(JTA) — Frank Avruch, a Jewish entertainer known for his portrayal of “Bozo the Clown” on television, died at the age of 89.
The longtime Boston television personality died Tuesday at his Boston home from heart disease, his family said in a statement to WCVB-TV.
Avruch played Bozo from 1959 to 1970, a clown character particularly popular in the United States in the 1960s because of widespread franchising in television. Avruch became the first nationally-syndicated Bozo the Clown.
“He had a heart of gold,” manager Stuart Hersh told The Associated Press on Wednesday, “He brought the Bozo the Clown character to life better than anyone else’s portrayal of Bozo the Clown.”
He was an active philanthropist and a board member of UNICEF’S New England chapter. He toured the world performing as Bozo the clown for UNICEF, the United Nations organization dedicated to helping children in need.
In an interview for TV Party, Avruch, who was born in Boston to Russian-Jewish parents, revealed he did not use his real last name when he first started out in television.
“You had to go on television, you had to change your name. Frank Stevens was my name. And when I came out of the Army, I decided to use my real name,” he said.
The decision to use his real name was after seeing “a very famous announcer from the network television called Andre Baruch,” he recalled in the interview. “And I said, well, if he can do it, I can do it too.”