Biography of Bob Bell, WGN-TV’s original Bozo the Clown (January 18, 1922 – December 8, 1997)
(Editor’s note: for fans of Bob Bell, WGN-TV will be showing Special: Bozo, Gar & Ray: WGN TV Classics, on Christmas Eve from 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 Bell, Bozo 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.
In 1970, Bob Bell receives 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, and was inducted into the Clown 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.
While 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!