Robert Lewis Bell (January 18, 1922 – December 8, 1997), better known as Bob Bell, was famous for his alter-ego, Bozo the Clown. He was the original portrayer of the character for Chicago superstation WGN-TV.
In 1960, station management asked the character actor and staff announcer to portray Bozo on a live, 30-minute show weekdays at noon, consisting of one-man sketches and cartoons, which debuted on June 20, 1960. The show went on hiatus in January, 1961 to move from studios at Tribune Tower to new studios at 2501 West Bradley Place, near the Lane Tech High School campus. Thus, “Bozo” evolved into “Bozo’s Circus” on September 11, 1961 as a live, hour-long telecast. At the same time Bell was hosting WGN’s after school Three Stooges show where he played an old man named Andy Starr who ran a neighborhood theater called the Odeon where he showed the Stooges shorts. The show ran for nine years with Bell as the host and also as Bozo.
In 1968, surgery for a brain aneurysm and needed recuperation forced Bell to take a leave of absence from the show. He was able to participate in some broadcasts via telephone, returning to the show again in March 1969. In 1970, Bell received his first Emmy for WGN-TV’s Bozo’s Circus. He was also the Grand Marshal for Chicago’s Christmas Parade in the same year; the number of people who turned out for the parade was estimated at 500,000.