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Bob Bell (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bob Bell
Bob Bell without Bozo the Clown makeup and costume
Bell on the Bozo's Circus set at WGN-TV before getting into character, c. 1960s
Robert Lewis Bell

(1922-01-18)January 18, 1922
DiedDecember 8, 1997(1997-12-08) (aged 75)
Occupation(s)Actor, announcer
Years active1953–1997
Known forBozo the Clown
Andy Starr
SpouseCarol Atkinson (m. 1947–1997)
RelativesTrevor Bell (grandson)

Robert Lewis Bell (January 18, 1922 – December 8, 1997), better known as Bob Bell, was an American actor and announcer famous for his alter-ego, Bozo the Clown. He was the original portrayer of the character for Chicago superstation WGN-TV.

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Early life

Bell was born in Flint, Michigan, to a General Motors factory worker. He spent his life after high school doing odd jobs until he enlisted first in the U.S. Marine Corps[1] and later in the U.S. Navy during World War II, though he did not see any combat action due to the loss of vision in his right eye. Bell was able to pass the induction examination for the Marines by memorizing eye charts. He had a medical discharge from the Marines less than a year after joining in 1941. Bell then went to the navy, where he served in the Pacific Theater until 1946. Before the Marines, Bell worked in movies, taking minor roles and in set construction.[2][3] Bell was also a baseball player during his Flint high school years, but was limited due to his vision loss. Bell's father, George M. Bell, played minor league baseball in the early part of the 20th century.[4]

He broke into broadcasting in Flint as an announcer at local station WMRP (now WWCK), then left for South Bend, Indiana station WHOT.[2] He met his future wife Carolyn while working there. He moved into television with Indianapolis station WFBM-TV (now WRTV) in 1950.[5][6]

Cincinnati and Chicago

Bell moved on to Cincinnati, Ohio, and WLW Radio and WLWT-TV in 1953. He joined the cast of the Wally Phillips Show and proved to have a gift for comedy, playing numerous characters.[2] After WLW and WLWT's executive vice president took a position with Chicago broadcast giants WGN Radio and WGN-TV in 1956, Bell, Phillips and the show's writer/director/producer Don Sandburg came along, producing their own variety series, which included The Wally Phillips Show and Midnight Ticker.[7][8]

"Bozo's Circus is on the air!"

Bob Bell as Bozo with Cooky the Clown (Roy Brown), on Bozo's Circus, 1976

In 1960, station management asked the character actor and staff announcer to portray Bozo on a live, 30-minute show weekdays at noon, consisting of one-man sketches and cartoons, which debuted on June 20, 1960.[9] The show went on hiatus in January 1961 to move from studios at Tribune Tower to new studios at 2501 West Bradley Place, near the Lane Tech High School campus. Thus, Bozo evolved into Bozo's Circus on September 11, 1961, as a live, hour-long telecast. At the same time Bell was hosting WGN's after school Three Stooges show from 1959 where he played an old man named Andy Starr who ran a neighborhood theatre called the Odeon where he showed the Stooges shorts.[2] The show ran for nine years with Bell as the host and also as Bozo.[10][11][12][13]

In 1968, surgery for a brain aneurysm and needed recuperation forced Bell to take a leave of absence from the show. He was able to participate in some broadcasts via telephone, returning to the show again in March 1969.[10] In 1970, Bell received his first Emmy for WGN-TV's Bozo's Circus.[14] He was also the Grand Marshal for Chicago's Christmas Parade in the same year; the number of people who turned out for the parade was estimated at 500,000.[15]

After Bozo

Bell retired from WGN-TV and The Bozo Show in 1984,[16] and was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1996.[2][17][18] Larry Harmon, who owned the rights to the Bozo the Clown character, refused to congratulate Bell on the honor and also prohibited him from receiving it in costume, as was customary at inductions.[19][20]

He spent his last years in Lake San Marcos, California, where he was active in the Kiwanis club.[17] Upon his death, he was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.[citation needed] A memorial was held for him at the First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield, where he lived during his many years in Chicago.[21] Bell received many posthumous honors: both the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois proclaimed April 18, 1998, "Bob Bell Day" as the section of Addison Street near the WGN-TV studios was named "Bob Bell Way".[5] In 2005, the Museum of Broadcast Communications awarded WGN-TV's Studio 1 a plaque to commemorate the forty years of children's television broadcast from the studio. Ray Rayner and Friends with a likeness of Rayner and Chelveston, is on the plaque along with Frazier Thomas and Garfield Goose and Friends and Bob Bell as Bozo the Clown for Bozo's Circus.[22][23] In 2008, he was inducted into the Chicago chapter of the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences' Silver Circle.[5] One of Bell's Bozo costumes is part of the Bozo's Circus collection of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.[24]

Bell's grandson, Trevor Bell, became a member of the Major League Baseball team Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2005.[4]

Actor Dan Castellaneta has cited Bell as the influence for the voice of The Simpsons character Krusty the Clown.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Mercer, Brandon (November 10, 2010). "Marine Corps Birthday: Did You Know They Were In The Marines?". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Bob Bell, the first 'Bozo the Clown' on WGN-TV, Dies". WGN-TV. December 8, 1997. Archived from the original on December 5, 1998. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  3. ^ Kaiser, Robert L. (December 9, 1997). "Beloved Entertainer Bob 'Bozo' Bell, 75". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Haugh, David (June 8, 2005). "The late Bob Bell, a.k.a. Bozo the Clown, would have been proud: His grandson Trevor Bell was drafted by the Angels on Tuesday". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "Silver Circle Award-Bob Bell". Chicago chapter-National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences. 2008. Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  6. ^ "Bob Bell, Clown". The Albany Herald. December 10, 1997. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  7. ^ Goldschmidt, Rick. "Bob Bell: A Television Legend". TV Party. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  8. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (June 9, 2010). "WGN dipping into Cincinnati talent pool to roil waters here". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Johnson, Allan (April 3, 1988). "At 50, WGN Finds The TV Picture and Audiences Have Changed". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 17, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Bozo Timeline-1960s". WGN-TV. Archived from the original on July 9, 2001. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  11. ^ Hollis 2001, p. 96.
  12. ^ Okuda & Mulqueen 2004, pp. 158, 229.
  13. ^ "Bozo Timeline-1950s". WGN-TV. Archived from the original on July 9, 2001. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  14. ^ "Chicago Emmy Awards" (PDF). Chicago chapter-National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 1969–1970. Retrieved February 13, 2011. (PDF)
  15. ^ "Bozo Timeline-1970s". WGN-TV. Archived from the original on December 18, 2000. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  16. ^ "Bozo Tapes Last TV Show". Gadsden Times. April 3, 1984. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Bob Bell,75". The Vindicator. December 9, 1997. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  18. ^ "Bozo Timeline-1990s". WGN-TV. Archived from the original on August 8, 2001. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  19. ^ Wolf, Buck (June 19, 2001). "Battling Bozos". ABC News. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  20. ^ Potemba, Phillip (October 24, 2007). "Bozo's Circus great Wizzo aka Marshall Brodien has new book". NWI Times. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  21. ^ Chiem, Phat X. (December 21, 1997). "Bell Remembered As Loving Icon". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  22. ^ "WGN-TV Studio 1 Plaque Photo". Mark DeCarlo. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  23. ^ "WGN-TV Studio 1 To Be Honored For Its Historic Role In Children's Television". Museum of Broadcast Communications. December 5, 2005. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  24. ^ "Bozo Timeline-2000". WGN-TV. Archived from the original on August 8, 2001. Retrieved February 16, 2011.


External links


This page was last edited on 18 January 2024, at 05:07
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