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The Bozo Shows
On Monday evening, September 14, 1959, WPIX TV 11 became the first NYC based TV station to present 'Bozo The Clown.'
Channel 11 aired the Bozo TV cartoons created and produced by Jayarc Productions Inc. and distributed by Larry Harmon Pictures Inc. set against the backdrop of a traveling circus. Kids TV wraparound host/ peformer Bill Britten played the World's Most Famous Clown aloing with other comedic characters that he developed for the show.
Britten's Bozo would also engage his studio audience and viewers in games, songs, informational segments, and interviews with guest personalities between the animated Bozo TV cartoons.
In the cartoons, Larry Harmon provided the voice of Bozo, Paul Frees did the voices of Short Biggie, The Mad Scientist, Leory, The Mad Scientist Henchman, Elvis (Bozo's Talking dog), Wacko Wolf and the Circus Boss (Bozo's Ringmaster).
WPIX broadcast 'The Bozo The Clown Show' weekday evenings until Friday, March 1, 1963. The show underwent a title change to 'Bozo's Big Top Circus' and moved to weekday afternoons beginning Monday, March 4, 1963. 'Bozo's Big Top Circus' continued until Friday June 2, 1963.
With a new earlier timeslot, Britten played Bozo one more time on 'Bozo's Cartoon Circus Lunchtime Show' (at Peanut Butter & Jelly time) on WPIX 11 from Monday, June 24, 1963 until Friday, August 14, 1964.
Five years later, WOR 9 became the second and the last NYC based TV station to create and produce its own Bozo Show. WOR's 'Bozo Show' was seen weekday mornings beginning on Monday, February 3, 1969.
Actor/ singer Gordon Ramsey portrayed Bozo, entertainer Tom Mahoney played Grandma Nelly (Bozo's grandmother), Prof. Tweetiefoofer and Slimjim, character actor / dialectician and scriptwriter, producer Earl George played Snappy Pappy (a loudmouth hillbilly), Larru Loveless and The Circus Boss.
Claude Kirchner briefly served as the show's ringmaster/ announcer but was replaced by Mr. George's Circus Boss.
Ramsey's Bozo and his fellow clowns, Mahoney & Gegorge would engage their studio audiences and their viewers in games, songs, comedy skits, magic tricks, craftmaking, hobbies, informational segments and interviews with guest peformers like the Amazing James Randi and ventriloquist Angela Martin in between the reruns of The Bozo cartoons and Flash Gordon / Buck Rogers movie serials starring Buster Crabbe, Frank Shannon, Jean Rogers, Carol Hughs, Dick Alexander, Tony Warde and Charlie Middleton.
'The Bozo Show' ended on Friday, September 12, 1969, moving to a weekday afternoon timeslot and retitled 'Circus/ Circus/ Circus' beginning Monday, September 15, 1969 until Channel 9 folded up the big top for good on Friday, January 30, 1970.
I can recall when I first saw one of my favorite TV performers, Bozo The Clown, played by a talented and dear man Mr. Bill Britten, at a personal appearance at the Laconia Movie Theater at E. 225 St. and White Plains Rd. in the Bronx.
It was probably 1960 or 1961 and Bozo performed his schitk and engaged the theater audience in songs and games and asked us all to give a loud war whoop for Princess Ticklefeather, the Native American ventriloquist Ms. Doris Faye.
Princess Ticklefeather went up onto the stage where she did comedy skits with her little girl puppet (some sources say her name was "Sunshine" others say her name was "Buttons"). She gave us a lot of laughs but eventually Bozo and the Princess had to leave and the theater management showed the George Pal/ MGM 1958 movie Tom Thumb with Russ Tamblyn, Alan Young (before Mr. Ed), Terry Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jessie Mathews, Bernard Miles, June Thornburn, Peter Bull, and The Puppetoons (voiced by Dallas McKennon and Stan Freberg).
A few years later, around Easter week of 1964 or 1965, I got to see Chuck McCann and the Paul Ashley Puppets. My mother, my aunts, my cousins and I watched Chuck and Paul's puppets perform their funniest skits and lip sync to such songs as 'Hello Dolly' (the Louis Armstrong version), 'She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah,' 'Love Me Do,' 'Do You Want To Know A Secret,' and 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' Chuck came out and did skits as Dr. Zebra, Little Orphan Annie and as Laurel & Hardy.
The was the first time that I saw him play these two beloved movie comics without the puppets - he simply put on a derby hat and became Stan Laurel, then put on a fake mustache, still sporting the derby, and became Oliver Hardy. He did a skit called That Reminds Me Of Thursday or I called it The Thursday Bit With The Fingers (Chuck's Stan just holds his fingers in the OK sign and he explains why it reminds him of Thursday).
Chuck even performed his theme song from Let's Have
Fun - 'Put On A Happy Face.'
Damn It! I didn't get an autograph from Chuck & Paul but many years later I did meet them and interview them (along with Bill Britten).
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