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It's a Chicago Thing: Remembering WGN's 'Bozo's Circus'

Remembering the Bozo show

WGN TV will be airing a " lost" episode of 'Bozo's Circus' from 1971 on Sunday night. Upon hearing this, it got me to thinking how bland and boring children's television has become, that is if you can get them away from their I-Pad's, phones, and video games.

Growing up as a child in the seventies my generation was able to see a show that featured cartoons, comedy skits and live acts every day at noon. 'The Bozo Show' knew that school children could go home for lunch and what would be better than coming home having a grilled cheese sandwich, some Campbell's chicken with stars soup, and watching Bozo, Ringmaster Ned and Cookie on Ch. 9??

I always think "our" Bozo was the best because of the great Bob Bell, who played Bozo on WGN for over 20 years. He had that gruff voice,and never took himself too seriously. I always wanted Cookie to lead the Grand March but Bozo always fooled him in the end. I loved watching those cool looking arrows and wondering who would be picked for the Grand Prize Game. I think every kid wanted that Red Flyer and Schwinn Bicycle if they tossed the ping pong ball into all six buckets!!

I loved all the kids' shows on WGN in the 70's from Garfield Goose, who sent me a "personal" post card (wow) to the hilarious Ray Rayner with Cuddly Duddly--and always wishing my letters were read on the air. I loved the episode every year when Ray carved the Thanksgiving turkey and said he would leave the left-overs for the Studio Crew to make sandwiches.

Bozo was a superstar in my household. Way back in 1977 I attended my cousins' wedding reception at Olympia Fields Country club. Mind you I had never even been on a golf course, let alone a famous U.S. Open course like Olympia fields, so I was star struck already.

When we walked into the banquet room and found out that the Real Live Bozo  Band was the wedding band, I went crazy.  For a ten-year-old like me, this was like meeting the Beatles. I ran to everyone and told them, "look the Bozo Band is here," like they wouldn't know, right? I went up to their famous leader Tom Fitzsimmons (the original bandleader Bob Trendler retired in 1975), and started asking him a ton of Bozo questions. I'm sure he was happy to see and hear this crazy kid bugging him all night.

I would ask him to tell Bozo to let Cookie lead the Grand March, was Wizzo really a strange magical man and other such worldly questions a ten-year-old could think of at the time. I think I sat next to the band the whole time they played. I never knew an accordion was that big until I saw it in person.

I never got tickets to see the Bozo show and like most things in peoples childhoods the memories fade,you grow older and get involved with other things.. But anytime I see clips of the Bozo show I will always remember the day I was a groupie for the Bozo Big Top Band

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GroupieWannabe December 09, 2012 at 02:13 PM
You seem to have been a groupie all your life.
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) December 09, 2012 at 06:23 PM
C'mon, GW, it's Bozo.
Oak Lawn December 09, 2012 at 11:23 PM
What a great story. Neither did I ever get tickets to Bozo, nor did Romper Room ever say my name, but those are memories that will never fade. Cuddly Duddly was the best!!
Cathy December 10, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Thank you very much for writing this article! My father is Thomas Fitzsimmons and he was made the band leader in 1976. He played the trumpet and electric piano and was in numerous skits with the clowns!! My dad had pies in his face on several occaisons. I grew up going to work with him at WGN and not only sat in the control room during the show, but also had the opportunity to be on the team relay game at the end of the show...never the grand prize game. I LOVED the BOZO CIRCUS show!! Let's keep it alive :-)
Cathy December 10, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Thanks for being a Bozo Circus fan!
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) December 11, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Cathy, Thanks so much for commenting. Your dad was part of a legend. Like you, I feel so privileged and fortunate to have grown up during the WGN golden era of locally produced children's television. Bozo, Gar and Ray only happen once in a millennium and I'm glad I was able to experience it as a kid. Unless you're from Chicago, you just don't get it.
andy skoundrianos December 11, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Agreed Lorraine!! Thanks for the comments too Cathy Great memories of classic Chicago Television
OakLawnGuy December 11, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Anyone remember "Here's Geraldine"?
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) December 11, 2012 at 12:24 PM
I remember "Here's Geraldine." Jim Stewart hosted it and Geraldine was a giraffe.

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