleged that he saw someone forging Ross’ signature on paintings.
Another alleged that Kowalski copied Ross’ teaching style and pressured an art supply distributor to end its long-term relationship with them. Steve sued Bob Ross Inc. managed by Kowalski after he got to know that his father had initially signed his intellectual property rights to him and Cox, Ross’ half-brother.
In the course of that lawsuit, Steve learned that his uncle had responded to Kowalski’s lawsuit against him by signing over all of the rights, “totally against my father’s wishes,” he said. Steve later lost the lawsuit.
This translated into no profit from any of his father’s names or images, which abound in pop culture to date.