Exit Right to Funway

(See links at bottom for The Complete BozoGate Saga.)

Let us begin our journey with this Bombshell News from the New York Times:

“We were a big noisy family with a lot of backyard skits and carnivals,” said Ms. O’Donnell, whose mother, Carole, called her Chrissy the Pooh and whose father, Daniel, worked a series of small television roles before scoring his signature gig — playing Bozo the Clown.

That would be enough to overtake Bill Maher in the O’Donnell Revelation Sweepstakes, but rather than snicker at Celibabe’s upcoming campaign bio, My Dad Was a Bozo, we’ve been absorbed the past few hours with the disturbing suspicion that Dad’s signature gig cannot be verified.

And so, welcome to our first installment of In Search of Bozo.

As students of American history know, Bozo is Large and Contains Multitudes. The ur-Bozo is generally accepted to be Larry Harmon, who wasn’t the first to don the pancake and cowl, but was smart enough to secure the licensing rights. Officially blessed Local Bozos followed in his wake, appearing on television nationwide.

Notable DC Bozo: Willard Scott.

Not found in Wikipedia’s Local Bozo Catalog: Daniel O’Donnell.

But while Wikipedia’s Bozo Roster is commendably extensive, we hesitate to declare it definitive. And since a search for “Daniel O’Donnell” yields pages of links to a popular Irish singer, we must continue our journey in a different direction.

We know, for example, that Christine grew up in Moorestown Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia. It stands to reason that if Dad was a Local Bozo, the locality would be a Philly TV station, as a Times follow-up piece confirms: “He was Philadelphia’s Bozo the Clown.”

Christine dropped in 1969, and Wikipedia lists two relevant Bozos for WTAF: Doug Wing in 1969, and Craig Michael Mann in 1970. Philly had to wait almost a generation for its third Bozo, Deon Aumier at WGBS in 1989-1990.

That seems rather spotty: Is there a Philly Bozo Missing Link?

Back in March 2007, WHYY presented a special on “Philly’s Favorite Kids Show Hosts”, and a discussion on the matter yields this nugget:

I find it interesting that Philadelphia is one of the markets where a Bozo franchise never took off.

There’s no mention of Daniel O’Donnell in the casual comments there, although the “Ron Polao Fun Club” sounds intriguing.

So let’s visit WHYY’s program page itself, and see who they saw fit to mention for their high-profile fundraising special:

Sally Starr. Chief Halftown. Pixanne. Bertie the Bunyip. Captain Noah. Gene London. For two generations of Delaware Valley children, these colorful personalities brought a new brand of entertainment to daytime television — a place where worms could talk, fairies flew, an ark came to life and imaginations ruled!

Or, if you prefer them listed by Secret Identities: Sally Starr, Traynor Ora Halftown, Jane Norman, Lee Dexter, W. Carter Merbreier, Gene London, plus “Shock Theatre” host John Zacherle.

Oh, and Howard Jones. He played “Happy the Clown”.

No Bozos there. No Daniel O’Donnell, either.

Nor is there a Daniel O’Donnell at the Philly Broadcast Pioneers website, which offers a host or two that WHYY overlooked. (We do find Charlie O’Donnell, an announcer for American Bandstand, and later Wheel of Fortune.)

Finally, before we give up, let’s check the Philadelphia Local Kid Shows fan website, where we find — well, where we don’t find Bozo or O’Donnell, but hey, did you know Peter Boyle’s dad was “Chuckwagon Pete”?

We didn’t either. But when you look for Bozo and find Young Frankenstein, that seems like a good moment to end the Long Strange Trip, and await further clarification. Because even if we can’t find any evidence that Christine O’Donnell’s dad was Bozo, we’re sure he was a Bozo in her heart.

[Tip o’ the hamster to Stinquers karen marie and Walking Still]

1. A Very Special Stinque Investigation

2. “Where’s the Bozo Certificate?” Billboard

3. Channel Your Outrage Into Our Bank Account

4. The Times Rides Again

5. The Reckoning

6. Adventures in Surrealism: BozoGate on Countdown

7. It’s Always Bozo in Philadelphia


You poor baby. We don’t deserve you. Here’s five bucks. Take yourself out and have a good time. Or stay home and do likewise.

Are you sending this to the NYT’s Public Editor/Standards Division so that they can be reminded to fact check and not reprint political flaks’ statements at face value? See, e.g., Miller, Judith.

@SanFranLefty: Just sent a note to TPM, but yeah, I’d better flag NYT as well. This is breaking news, dammit!

@nojo: I guess it’s more suited to the general corrections section and not the public editor.

The Times welcomes comments and suggestions, or complaints about errors that warrant correction. Messages on news coverage can be e-mailed to nytnews@nytimes.com or left toll-free at 1-888-NYT-NEWS (1-888-698-6397).

Jesus. Is your iPad smoking after all this work?

