August 28, 1999: The last “Bozo’s Big Top” Show in Grand Rapids, MI

Today marks a sad anniversary for anyone who grew up in West Michigan during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. It was on August 28, 1999, that the very last local version of “Bozo’s Big Top” aired on WZZM TV-13.

At one time, just about every television market in the country had their own “Bozo the Clown”. Back in 1999 there were only two television stations still producing a “Bozo” show…Grand Rapids, MI and Chicago, IL.

Bozo AutographDick Richards, who donned the red/orange wig, the white face paint, and size 47EEE shoes, played “Bozo” in West Michigan for over 40 years. The original “Bozo” in Grand Rapids was Bill Merchant. Bill had to give up that role for health reasons. Dick, who had been the “Ringmaster” on “Bozo’s Big Top” since December 1, 1967, took over the role of the “World’s Most Famous Clown” on December 1, 1968.

Back in 1999, we talked with Dick about the cancellation of the local version of “Bozo’s Big Top”. Prior to that interview we talked about “Bozo” and his history here in Grand Rapids. It’s amazing how many people said they knew, or lived near, “Bozo” over the years!

Here are the segments from “The Rick and Scott Show” leading up to the interview:

Segment #1 – Talking about the newspaper article and it seems like everyone lived near Bozo…


Segment #2 – Calls About Bozo


Segment #3 – More calls about Bozo…


Here is our interview with Dick Richards about Bozo’s last show and other career highlights…


Bozo's Big TopLesleigh and I attended the taping of the last show at Fifth Third Ballpark. I’m glad I was there to witness the very final Bozo show for West Michigan. A tear may have welled up in my eye.

With the cancellation of the local show, that left only Chicago with a “Bozo” show. Unfortunately, that too was cancelled in 2001.

I always thought I had pretty cool jobs, but imagine being able to clown around for over 40 years!

And I always wanted a pair of Bozo’s old shoes! I thought the worn out footwear would look pretty cool framed and hanging on the wall with a pic of Bozo. I wonder how many pairs of shoes Dick went through over the years? Not to mention the gallons and gallons of white clown makeup, red/orange wigs and red noses.

On YouTube I found a couple of complete shows from WZZM TV 13’s “Bozo’s Big Top”. The most recent goes back to 1995. If you want to go down memory lane, here is that video…


Here is another “Bozo’s Big Top” from January of 1986…


Bozo's Last ShowI was on “Bozo’s Big Top” twice. It would have been about 1968 or 1969. WZZM TV-13 was still downtown in the Pantlind Hotel back then. I think the first time I was on the show, Dick Richards was still playing the role of “Ringmaster”. The show was on live, from 4-5 pm, every afternoon. If I remember correctly, there was a waiting list of over a year to get tickets to the show. (In Chicago, that waiting list was many years long. I’ve heard rumors that many parents would send for tickets when their child was born in hopes of getting tickets by the time their kids were elementary school age.)

I have the “Bozo” show to blame for my career in the media. Even at the age of 5 or 6, I remember being in awe of the TV cameras, the lights, the sets, etc. I think it may have been what got me interested in working in the media in some way as an adult.

Paul Collins - Bozo the Clown
Photo: Paul Collins painting of “Bozo the Clown” from his “America at Work” series.

At one point, local artist Paul Collins painted a series of portraits for his “America at Work” collection. One of the people he chose to paint was Dick Richards. The portrait shows Dick after a taping of “Bozo’s Big Top”. The painting was displayed in the Amway Grand Plaza for many years (along with the rest of the portraits). I’m not sure if you can still find it in the Amway or not.

“Bozo” will always live on in my memories growing up. A huge THANK YOU to Dick Richards for all of his time that he spent in that costume. He left an impression on so many children in West Michigan.

And I even remember the theme song (How does something stick with you like this after all those years?!)

“Hello world, every boy, every gal.
I’m Bozo the Clown, yeah this is your old pal.

I brought you a bag full of rooting, tooting, tricks.
One, two, three, four…five or six.

The funniest man on the whole human race,
Is gonna to put a smile on your face.

Just keep laughing, get rid of that frown,
Bozo is back. The one and only Bozo the Clown.”

For more on the history of “Bozo”, here is the Wikipedia page.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Bozo! Better yet, do you have any pictures to share? I would love to include them here.

