Dick Richards celebrates 40th anniversary as Bozo
By: Colleen Pierson (Published in the Grand Rapids Press Thu, 7/3)
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had the pleasure of playing Bucket Bonanza on television. There aren't many of us that don't remember Mr. Gorilla, or the infamous Bozo the Clown. The widespread franchising in television made him the best-known clown character in our country.
It's been a lifetime of smiles and chuckles for Dick Richards. He will turn 70 years-young in October, is Bozo's alter ego, and he celebrates his 40th anniversary this year in portraying the famous clown in West Michigan.
"As long as the good Lord wants me to continue, I will," he said. The most exciting aspect is the personal appearances and spending time with people with physical and mental impairments. I still run into people who say how much they appreciated the sympathy cards I sent when a family lost a child."
Everyone remembers Bozo. We grew up with him. The show made its debut on WZZM-TV (Channel 13) on Aug 1, 1966 as a daily program from 4:00-5:00p.m.and was on the air for 33 years.
The show had its humble beginnings in the TV 13 studios at the Pantlind Hotel, where the 1913 restaurant now is, before moving to the WZZM studios in Walker.
"I never knew what was going to happen doing Live TV. People would fall during games, children would announce that they needed to go to the potty, but it was always such a fun time and young and old alike seem to know and appreciate the character," Richards reflects.
In appreciation of our hometown Bozo, Richards will be recognized for his longevity at the 4th of July Celebration from 7:30-8:00p.m. on the main stage at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The tribute was lined up by radio veteran Paul Boscarino and Ed Kettle.
"Paul used to chauffeur Bozo to events and he told us, 'Are you aware that Bozo has been doing this for almost 40 years?' He has done so many things for people that nobody knows. We would stop at a sick child's house just to entertain the kid for five minutes. Anything to add a little laughter to someone's life," Kettle said.
They are also planning on getting new threads for Bozo through Larry Harmon productions. "My wife thought that Bozo's outfit looked too tattered so we are lining up a surprise for him in the months to come," Kettle said.
Dick's wife Betty Jean is now Bozo's chaufeurette to all of his public appearances. "I just love to see the kids with bright eyes and big smiles, she said. I am really proud of my husband because he is an entertainer who has such talent and quality. He made Bozo famous locally and is so good at it."
The couple's daughter Tracy was 4 when Dad first started out. She is now 44, and has always been enthusiastic of his role. "I'm a performer and am out there to entertain, Richards said. I have done the role the second longest in our country and I think I am only one still doing it."
As he packs up ample circus greasepaint, a fiery red wig, multi-colored costume and size 22 clown shoes ("I have a pepperoni and mushroom pizza in them"), Dick Richards continues to bring joy and laughter to our community. Happy 40th Bozo!