Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chucko, the Birthday Clown

Charles M. Runyon, who as Chucko the Birthday Clown was a popular Los Angeles children's TV show host in the 1950s and '60s, has died. He was 86. Runyon died Saturday of respiratory failure in an assisted-living facility in Grants Pass, Ore., said his son, Randy Runyon.

On KABC-TV Channel 7 from 1955 to 1963 and on KTTV Channel 11 from 1963 to 1964, Runyon's Chucko the Clown was a familiar -- and welcome -- sight to thousands of young Southern California viewers.

The jovial and genteel clown wore a spinning merry-go-round hat with his name on it, a half red and half red-and-white-striped clown suit with a fluffy Elizabethan-style collar and cuffs, and white gloves; and he had arching blue eyebrows on a white face with a rhinestone-tipped nose and an upturned red smile.

His live, hourlong show included cartoons, special guests and games with his studio audience, which consisted of two children celebrating their birthdays and their young friends.

At the end of the show, the camera would show a large birthday cake, and Chucko would sing: "Here's a hap, hap, happy birthday from me (that's me), to you (that's you). . . ."

During his heyday, Runyon's Chucko would open the television coverage of the annual Santa Claus Lane Parade by jumping through a bass drum head.

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