» » Bozo's Circus

Short summary

An iconic children's show on Chicago's WGN television station. Children would go home from school at noon to have lunch and watch the show! They had a terrific band and funny skits with several clowns. In addition, the audience was entertained by stand alone circus acts from time to time. My favorite television game was "The Grand Prize Game", where children in the audience were chosen to play by camera arrows. They threw ping pong balls in buckets and the grand prize was a Schwinn

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Kulafyn
    Anyone from Chicago will remember this great children's show that aired on WGN for nearly 40 years. In addition to cartoons and sketches performed by the resident clowns, there were live guest performers and the always exciting "Grand Prize Game" in which a boy and girl in the studio audience were chosen by the 'magic arrows' superimposed on the screen. The children tossed a golf ball into each of six buckets in front of them. As the distance increased, so did the prizes in each bucket. The end-all was the famed Bucket #6. Get that and prizes galore were showered upon you. Silver dollars and a new bike were most often the top prizes awaiting you in the last bucket. The children played not only for themselves, but also for a boy and girl at home. How great is that? You could win stuff just sitting in your front room! The WGN-TV website has a Bozo timeline and great archival photos and video. Remember Oliver O. Oliver? Bozo? Cookie? Sandy? Mr. Ned? They are all on the site. The show was a noon-time staple for any kid in Chicago in the 60's and 70's. It was so popular that tickets were requested YEARS in advance. Upon the birth of a child a request would be sent in hopes of the child attending a show in later years. Remarkable. It eventually changed formats and performers, but the original still stands out as one of the greatest and best loved kid's shows of all time.
  • comment
    • Author: SadLendy
    I remember watching this show in my home in Racine, Wisconsin--in the WGN viewing area--during the 1960s. I always liked Ray Rayner, who also hosted the Dick Tracy cartoons from his "Crimestopper Cruiser." In Bozo's Circus he played one of the supporting characters.

    What distinguishes the show in my mind is the fact that it spawned a rumor that swept my junior high about 1964. The rumor had it that the 9 year-old contestant chosen from the audience to play the ball-in-the-bucket game (described in another review) had missed the sixth bucket, hence the biggest prize. He snapped out an on-air obscenity at Bozo! Whether it was true or not, most of the kids at school thought the story was hilarious, and it was still being repeated when I graduated from high school in 1969.
  • comment
    • Author: Amhirishes
    As I sit here puttering around with the ol' keyboard, I can't help getting some certain feelings of guilt about this little piece that follows. Hell, any kid who grew up in Chicago in the '50's, '60's and 70's would have enough experience with the Bozo Show to commit something to paper.

    The character of BOZO started out on records as "BOZO THE CAPITOL CLOWN", obviously taking that name from the Record Label he recorded for. The voice, Larry Harmon, bought up the rights and arranged for a made for Television Cartoon series. It was circa 1957 that the Bozo cartoons hit our market via the future Super-station, WGN TV. The cartoons were shown on some of their juvenile programs; including their own BUGS BUNNY Show, which featured Host, Dick Coughlin and some puppets. There was a Bugs, of course; but also some others like: Radcliffe Raccoon, Numbers the Spaceman and some others that slip the mind at the moment.

    Around early 1961, somebody got wind of the offering of Franchising the BOZO Character and Likeness, in order to build a Kids' Show all around it. They would get an exclusive on BOZO & the Larry Harmon produced Bozo 5 minute Cartoons. WGN took the chance on it and groomed their resident funnyman, Bob Bell*, for the part.

    THE BOZO SHOW was the result, with Bozo (Mr. Bell) as host, fidgeting around and clowning between introducing those BOZO Cartoons. It was shown in the early evenings and lasted a half-hour. (It may have been on only one night a week, yo pienso!) But regardless of the length and frequency, the response from the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area was good, promising and the stuff of which fortunes could be made. In an attempt to find a real niche where BOZO could be truly appreciated, the Suits at WGN opted to expand to an hour daily, Monday thru Friday. Realizing that this sudden growth would need more than a solo performer, the production crew added 'Ringmaster' Ned Locke, Mute Mime Clown Sandy (Don Sanderson) and Clown Oliver O. Oliver (Ray Rayner). The 4 men had mucho expierencio between them, and were all true pros.

    With the addition of a studio audience, a "Bozo's Big Top Band", the booking in of circus & variety acts and some audience participation games; all was ready. The world was ready to meet BOZO'S CIRCUS.

    It ran for some years at that noon hour time slot. It was perfect for a lunchtime companion for the Grade Schoolers; for the vast majority of them went home for lunch. The neighborhood school policy operated on principle of having the student bodies of the schools residing close to the school campus. Everything was great. Bozo, I mean WGN's version, owned the Noon Hour.

    And then, somewhere in the 1970's, the schools began going "Closed Campus"; meaning that no one left school for lunch. Either the kids purchased their meals from the schools' cafeteria or they could brown bag it. This closed campus trend continued until the whole school system adhered to the policy. That meant their would be precious few little learners at home glued to the tube and munching on bologna sausage (aka "baloney") sandwiches. The ratings had to have really been suffering. Was this end of the Chicago-Bozo courtship? Will the arbitrary edicts of the Burecracy of the Board of Education spell the end of the line? Hell no, it would not. The Station just shifted gears; turning BOZO'S CIRCUS into a morning, hour, breakfast time show. It continued on, even more successful than ever.

    BOZO continued on for years, decades even. And there was changing of the guard as the originals retired. Ned Locke was by "Circus Manager", Frazier Thomas. Roy Brown as "Cooky, the Cook" took Sandy's place and Magician Marshall Brodien as Wizzo the Wizard held down the position that Ray Rayner had filled for so long. Even Bob Bell gave way to newcomer, Joey DeOria as the Red Headed Clown with the Big Feet and infectious Laugh.

