Bozo the Clown is a well-known character to kids across the country, but Detroit had its own unique relationship with the man beneath the makeup, Art Cervi.
Multiple and International Bozos Pack the Airwaves
Bozo the Clown was a franchised character originally created by Alan Livingston for Capital Records in the 1940s. The character explored several media formats before being portrayed by a live actor on TV in Los Angeles. Bozo's success on TV resulted in Bozos spreading across the country and into Canada as local TV stations licensed the character and simply hired their own actor to play him.
Detroit was no exception; two different actors played Bozo on WWJ-TV in the years leading up to 1967. For reasons unknown in that year, Bozo disappeared off of Detroit TV stations, forcing Detroiters to rely on their neighbors across the river for their fix. Windsor, Canada's CKLW-TV, Channel 9 on the VHF dial, was easily received in Detroit and had its own Bozo, Art Cervi. With his ring of flaming red hair, floppy white bib and treasure chest of toys, it was this Bozo who became a treasured childhood memory to many Detroiters. In fact, nary a scout troop missed seeing the show filmed live.
Art Cervi was Detroit's Bozo
Cervi played Bozo on CKLW until 1975, when he emigrated from Canada to play Bozo on Detroit's WJBK-TV. To Detroit kids, Cervi was Bozo. Of course, a vacation or trip out of town sometimes exposed kids to those other Bozos, several of which were of a completely different body type. For instance, Washington's Bozo was Willard Scott, who later achieved fame on NBC's The Today Show. Talk about Bozo confusion!