Remembering “Bozo’s Big Top”
This weekend marks a sad anniversary for anyone who grew up in West Michigan during the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. It was on August 28, 1999, that the very last local version of “Bozo's Big Top” aired on WZZM TV-13.
It's hard to believe that there are young adults out there who never have watched "Bozo's Big Top". It was such a part of the lives of many children over the years.
There was a time, back in the 60s and 70s, when just about every television market in the country had their own “Bozo the Clown”.
Dick Richards, who donned the red/orange wig, the white face paint, and size 47EEE shoes, played “Bozo” in West Michigan for over 40 years. The original “Bozo” in Grand Rapids was Bill Merchant. He had to give up that role for health reasons. Dick, who had been playing the role of “Ringmaster” on “Bozo's Big Top” since December 1, 1967, took over the role of the “World's Most Famous Clown” on December 1, 1968.
I attended the taping of the last show at then Fifth Third Ballpark (now LMCU Ballpark). I'm glad I was there to witness the very final "Bozo's Big Top".
Back in 1999, with the cancellation of the West Michigan Bozo show, that left only Chicago with such a program. Unfortunately, that too was cancelled two years later -- in 2001.
What a cool job that must have been. Imagine being able to clown around for so many years!
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of old shows around. Back then it was expensive to archive video. Often the shows recorded and then the videotape was recycled and used again. I was able to find a couple of complete shows on YouTube. The most recent goes back to 1995. If you want to go down memory lane, here is that video...
This "Bozo's Big Top" is from January 1986...
I was on “Bozo's Big Top” twice. It would have been about 1967 or 1968. WZZM TV-13 was still downtown in the Pantlind Hotel back then. I think the first time I was on the show, Dick Richards was still the "Ringmaster". The show was on live, from 4-5 pm, every afternoon. If I remember correctly, there was a waiting list of over a year to get tickets to the show. (In Chicago, that waiting list was many years long. I've heard rumors that many parents would send for tickets when their child was born in hopes of getting tickets by the time their kids were elementary school age.)
I have the “Bozo” show to blame for my career in the media. Even at the age of 5 or 6, I remember being in awe of the TV cameras, the lights, the sets, etc. I think it may have been what got me interested in working in the media in some way as an adult.
Dick Richards is still alive and well. He lives in Kentwood. Here is a picture of me, Dick Richards, and The River's Andy Rent (who was also the star of a children's show back in the day. He was "Captain Woody" on WOOD TV-8.) The picture was taken at Dick's 80th Birthday Party a few years ago.
“Bozo” will always live on in my memories growing up. A huge THANK YOU to Dick Richards for all of his time that he spent in that costume. He left an impression on so many children in West Michigan.
And I even remember the theme song (How does something stick with you like this after all those years?!)
"Hello world, every boy, every gal.
I'm Bozo the Clown, yeah this is your old pal.
I brought you a bag full of rooting, tooting, tricks.
One, two, three, four...five or six.
The funniest man on the whole human race,
Is gonna to put a smile on your face.
Just keep laughing, get rid of that frown,
Bozo is back. The one and only Bozo the Clown."
For more on the history of “Bozo”, here is the Wikipedia page.
To hear an interview with Dick Richards about the last "Bozo's Big Top", click here.
I hope ol' Bozo is clowning around for many more years to come! I'll end this post the same way Bozo would end his show... “Just Keep Laughing!”