Bozo the clown is dead. Frank Avruch, who portrayed the popular children’s TV host from 1959 to 1970, was 89, according to CNN, citing Avruch’s longtime manager, Stuart Hersh.
“While it’s hard to say goodbye, we celebrate the legacy of joy and laughter he brought to millions of children around the world as Bozo the Clown on TV and as a UNICEF Ambassador and later as host of Channel 5’s Great Entertainment and Boston’s Man About Town,” a statement from Avruch’s family read. “Our dad loved the children of all ages who remembered being on his show and was always grateful for their kind words. We will miss him greatly.”
Bozo first hit the airwaves on “Bozo’s Circus” in 1949, broadcast on Los Angeles’ KTTV. At that point, he was played by actor Pinto Colvig, who originated the character several years earlier for a series of children’s records and who also voiced the role of the Disney character Goofy.
The character proved popular and was licensed to TV stations around the country, many of which hired their own actors to portray the character for local broadcasts.
In 1965, it was decided to try to syndicate a single Bozo show nationally, called “Bozo’s Big Top” and featuring Avruch as the titular clown, with his instantly recognizable hair and enormous shoes.
“He brought the Bozo the Clown character to life better than anyone else’s portrayal of Bozo the Clown.”
Correction: The headline on a previous version of this story incorrectly gave Avruch’s age at the time of his death.