TIMELINE
1940s
1950s
1960s
1970s
1980s
1990s
2000s

IMAGES

AUDIO/VIDEO

 

1960

WGN-TV asks Bob Bell to portray Bozo on a live 30-minute "Bozo" show weekdays at noon, performing comedy sketches and introducing the Bozo cartoons. The program debuts on Monday, June 20. Jerry Gregoris is the producer and director. Gregoris and Don Sandburg are the writers.

WGN-TV’s "Lunchtime Little Theater" ends a five-year run. Ned Locke hosts "Paddleboat" as Skipper Ned. Roy Brown is the puppeteer. Locke also is the weatherman for the "10th Hour News," television’s first 30-minute nightly newscast. Brown also is the puppeteer for "Garfield Goose and Friends."

1961

WGN-TV’s "Bozo" show is placed on hiatus in January to facilitate WGN-TV and WGN Radio’s move from Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago to 2501 West Bradley Place on the city’s northwest side.

WGN-TV’s "Paddleboat" ends a one-year run.

Monday, September 11, "Bozo's Circus" is on the air. The live 60-minute show is broadcast from WGN-TV’s Studio One weekdays at noon. It consists of comedy sketches, circus acts, cartoons, games and prizes before a 200+ member studio audience. Ned Locke is the ringmaster and WGN Musical Director Bob Trendler leads the 13-piece Big Top Band, which doubles as the WGN Orchestra. Trendler adopts the theme from Cecil B. DeMille’s Academy Award winning motion picture "The Greatest Show On Earth" (1952) as the opening theme of "Bozo’s Circus." Jim McGinn is the producer and Allen Hall is the director. Due to a budgeting error by McGinn, Bozo (Bob Bell) doesn’t appear until the second program. The first show features NCAA Trampoline Champion Hal "Tails" Taylor from the University of Wisconsin. A couple weeks later, Don Sandburg becomes the program’s main writer and also makes intermittent appearances as Sandy the Tramp. Sandy eventually appears daily.

Don Sandburg becomes the producer of WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus" in October.

WGN-TV hires Ray Rayner from WBBM-TV (CBS) in Chicago to portray Sergeant Henry Pettibone as host of the "Dick Tracy" show. He joins "Bozo’s Circus" as Oliver O. Oliver in November.

Bill Butler, who went on to receive a "Best Cinematography" Oscar nomination for the Academy Award winning motion picture "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" in 1976, is a cameraman for WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus."

1962

Jayark Films Corporation distributes 52 additional Bozo cartoons to television stations.

Per Bob Bell's suggestion, Don Sandburg creates the Grand Prize Game for WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus." Two studio audience contestants, one boy and one girl, are chosen by a Magic Star, which is later replaced "by the tips and the tips only of the Magic Arrows." A silver dollar is added to Bucket #6 "every day until someone wins them all." Eventually, a Schwinn bike is added to the sixth bucket and duplicate prizes of everything each player wins are sent to a lucky viewer whose postcard or envelope has been drawn from the Bozo Drum.  Years later, Larry Harmon adopts the Grand Prize Game for other Bozo shows and also licenses home and coin-operated versions.

In the first of many guest appearances, magician Marshall Brodien performs a routine on WGN-TV’s "Bozo's Circus."

"Bozo’s Christmas," a 90-minute prime time WGN-TV special, is taped before an audience of 4,000 at Medinah Temple in Chicago.

WRC-TV (NBC) Washington, D.C.'s "Bozo the Clown" show ends a three-year run. The program's sponsors, McDonald's drive-in restaurant franchisees John Gibson and Oscar Goldstein (Gee Gee Distributing Corporation), create "Ronald McDonald the Hamburger-Happy Clown" and hire Willard Scott to portray the character in 1963.

Ray Rayner replaces Dick Coughlan as host of WGN-TV’s "Breakfast with Bugs Bunny."

1963

Paul Lubera, a 29-year-old contortionist and trapeze artist from Cleveland, Ohio, breaks his right wrist after falling 12 feet from a trapeze bar to a carpet mat on WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus." Television screens go blank while stagehands place a screen around him until paramedics arrive. The show resumes after a short interlude.

WGN-TV’s Bozo (Bob Bell) appears at Marquette Park in Chicago for the unveiling of a large flower garden displaying his image. He also makes a one-time appearance at Chicago’s historic Riverview amusement park, near the WGN Studios. Marshall Brodien was a sideshow barker and magician at Riverview Park during the early 1950s.

The cast of WGN-TV’s "Bozo's Circus" puts on a 45-minute performance at the 34th annual Chicagoland Music Festival at Soldier Field in Chicago before 68,135 people according to the Chicago Tribune.

WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus" welcomes its 100,000th studio audience member with prizes.

On Friday, November 22, a news bulletin reporting that the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, has been shot in Dallas, Texas interrupts WGN-TV’s "Bozo's Circus" at the start of the Grand Prize Game.

"Bozo’s Holiday Circus," a 90-minute prime time WGN-TV special, is taped before an audience of 5,000 at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago. The cast performs for an extra non-televised show benefiting the Southwest School for Retarded Children.