I hope ol’ Bozo is clowning around for many more years to come! I’ll end this post the same way Bozo would end his show… “Just Keep Laughing!”

Dick Richards is still alive and well. Here is a post from 2018 when he was celebrating his 80th Birthday.


Top Photo: YouTube/odor31

My goal is to keep you informed and/or entertained on a regular basis. Maybe you'll learn something new, or just get that much needed laugh. My topics will include a wide range of subjects....from what's going on in the world, to places I've been, things I've seen, or even just a fun video that I've found online. Check back often to see what I've posted.


  1. Mary
    August 28, 2016 - 8:38 am

    Thank you for this very nice article about Dick. So sad this era is gone.

  2. Lesleigh
    August 28, 2016 - 10:14 am

    Nice post Scott! I attended a taping of the Bozo show when I was in elementary school and then Remi was picked to play a game for the last show at 5/3! Talk about a tear welling up!!!

  3. Anna Barber
    August 28, 2016 - 11:24 am

    I am one of the “lived by Bozo” people and feel incredibly blessed to have had The Boz & his family in my life. I still see him every so often & a smile & a hug from Dick can make my day.

  4. Lu Grant
    August 28, 2016 - 11:54 am

    Dick is actually my real uncle. I remember being at the show when I was a kid and then also taking our children to be on his show. It was always a fun and exciting time. I even got to meet Ken Curtis and “Uncle Miltie” one time when I was visiting.

  5. Christine
    August 28, 2016 - 5:31 pm

    Oh yes many fond memories. I appeared on the Bozo show 1967 with Bill Merchant the first time when I was 5, a couple years 1969 with Dick Richard’s, those memories I’ll never forget. I’m Scarred for life because I didn’t get to play bucket bonanza on my birthday with Bozo…

  6. Kim Gragnaniello
    August 28, 2016 - 7:34 pm

    Great article about a great man. I’m proud to call him family!

  7. Andrea
    August 31, 2016 - 5:00 am

    I have actually lived on the same street as Dick for 40 years. I loved as a child watching his wife drive past my house with Dick in full costume on the way to the studio. His wife passed probably about 5 years ago but he is still my neighbor. Such a great man!

  8. David A. Hurtado
    March 16, 2018 - 9:02 pm

    I would like to know how to get videos of the bozo shows. Because I have a lady friend who was on his show around 1967 and I think if she was to watch that show again and see herself, she would probably cry.

    • Scott Winters
      March 17, 2018 - 9:43 am

      Unfortunately I don’t think there are many recordings of “Bozo’s Big Top” that even exist. There is just the one I found on YouTube. There are several others there as well, but they are not the Grand Rapids Bozo. It sure would be cool if every episode had been archived and we could go back and see ourselves sitting in the peanut gallery!

  9. Felix Acosta
    August 16, 2018 - 12:06 pm

    Today our office conversation was about our childhood lives, Now at 52 yrs just now finding out that the Bozo I grew up seeing in the town of Grand Rapids, MI was not the original one! If I remember right I always wanted to be “Sony Boy” the kid who sit with the top hat and the black coat, I think one kid was pulled from all the others and sit and be Sony Boy for that show taping. But back in my home state of Texas thinking how Cool Bozo was and still is!

    • Scott Winters
      August 16, 2018 - 2:08 pm

      Here in Grand Rapids it was “Butchie Boy”. I don’t remember what they called the girl. I don’t think all Bozo shows had that feature either — it might have just been a thing here in GR. Or they might have called the boys and girls something different.

      • Jeff Stephens
        September 18, 2018 - 4:53 pm

        Hi Scott, in Hollywood/CA Bozo’s sidekick was butchie boy.. In 1963 I played the part as butchie boy for the summer only. It was on channel 5 in LA. Yes, I was played as the character of Butchie boy.

        • Thomas Holbrook
          June 16, 2019 - 3:08 pm

          I would like to document your involvement with the Bozo show in LA.
          Please contact me.

