Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy 60th Anniversary, Bozo!!!

When I was a kid in the 1960's, Bozo the Clown was a must-see program. I didn't find out until much later that practically every major city in the U.S. had its own "Bozo," or that the clown didn't actually get his start on television, but on records.

In 1946, Alan Livingston of Capitol Records conceived of the clown as a narrator of a children's record. The disc ended up a major seller, which naturally led to equally successful sequels. By 1949, Livingston got the idea of making Bozo a TV personality. Pinto Colvig (right), best known as the original voice of Disney's Goofy and who voiced the clown on Capitol's records, became the first to actually portray Bozo, over KTTV-11 in Los Angeles. This venture, too, proved to be an enormous success, and Livingston wound up hiring various "Bozos" specifically for personal appearances. One of these was Larry Harmon, who eventually pooled his resources, bought the rights to the character from Capitol, and turned Bozo into a marketing juggernaut.

It was Harmon's idea to create Bozo programs unique to each major city. In Chicago, home of the longest-lasting Bozo program, the clown was portrayed by Bob Bell, then Joey D'Auria. Stu Kerr took the part in Baltimore (left), and Frank Avaruch in Boston.

If the Bozo on the right reminds you of a certain famous Today Show weatherman, it's no coincidence: for a time, Willard Scott was Washington D.C.'s clown.

Anybody out there ever own this punching bag clown? I did - and it's still available!

After 60 years, Bozo remains a viable commodity, despite his absence from daily or weekly television. In 2003, Bozo returned to his audio roots with a CD release entitled "Get Down with the Clown." For more on Bozo's history, as well as the merchandise seen here, visit at

Oh, yes: for the story behind a certain encounter between Bozo and a rather rude child - one that may or may not be apocryphal - go here:


Anonymous said...

Nice site. The Bozo in Boston was Frank Avaruch back when Channel 5 was owned by the Herald-Traveler and I was there. But that's another story. At the new Channel 5 he hosted movies up to about the time he retired.


Michael J. Hayde said...


Thanks for the correction - I've updated the blog entry to reflect the correct spelling.

Local hosts - may God bless 'em all!

Anonymous said...

Actually it occurred to me after writing the post that I should have explained myself just a tad and added a footnote. The original Channel 5 was put off the air by the FCC. (That's the only thing on that topic I would have added to the original post.) It's been a long time since I was close to the facts of the case but as I remember, the station was originally authorized prior to World War II and one of the few on the air prior to the lifting of a freeze on new stations after the war. There were some questions about undue influence being used to obtain the license which dragged on through several trips to the Supreme Court and ended in the early 70s.

Frank had a partner on the show who handled a puppet. If I remember his name correctly, he was "Ed" (that's how we knew him) Carroll Spinney, and he left shortly before the show ended to play Big Bird on Sesame Street.

I don't think Frank actually minded playing Bozo, but he hated all the lame jokes that came his way because of it. Apart from Bozo he was pretty much a "booth" man, voicing station IDs and whatnot before automation put most of that stuff on a sidetrack. (Given the uncertainty of the station's future, the latest equipment was not a priority at the old 5. We didn't even have character generators. But we did have the best and most popular news programming in the city and the Red Sox franchise, all of which kept the newspaper afloat.)


markhn said...

I've put together a blog celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Capitol Records Tower, built with the profits that Bozo brought in to Capitol. It's at and it also contains a lot of information about Capitol's early history.

Anonymous said...

Washington, D.C. TV had a second "Bozo the Clown" (as opposed to the many political "Bozo's" amongst its populace), Dick Dyzel on WDCA-TV channel 20 back in the early 1970's. It was taped and ahd the usual Bozo formula of kiddie skits and cartoons. Alas, it did lack the (in)famous "gerbil races that earned WDCA an FCC :etter of Admonition!

Paul Duca said...

Willard Scott and gerbil races...something just isn't right here.