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Bob Bell, WGN-TV’s Bozo the Clown

Bob Bell in a (early) publicity photo for WGN-TV's Bozo's Circus

Bob Bell in a (early) publicity photo for WGN-TV’s Bozo’s Circus

Bob Bell (January 18,1922 – December 8, 1997), WGN-TV€™s “Bozo the Clown, the world’s most famous clown”

(Editor’s note: for fans of Bob Bell,  WGN-TV will be showing Special: Bozo, Gar & Ray: WGN TV Classics, on November 24th at 11:00 a.m. Central time, and on Christmas Eve at 10:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, “A look back at three of WGN’€™s most beloved television series, “Bozo’€™s Circus,” “Garfield Goose and Friends” and “Ray Rayner and His Friends.” )

Bob BellBozo the Clown to WGN-TV’€™s audience in Chicago, has passed away  (December 8, 1997) at the age of 75. I’€™m not from Chicago, but thanks to the magic of cable TV, I grew up with Mr. Bell’s rendition of Bozo the Clown in the frozen north of Wisconsin. To me, he was Bozo the Clown – pure and simple.

(No offense intended to Larry Harmon, who owns the character of Bozo the Clown & licensed it to WGN-TV. Mr. Bell simply played his character very well.)

Frankly, the remainder of this is very hard to write — simply because there’s so little public knowledge about the man behind the greasepaint (at least that’€™s at arm’€™s reach). However, I’€™d simply like to state the obvious: Mr. Bell was Bozo the Clown, and made me (among millions of others) smile a little more often. I think he’€™d appreciate that epitaph

Biographical Information on Bob Bell:

In 1960, WGN-TV asked character actor and staff announcer Bob Bell to portray Bozo the Clown on a live, 30-minute afternoon show consisting of one-man sketches and cartoons.  “Bozo’s Circus” was a live, hour-long telecast that aired weekdays at noon.

clown picture - Bob Bell, as Bozo the clown, in the final incarnation of his makeupIn 1970, Bob Bell received an Emmy for WGN-TV’€™s “Bozo’€™s Circus” during a live broadcast of the 11th annual Chicago Emmy Awards at the Drury Lane Theatre in Evergreen Park, Illinois on WBBM-TV (CBS) in Chicago.  Bob Bell retired from WGN-TV in April 1984.  He was inducted into theClown Hall of Fame on August 3, 1996. He joined his co-star and fellow clown Roy Brown, the camp cook Cooky, in the Clown Hall of Fame. (For more information, check out the article from WGN-TV, as well as the thousands of farewells to Bob Bell listed there. Be sure to add your reminiscences, if you have any.) In a truly sad commentary, after 40 years, WGN-TV is discontinuing the Bozo the Clown TV show.

clown picture - Bob Bell, WGN-TV's Bozo the Clown - out of makeupWhile performing as Bozo the Clown, Bell once commented,

“I was always somewhat calloused about broadcasting, but this Circus is the doggonedest phenomenon I have ever seen. There’€™s always the satisfaction that you have done something for somebody that goes beyond the commercial aspects of the show. I love my work and enjoy making children laugh. Laughter cannot be imitated. It comes from the heart.”

All photographs and much information on this page are courtesy WGN-TV’s “Bozo Timeline” – our thanks to them!

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