@SanFranLefty: Looks like Tejas cannot get over the embarrassment of having some dope-smoking surfers from L.A. run the ball right down their goddam throats for 4 quarters last week. Now getting whupped by Oklahoma.

@SanFranLefty: Messsage sent, message received:

THANK YOU for writing The New York Times. We are grateful to readers who take the time to help us report thoroughly and accurately. Your message will reach the appropriate editor or reporter promptly.

What happens now that your message has been received, or if you have more questions?

ACCURACY: If you have pointed out an error, a correction will appear on Page A2 as soon as possible. Corrections for articles in weekly sections usually appear in those sections.
Because dozens of readers often point out the same error, we cannot notify each person that we are publishing a correction. Please accept our thanks now.

If we decide that a correction is not necessary, an editor or a reporter will be in touch to explain our reasons.

Hey, this might get fun.

Thanks, Nojo. You went slightly farther than I had in this quest, and I appreciate your efforts!

According to the first email I got from the story writer, Mark Liebovich, “Yes….bozo was franchised in various cities back in the 1970…every major city had one (on local tv)…her dad was philly’s bozo for a time…”

I’ve been doing legal transcription for over 25 years. I am going to submit my resume to the NY Times for a job as a reporter.

@karen marie: And thanks for the tip, although I had to put off some paid chores today to chase it down…

It’s still possible that her claim might prove true — although if so, Liebovich calling it a “signature gig” sounds like a stretch.

@nojo: I sent a note to TPM about this after I got the unsatisfactory emails from Liebovich.

How much you want to bet the next thing heard from O’Donnell is “LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!!!!1!”

@Dodgerblue: I’m watching the Giants choke yet again to the Padres of Sandy Eggo.

@SanFranLefty: I have it on too. What’s up with your teams today? If the Giants, Longhorns and Tree all lose, don’t run out and buy a lottery ticket.

How can you people watch baseball when there is such an important national issue to consider? Jeez!

@karen marie: Because the UCLA Bruins football game ISN’T ON VERIZON FIOS IN L.A.!

@karen marie: Really, “Christine O’Donnell lies about dad playing Bozo” would pretty much sum up the entire campaign. You can’t get better meta goodness than that.

@nojo: I’m wondering whether whiny Meg Whitman’s escapade with an undocumented housekeeper will hurt her here in Cali. I’m guessing not.

Ooh, Lefty, some idiot Giants fan just interfered with a ball in play. And what’s with this relief pitcher’s beard — does he paint it on every morning?

@Dodgerblue: It certainly doesn’t help her, but I’m not sure anybody cares beyond that. America has NannyGate Fatique, and news like this is too familiar by now to notice.

Wait, wait. Times might have been tough. So they may have lived in metro Philly, but he — in search for a place where his craft could be understood, travelled to (perhaps) WOR in Seacaucus (which, of course, was the ancestral home of Romper Room… so perhaps no Bozo there). Goodness knows, Wilmington might had their own TV station.

Or Pops had a side-job moving weed into Philly and needed an excuse etc. etc. Whatever. Don’t care — Tree v Nojos tonite!

@chicago bureau: Well, since I’m all hopped up on Bozo Research…

1. No Bozos in Secaucus. No Bozos in New Jersey, for that matter. (Who knew?)

2. Bozos accounted for in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and NYC.

3. NYC Bozo Gordon Ramsey (no, not him) performed on the original cast recording of “Carmelina”, which I’m guessing one person here knows about.

4. Also of note:

In the 1970’s Gordon Ramsey appeared as Bozo The Clown on What’s My Line with make up. Afterwards he appeared as Gordon Ramsey without clown makeup. Phyllis Newman guessed correctly the line of Mr. Ramsey.

Soupy Sales was probably disqualified from that round.

Entertaining though possibly apocryphal Bozo story from my youth:

Kids on the Bozo show are engaged in some silly activity. One kid messes up and goes “Oh shit”.

Bozo is horrified and scolds “That’s a Bozo No No”.

Kid responds “Cram it clown”.


It won’t help her keep her dearly sought slice of the Latino vote. The Spanish language media will be overrun with ads and commentary about this, and none of it will help Meg.

Maybe she’ll throw another $119 million into the campaign to compensate.

@Walking Still: I’ll explore this at the Mexican restaurant I’m going to tonight.

@Dodgerblue: Maybe this fiasco will be her Tequila Sunset.

Never posted but have enjoyed reading past couple years. General comments:

Nojo – thank you. As many times as she has entered races and I still don’t much about her other than she’s batshit crazy. Your piece still doesn’t shine much light on her background.

Only long term clown show in Phila Pa was Happy the Clown, mid 50s to mid 60? that I watched before I was old enough to go to school. The actor moved to Chicago after the show was canceled and changed careers. Remember article in paper a few years ago about him passing.

Only network in Wilmington is PBS substation of PhilaPa’s WHYY with a local anchor and some guaranteed coverage. That is even going away.