    Today, there is very little local production done by individual stations, where it was once a very commonplace occurrence. A notable exception is our local station, WCIU which has Rich Koz doing two shows. He stars as SVENGOOLIE, a "Shock Theatre" type show featuring the old Universal Pictures as well as others; and he does STOOGAPOLOOZA, hosting and annotating the Columbia 3 Stooges Shorts.

    Such a success was this BOZO that the waiting time for tickets ran into 7-8 years! We once figured out that tickets should be requested in writing by a guy or girl just as soon as they think that the person they're dating is going to be their spouse. That way, your kid would be just the right age to appreciate them and yet, would not know the anguish of waiting.

    You know, kind of like that instant gratification that this new generation expects.

    Oh yeah, MERRY Christmas!

    NOTE: * Talented Radio/TV Announcer & All Around Funnyman, Bob Bell had been at WGN Radio & TV ever since the mid 1950's. He had done a morning Television Show along with the Legendary Radio Personality, Wally Phillips, which showcased both men's comedic talents. Starting in 1959 and continuing for about 3 years, Mr. Bob Bell hosted the WGN Channel 9's 3 Stooges show; portraying old-timer, "Andy Star", the custodian of the "Odeon Theatre". He also did the character of the owner of the Odeon, "Mrs. Finstermacher"and he did it in drag.
  • comment
    • Author: Tcaruieb
    This is one of the all-time great kids' TV shows that ever was. At noon every day the WGN screen went blank for a few moments as they switched the broadcast to the live studio; you heard the murmur of the audience and then full-screen came on Ned Locke (Ringmaster Ned) blowing his whistle and announcing "Bozo's Circus is ON THE AIR!" Bob Trendler's band burst into the show's theme song, and then came the brief introductions of the clowns, whatever circus-type special guest was appearing, Bob Trendler and his Big-Top Band (they must have had at least a dozen musicians playing live), "and a cast of thou-sands!" as the camera panned over the audience. I was lucky enough to attend a broadcast of Bozo's Circus when I was in kindergarten; I'm 58 years old now and the opening of the show is burned indelibly in my mind from literally decades of watching it.

    Bozo's Circus had a brilliant cast that took liberties with the comedy sketches in ways the grownups appreciated while the kids probably didn't catch on. Example: Wizzo the Wizard is going to do a trick and he dramatically produces "The Purse of Arobia!" which was basically a woman's handbag. Referring to the handbag, Bozo turned half away from the scene, put his hand up to his mouth to make a side comment, nodded and said "Now I KNOW what I always SUSPECTED..." and every grownup in the studio - the moms and dads, the other clowns, the members of the band, all of them just lost it. Bozo was not averse to saying 'Man oh Manischewitz' (a line from a wine commercial) or 'Take these scissors someplace and fall on them'. The kids loved the show and the grownups did too, because it remembered to entertain them as well.

    Another great skit had Bozo, Cookie and Wizzo playing the roles of the three bears in Goldilocks. When they return to their bedroom, Wizzo, playing the Mama bear, says 'Oh! Oh! Someone's been sleeping in MY bed!' Daddy Bear Bozo says half under his breath 'Well don't look at ME...' Another great moment for the grownups, who roared with laughter.

    If you were sick and got to stay home from school, being able to watch Bozo was a heck of a side bonus. On holidays or summer vacation unless there was something special going on, you WERE going to be watching Bozo.

    The original Bozo at WGN, Bob Bell, was the better of the two. But the show ran so many years that when the second Bozo, Joey D'Aurio had been on the show for 14 or 15 years he was still referred to as 'the new Bozo'. Joey had an impossible task to fill Bob Bell's shoes but he did one thing that I thought was brilliant on the very final episode of the show (which by then was called The Bozo Show I think). The famous Grand Prize game was being played for the last time and there were some extra special prizes in bucket number six. Joey (the 'new Bozo') basically cheated big time to make sure both of the contestants won all the prizes. At one point he turned and looked into the camera and said "What are they gonna do? Fire me?" Being it was his last day on the show and he was losing his job anyhow, I thought it was a great line.

    On the very last show, 40 years after it had begun, Billy Corgan and some of the members of Smashing Pumpkins performed a Bob Dylan song called 'Forever Young'. (Not the Rod Stewart song.) Corgan had grown up near Chicago watching Bozo as a kid and wanted to do something special on the last show. While he and his bandmates played the song, we were treated to silent video clips from many past shows - little glimpses of skits, kids playing games, Bozo at a couple of personal appearances, the audience filing out to the 'Grand March', all the kinds of moments that were 'Bozo' over a period of FORTY YEARS, and it was really sad for me. It felt like I was seeing the funeral of the greatest kids' show there ever was. I've seen clips of numerous other Bozo shows and they could not hold a candle to WGN's Bozo's Circus.
  • comment
    • Author: huckman
    So where the hell are the DVD's so we can relive this? *honk*
  • Series cast summary:
    Bob Bell Bob Bell - Bozo 1 episode, 1978
    Roy Brown Roy Brown - Cooky the Cook 1 episode, 1978
    Frazier Thomas Frazier Thomas - Circus Manager 1 episode, 1978
    Marshall Brodien Marshall Brodien - Wizzo the Wizard 1 episode, 1978
    A.J. Adelman A.J. Adelman - Himself 1 episode, 1977
    Henry Maar Henry Maar - Himself - "The Sultan of Balloons" 1 episode, 1977
    Phil Donahue Phil Donahue - Himself 1 episode, 1978
    Julie Lax Julie Lax - Clown on unicycle 1 episode, 1978
    Leah Stanko Mangum Leah Stanko Mangum - Dancer 1 episode, 1978
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