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Bozo Gets Serious

January 20, 2002|Hank Rosenfeld

Burbank resident Joey D'Auria has just finished a 17-year stint on "The Bozo Show," donning the red wig, oversize shoes and red nose of the famed clown for WGN-TV in Chicago and grabbing five Emmy awards. He played Bozo from 1984 until August last year, when the final show aired. We caught D'Auria in his first return gig, playing Stepan Stepanovitch Chubukov in Anton Chekhov's "The Proposal" in Hollywood.

Do you see parallels between doing Bozo and Chekhov? No.

OK, then, what's the biggest difference?

I don't wear a yak wig when I do Chekhov. Bozo's hair was made from a Tibetan yak.

How has L.A. changed since your Bozo years?

All the executives are younger. [Back in the '70s and '80s] I was living in Beverly Hills, paying $150 a month for rent. In the late '70s, Chuck Barris was looking for acts for "The Gong Show." I created a bunch of characters. The most popular was "Dr. Flame-O," a three-minute bit where I waved my hands over seven candles while howling the song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

Why candles?

It was the '70s. Everyone had lots of candles.

Other "Gong Show" standouts?

I came on once as Professor Franz Von Bimbo, beating a rocking chair into splinters to the "William Tell Overture."

Why were you the last Bozo off the bus?

I didn't even audition! My wife, Virginia, saw an article in the Christian Science Monitor, so I phoned and sent a tape of my New Year's Eve appearance on "The Tonight Show" as "Dr. Flame-O." They flew me in to audition.

Did the Bozo character intersect with your own?

In Chicago I played Max Prince in "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," [inspired by] Sid Caesar in "Your Show of Shows." Max was demented and intense. Friends told me it was similar to how Bozo was backstage. My wife said there was a thin line between Bozo and me, and it got erased over the years.

Bozo must have had rambunctious young audience members.

There are always packs of [Cub] Scouts. Dogs are delightful, until they're in packs.

Can you divulge the best pie-in-the-face recipe?

Shaving cream. Whipped cream is oily and eventually curdles into cheese. And remember: Never use menthol!

What would Bozo say about Stepan Stepanovitch Chubukov?

[Bozo voice]: Funny name!

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