Some friends changed party this year to be able to vote in Rep primary. They wanted to help ensure O’D a victory to give Coons a chance. She is enough to make me reluctant to admit I’m Irish AND from Delaware.

@DElurker: Please thank your friends for us. The entertainment value of her candidacy cannot be beat.

Your clown expertise is also much appreciated.

@DElurker: Welcome! About damn time you came out of the closet, and congratulations, you’re the First Stinquer from the First State.

Stick around, I feel a little self-conscious that you’ve been lurking all this time..

Bozo used to work birthday parties when I was a little kid and teach kids how to jerk off. “Don’t yank, you little fucktard! Pull!” he’d scream at the celebrants. This so embarrassed O’Donnell she went on a lifelong campaign against masturbation.

@DElurker: I think “professional controversialist” is her background. Not much other than spokesbot on her resume.

@nojo: Darling, the Times will never admit it got anything wrong other than the spelling of names. To do so might embarrass its highly paid specialists. For proof see above ref to Judith Miller. Nu har jeg morgenmad på hotellet buffet. God morgen.

@karen marie: I thought the Tree thing was football. No?

@Snorri Haraldsson: Who cares if they correct it? I just want some cheap publicity.

GENE LONDON !!!! i was falling in love with gay men when i was five.
preview of coming attractions.

from memory: (sing along JNOV, Beesko, Prommie and DE)

lets pretend that it’s story time
and i’ll tell a tale to you
i’ll tell you a story of make believe
where all your dreams will come true
and when the story’s over
and when we reach the end
we’ll live happily ever after…where??
(all) in the land of let’s pretend!!!

remember that DElurker? glad you dropped in. take your shoes off, set a spell…may i offer you a martini or a bong? both? you are stinquer material! lurkers make me nervous. the tony curtis post had 9 comments and 95 lurkers. speak up! WELCOME DElurker! 2 years you say? so you know all of us…we want to know all about you. in gory shocking detail please. (so, do you think i should leave the rat, or what?)

GENE LONDON !!! thanks noge!

where are you cynica? i wrapped up Mad Men episode 4 last night.
LOVE LOVE LOVE IT ! 4 stars in all categories.
you are a dominatrix for all things worthwhile…thanks!

@nojo: Anyone else hit on the obvious? Philly has been so full of bozos for so long, o Danny Boy was one of a million!
@Walking Still: Ive heard that before, but with a slightly different set-up.

Steelers-DirtyBirds in six hours, and I’m all set up with good broadband and the (overseas) NFL Gamepass. w00t!

@Snorri Haraldsson: Rimshot is not an option on the iPhad. Nojo has been bested!

Just posted this item as a comment at politicalwire.com and also emailed the linque to Teagan Goddard, the politicalwire guy.

Expect fuming. beyond the RW types in 3, 2, 1 . . .

@Nabisco: Dirty geek secret: Rimshot Button is Flash. Tried to do it in iPad-friendly HTML 5, but the coding gave me a headache.

@redmanlaw: Scroll up about 18 comments, and you’ll see my attempt to stir up some buzz there.

@nojo: Steve does not approve of Flash. Therefore Flash is wrong. Therefore I hate Flash. If Flash was on fire I would not piss on it to put it out.

Nu vil jeg gå og spise falafel. Helt ærligt, det vil jeg gøre uden arabere til foder mig?

Gene London was pretty cool. I think he is still around. Another good one was Chief Halftown who was still doing public events around PhilPa when my older daughter was growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Happy the Clown was the same time frame as Bertie Bunyip. Check out –

I was a big fan of Sally Star but was too young to understand what he attraction was, even after she was present during my first nocturnal emission. She defined the term “big natural”.

Regarding fine beverages, the time of year is important. Gin in summer bourbon in winter but that isn’t hard and fast. I do drink in moderation (alcoholism was rampant in my parents generation and effects a few of this one). I haven’t toked in decades but I wouldn’t turn it down. I am a beer snob (DE is home of Dogfish Brewing) but drink PBR regularly. One of my 1st impressions of Barry O (after THE speech at the ’04 convention) came from seeing a picture of him with a PBR in his hand. It just confirmed with me that he was an okay guy.

My name is Pat Cashin. I have a daily clown history blog called clownalley.net and am on the Board of Directors of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in Baraboo, WI.

I’ve researched the Bozo character for many, many years. I have NEVER heard of Daniel O’Donnell portraying the character.

@cashincomedy: You, sir, are a Hero. There’s only so much that can be found — or not found — on the web, and hearing this from an authoritative source is a definite boost. Thanks for visiting!

@cashincomedy: Maybe you’ll have better luck with the New York Times corrections department than Stinque has had.

When I was a kid in Philly, we watched HAPPY the Clown.

He wasn’t her dad.


Add a Comment
Please log in to post a comment