Bob Bell (1922 - 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 Christmas Eve from 7-9 pm Central Standard Time, and again on Christmas Day from 2-4 pm, "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.)

clown picture - Bob Bell, as Bozo the Clown, in an early photo from Bozo's CircusFrankly, the remainder of this is very hard to right—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 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.

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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Posted by Tom Raymond, aka Raynbow on 05/10 at 04:25 AM
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