Metro Detroit’s Bozo makes rare appearance

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Art Cervi may have hung up the big brown shoes he wore as the iconic Bozo the Clown about 20 years ago, but Thursday he showed he can still clown around.

Art Cervi played Bozo the Clown on Windsor’s CKLW-TV and Detroit’s WJBK-TV.

“I think I can still do the voice,” he said in the silly, high-pitched tone he used as Bozo for more than a decade on Metro Detroit TV airwaves. “Remember as Bozo always says: Just keep laughing! HA-HA-HA!”

Cervi held a news conference Thursday at the Hockeytown Cafe in downtown Detroit to promote his appearance at the RetroRama Classic Collectibles Con in Windsor at the end of the month. He said it’s his first-ever appearance at a convention.

Cervi, 82, of Novi, also shared some of his memories of making the Bozo’s “Big Top” TV show, which for many years was broadcast live.

One of the regular features of the show was Bozo’s Treasure Chest, a toy chest with a siren on it that the crew would roll out to Cervi, who would stop it with his foot and describe to his viewers what was in it.

On one occasion, Cervi said he decided to have some fun with the crew and he danced out of the chest’s way like a bull-fighter. “I don’t know what possessed me to do it,” he said.

The treasure chest kept rolling past him, crashed into the corner of the set and took the whole thing down, he said.

“Everybody’s laughing and I’m wondering what is going on,” Cervi said. “I turned around to look and I don’t have a set anymore. And it was all live.”

He brought the Bozo costume Thursday and custom-made clown shoes he wore on the show with him.

The original shoes that Cervi wore for the show are twice as long as normal shoes. Photos are of Art Cervi, also known as Bozo the Clown, during an interview at the Hockeytown Cafe, in Detroit, October 13, 2016.

He also spoke about the spate of creepy looking clowns that are scaring people in sightings across the country, including some in Metro Detroit.

“Isn’t it sad?” he asked. “ I think it’s hurting people who make a living as clowns. I’m really sorry to hear about it. It hurts people who are clowns to bring joy to others, and it makes no sense.”

He said RetroRama’s organizers approached him about appearing at their event and he thought “I’ve never done something like this before, so why not give it a shot?”

Cervi said he’ll sign autographs for fans. Organizers said there will also be autographed prints for sale, with part of the proceeds being donated to one of Cervi’s favorite charities — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, they said.

From 1966 until 1975, Cervi played Bozo the Clown on Windsor’s CKLW-TV.

He then packed up Bozo’s “Big Top” and brought the friendly clown across the Detroit River to WJBK-TV where he stayed through 1980. After that, he said he would occasionally make appearances as Detroit’s clown prince, but retired him in the mid-90s.

At the end of Bozo’s run, he had a five-year waiting list to get on the show and a staff of 17 who opened mail and handled his personal appearances.

“We had a tremendous crew that put the show on,” Cervi said.

Tony Gray, an illustrator, owner of comic book publisher GlassMonkey Studios Inc. and one of the co-organizers of the convention, said he grew up watching Cervi as Bozo and is excited he’s part of the event.

“As a little kid, I lived Bozo,” he said. “ I watched, I did the little dance. When I spoke to Mr. Cervi on the phone, I was a four-year-old kid again.”

Gray said the convention’s organizers wanted to bring in guests like Cervi who meant something to people who live in the Metro Detroit area.

“We want to make it something special for people in the area,” he said. “We wanted people from Windsor and Detroit to feel some kind of pang in their heart when they come to the show.”

Art Cervi holds one of the original shoes that he wore for the show.

Show organizers plan to donate 20 percent of all proceeds from admission to the convention to the Ronald McDonald House in Windsor and the Alzheimer’s Association of Windsor-Essex.

They also plan to give Cervi the “Northern Star Award” for his achievements in TV and positive affect on generations of children.

Other guests who are scheduled to appear at the convention include: Erin Moran, who played Joanie Cunningham on the “Happy Days” TV show, Detroit radio legend Tom Ryan, and David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely, the mailman on the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” TV show.

RetroRama Classic Collectibles Con

Time, place: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Caboto Club, 2175 Parent Ave. in Windsor

Admission: $10; children 10 and younger are free

Tickets: or at the door.

Source: RetroRama Classic Collectibles Con