Story Time: Bozo and the Santa Claus Horror Show


One of my favorite pastimes is storytelling. I don't have a lot of stories, but the ones I tell are really good, and my delivery has been honed and perfected over multitudinous retellings. I'm not sure that a blog is the best format for storytelling, but I'm going to give it a go. Let me know what you think in the comments.

After the jump, I will tell you the amazing TRUE story of Bozo and the Santa Claus Horror Show!

swvancecolvigbozoknjj.jpgBack in the early 80s, I attended a symposium on the history of children's television at the Doheny Mansion in Hollywood. Jay North, who played Dennis the Menace on TV was speaking, and I had no interest in him, so I went out into the garden to get some fresh air. An old guy was out there all by himself leaning against the wall, so I went up and said hello and introduced myself. He introduced himself as Vance Colvig.

Although I'd never met him, I knew exactly who he was. Vance was the son of Pinto Colvig, the original Bozo the Clown and the voice of Goofy in the Disney cartoons. Vance had a similar career as Bozo the Clown on KTLA in Los Angeles and the voice of Chopper in the Yakky Doodle cartoons ("Awwwww gee, Yakky. You shouldn't-a oughta done that!")


I have always loved clowns, and here was my chance to find out the truth behind the greasepaint! So I asked Vance the obvious question... Is the "Bozo No-No" story true? Vance replied that he heard that question all the time, but he didn't know whether it was true or not. It never happened while he was Bozo in any case. Then he dropped the greatest lead in line of all time... "Of course things like that did happen... There was one thing that happened to me that was MUCH worse than that."

I wasn't going to let that go by, so I got Vance to tell me the story. Here is what he said...

Back in the day, we didn't get paid a whole heck of a lot for doing our kid's shows. So to make ends meet, we would do personal appearances on the weekends- school carnivals, supermarket openings, toy stores- anywhere that would pay us in cash. There were so many shows on the air that on Saturdays, the freeways were thick with kid's show hosts. I'd be driving East to do a show as Bozo and I'd wave out the window at Jimmy Weldon going West to do a Webster Webfoot appearance. Tom Hatten, Sheriff John Rovick, Chucko the Clown, Skipper Frank, Walker Edmiston and his puppets- There were dozens of us all scrambling for gigs on the weekends.


One day, I was sitting there at the studio and the phone rings. It's Bill Stulla, Engineer Bill. Bill says to me, "Hey Vance. I hear you're doing a show this weekend at the so-and-so supermarket in the valley." "Yes" I says... "I believe I am.". Bill says, "Whatever you do, DON'T DO THAT GIG! Let the guy sue you for breech of contract, but don't go." So I says, "Gee, why not?"

Bill says... "I played that supermarket last weekend. Let me tell you what happened... I get there and the place is wallpapered with signs saying that Engineer Bill will be there doing his magic show at noon, and at 1pm, Santa Claus will be arriving in a helicopter. So it's 12:45 and I finish up my act and go to sit down in a chair and wait for Santa to arrive. Sure enough, at 1 sharp, there's a helicopter hovering over the parking lot. I look up and there in the open door of the chopper is Santa Claus and a couple of guys dressed as elves. All of a sudden, the elves grab Santa and throw him out the door! Santa falls about 50 feet and hits, SPLAT on the asphalt- it was a dummy Santa. Two more elves run out of the market with a stretcher, throw the dummy on it and run away. The kids are all crying and wailiing- a real mess. Well, I picked up the paper this morning and I read an ad that says that Bozo is going to be at the same market this weekend and Santa is going to arrive in a helicopter. Vance, whatever you do DON'T DO THAT SHOW!."


So I thanks Bill and call up the manager of the supermarket who booked me. The guy is all friendly and excited, but I say, "See here. I hear from Bill Stulla that you plan to throw Santa Claus out of a helicopter." The manager sputters for a second, then says, "Yeah... yeah, we do. It'll be great publicity! I got the papers coming by with cameras and everything." So I says, "Well you can do all that without Bozo the Clown, 'cause I ain't coming." The manager gets all hot and starts threatening me. "I'll sue your ass, you son of a bitch! We have a contract!"

I just sit and listen to this guy holler for a minute then I say, "Hey, lissen here. I'm NOT doing your show and you can go ahead and sue me if you want. You try to find one court in this land that will find judgement against Bozo the Clown in favor of a creep that chucks Santa Claus out of a helicopter!" I hung up the phone and never heard from that guy again.

Vance Colvig plays "The Sheik of Arabay" wth his head on "I've Got A Secret"


  1. Vance was a little disappointing and out of rhythm… but the second act, with the Souza? COMEDY GOLD. That kind of nonsense is timeless – I’m sure there’s an app for that.

  2. good story. I remember when i saw the bozo show…. however i was not selected for the bozo buckets… :(

  3. Gah.. re-reading that comment seems miserly. The story is fascinating (to me, a furriner who’s never seen Bozo), the ‘disappointing’ bit was only about Vance’s head-bashing after Dangerfield’s big build up in the video. Didn’t mean to tread on any oversized shoes.

  4. You can see Vance in Mickey Rourke’s Barfly and Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF too.

  5. Actually, Vance was Los Angeles’ second TV Bozo. His father, Pinto, preceded him on KTTV in 1949. Vance was KTLA’s Bozo from 1959 to 1964.

  6. In the early 70’s, my sister and I were in the audience as part of our local (Philadelphia) Bozo Show. It was a small crowd that day, so almost every kid in the stands got a chance to be on TV, even my sister, who would have normally been considered too young on any other day. Our biggest Bozo memory? – Bozo’s filthy, yellow teeth. No wonder my sister now hates clowns…

  7. There was a Bozo in the NYC market. I believe his show ran on Channel 9, WOR. (Well, that’s right, but looking on there was another Bozo on Channel 11, WPIX in the early 60s . . . way too early for me to have watched. I remember the cartoons mentioned in the piece, but I could have sworn that a live Bozo ran in the mid 60s.

    SO . . . when you watch a TV show as a kid, you really absorb lots of details and get used to how people sound and act.

    In the summer of 1969, my family travelled to Arkansas to pick up a boat we’d bought from my uncle. The BIG event that week was the launch of Apollo 11, but one afternoon during our stay my cousins and sister and I watched Bozo.

    I was a little freaked for two reasons. One, Bozo was not on the right station. There WAS no Channel 9! And . . . it wasn’t Bozo! Not THE Bozo! He sounded different, and the set was different.

    I didn’t find out until years later that Bozo (and Romper Room) were franchieses.

    1. [blockquote]”I didn’t find out until years later that Bozo (and Romper Room) were franchieses.”[/blockquote]
      What?!? And next you’re probably going to tell me Miss Mary Ann wasn’t talking directly to ME!

    2. You’re absolutely right about WPIX, Stefan. Bill Britten portrayed Bozo for them from 1959 to 1964… and he’s alive and well. Great guy, too.

Comments are closed.