Capitol Records President and CEO Alan Livingston signs the Beatles with Capitol.

1964

"Bozo’s Circus" receives an Emmy during a live WGN-TV broadcast of the sixth annual Chicago Emmy Awards at the Pick-Congress Hotel in Chicago.

"Bozo’s Holiday Circus," a 90-minute prime time WGN-TV special, features ice skating on a rink built on the "Bozo’s Circus" set.

WPIX-TV New York's Bozo show ends a five-year run.

KTLA-TV Los Angeles' "Bozo the Clown" show ends a six-year run. (A kinescope clip of the series can be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York and Beverly Hills, California. Additional kinescope footage can be viewed at the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s Archive Research and Study Center in Los Angeles.)

WGN-TV’s "Breakfast with Bugs Bunny" is renamed "Ray Rayner and His Friends."

The Chicago Tribune introduces a stuffed toy dog named Cuddly Dudley to readers who purchase a minimum four-month newspaper subscription.

1965

WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus" receives an Emmy during a live broadcast of the seventh annual Chicago Emmy Awards at the Drury Lane Theatre in Evergreen Park, Illinois on WBKB-TV (ABC) in Chicago.

Chicago Cubs, White Sox and Bears broadcaster Jack Brickhouse makes a guest appearance on WGN-TV’s 1,000th "Bozo’s Circus."

"Big Top," a 60-minute prime time show featuring taped highlights of "Bozo’s Circus" and parents participating in the Grand Prize Game, airs Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. on WGN-TV.

Larry Harmon becomes the sole owner of the "Bozo the Clown" property after buying out his business partners, while Capitol Records holds the copyright. He syndicates 130 half-hour versions of WHDH-TV (CBS) Boston's "Bozo's Circus" shows under the title "Bozo's Big Top" to a dozen U.S. markets that are not producing their own Bozo shows.

Larry Harmon licenses a "Bozo the Clown Coloring Book" that includes WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus" characters Oliver and Sandy. The coloring book is marketed nationally.

False rumors about a young contestant uttering an obscenity during a Bozo show telecast spread throughout the U.S. Although it never happened, the urban legend becomes a part of American folklore.

Roy Brown creates and debuts the Chicago Tribune’s Cuddly Dudley as a talking puppet on WGN-TV’s "Ray Rayner and His Friends."

1966

Allen Hall leaves WGN-TV’s "Bozo's Circus" and Norm Nowicki becomes the director.

WGN-TV’s "Bozo's Circus" welcomes three-year-old Michele Hanson of Western Springs, Illinois with prizes, including a Schwinn bike, as its 250,000th studio audience member.

WGN-TV’s "Dick Tracy" show with Ray Rayner ends a five-year run. Rayner hosts "Rocket to Adventure" as an astronaut character. (A 1977 pilot for a syndicated version of WGN-TV’s "Dick Tracy" show can be viewed at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.)

1967

WGN-TV's "Big Top" ends a season-and-a-half run. (The last "Big Top" can be viewed at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.)

A blizzard cancels a live broadcast of "Bozo's Circus" at the WGN Studios. A taped show airs in its place.

WGN-TV rebroadcasts "Bozo’s Circus" intermittently Saturdays at noon.

On Tuesday, October 3, Vance DeBar "Pinto" Colvig passes away at the age of 75 in Woodland Hills, California.

Don Sandburg portrays Ronald McDonald in Chicago TV ads for McDonald's restaurants.

Riverview Park in Chicago closes after 63 years.

1968

WGN-TV Floor Manager Dick Lubbers makes intermittent appearances as Monty Melvin on "Bozo's Circus."

Roy Brown makes intermittent appearances as Cooky the Cook on WGN-TV’s "Bozo's Circus" and eventually becomes a regular cast member.

Marshall Brodien makes intermittent appearances as a wizard on WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus." The character is eventually named Wizzo.

Bob Bell leaves the air in October to undergo surgery for a brain aneurysm. He participates in future WGN-TV broadcasts of "Bozo’s Circus" by telephone while recuperating. He also ends a nine-year run hosting "The Three Stooges" weekday afternoon showcase as Andy Starr.

WGN-TV’s "Rocket to Adventure" ends a two-season run.

Ray Rayner portrays Ronald McDonald in national TV ads for McDonald's restaurants.

1969

Don Sandburg leaves WGN-TV. He turns the tables on his unsuspecting coworkers on his last day by raiding Studio One as Sandy during a live broadcast of "Bozo’s Circus" and attacking the cast, band, production crew and studio audience with shaving cream. Lloyd "Bud" Ellingwood takes over as producer for nine months followed by Norm Nowicki. Sandburg ends up as associate producer of Hanna-Barbera's "Banana Splits" show in Hollywood, California.

In March, Bozo (Bob Bell) makes a surprise return to WGN-TV’s "Bozo’s Circus" by bursting out of Cooky’s Surprise Box during a sketch.

Dick Lubbers leaves WGN-TV.

"Bozo's Big Top Spectacular," a 60-minute prime time WGN-TV special, is taped before an audience of 4,000 at Medinah Temple in Chicago.

 

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