  10. August 29, 2018 - 11:20 am

    it was in 1978 that one of my sons was hit by a car and killed. a few days after the funeral my other children received a card from Bozo. it really helped my kids deal with thair loss. thank you Bozo. Bill

  11. William A McHale
    October 11, 2018 - 6:35 pm

    Always loved watching the show since I was a kid. Always something mom and I would watch together every Saturday morning. Mom would be up early and have homade buiskets and we would have one while watching the show. My folks have since passed. Great memories and always loved Dick Richards as Bozo. 💓

  12. Victoria Merchant Lewis
    November 8, 2018 - 12:16 pm

    My dad was Bill Merchant, the first Bozo in Grand Rapids. I recall Larry Harmon, the creator of Bozo, coming to our home in East Grand Rapids. He was in town to train my dad for the character. The thing that stands out about Mr Harmon was his hair. It was reddish brown, wispy and flaired up slightly at the ends – a subdued version of the Bozo wig!

    • Thomas Holbrook
      June 16, 2019 - 3:05 pm

      Victoria Merchant Lewis,
      Please contact me.
      My name is Tom Holbrook, I am a Bozo historian, researcher and collector.
      I wrote a self published book entitled; “The Bozo Chronicles” in 2010. Which was about Bozo’s early years. Now working on the 1960’s to today.
      I was also a Bozovappearance actor from 2002 to 2006.
      Hope to hear from you as I would like to document your dads career.
      Thank you,
      Tom Holbrook

  13. Thomas Holbrook
    January 7, 2019 - 11:00 am

    As a Bozologist for most of my life and self publishing “The Bozo Chronicles” in 2010 and I was also a Bozo actor for The LHPC from 2002-2006. I liked your Blog on Bozo very much.
    Great job!
    Tom Holbrook

  14. December 26, 2020 - 10:24 am

    to tom holbrook i would like to tell you that my older brother was on the bozo show and i would like to know how to get the bozo videos please let me know soon

    • Scott Winters
      December 28, 2020 - 10:03 am

      There are only a few Bozo videos in existence that I am aware of. The links to those were in the blog. Back then, it took up a lot of physical space to store things like that…so they were only kept for a short time and then destroyed. It would have been cool to be able to go back and look at specific dates of shows, but that unfortunately is not possible.

      • Tom Holbrook
        March 23, 2021 - 9:29 pm

        Brian Denne, I am sorry I did not see the post you left,.. YET, Scott Winters is correct, First of all a lot of the shows were live,… and if they were taped, the tape would be reused and reused as it was expensive. Many shows were produced this way and many were lost because of this practice.

        Not trying to take anything away from Mr. Richards or from Scott Winters,… I recently published a book called “BEING BOZO” by David Eaton. Eaton was Bozo in the Ohio market place on WSWO-TV in the late 1960’s. You can View the only remaining show from this station on YouTube Search:

        BEING BOZO by David Eaton =

        AND on the official FB page BEING BOZO by David Eaton

  15. Laurie L Winkler-Cull
    February 22, 2021 - 6:55 pm

    When I was 8 years old in 1969, I was in the hospital (Blodgett) for over 2 months. Bozo the Clown (Dick Richards) knew my dad, who was a musician, and came to the hospital to see me. It made a very sick little girl feel very special. Thanks Dick Richards, aka: Bozo the Clown! I have never forgotten!

  16. James Klinkhammer
    January 27, 2022 - 9:46 am

    I was in the intro with my brother the kids with short hair

  17. Melisa Johnson
    November 28, 2023 - 9:55 pm

    Crazy I’m just seeing this post now, I’ve liked a couple times for episodes from the Bozo Show. I was there for a taping in either December 1979 or January 1980. I was in kindergarten, and my youngest uncle was just 5 years older and we were there together. Somehow my birthday was the closest, and my name got called to be Belinda. My uncle was super excited about it, and apparently I was terrified! So, they moved on to another person for Belinda. My uncle was upset, and I couldn’t figure out why. I settled in during the show, and at the end, as we walk past the cameras and cabling, I remember seeing this big shopping cart full of toys and stuff. My uncle was quick to point out that I would have gotten gifts from there if I had been Belinda! I think his motive may have been more about having his ‘share’ of what I would gotten. Don’t tremendously much of the show itself, but I do remember crying at some point about the rest of the to-do. Well, I WAS 5 or 6, so what did I know? And I still watched the show every Saturday for a long time anyway. There were often commercials for joining the Bonnie Blue Bells to learn baton twirling, which motivated me to learn how to do that, though just on my own. Despite losing out on the special treats, all around still good memories from my childhood ❤️


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