With a blast of the whistle, a hearty voice and an infectious smile, Ringmaster Norbert "Ned" Locke began "Bozo's Circus" from 1961 to 1975, returning to the role on the 25th and 30th anniversary shows.
|RINGMASTER NED, THAT'S HIM!|
first major role in Chicago children's television was as host of Captain
Hartz & His Pets for WNBQ in 1954.
Sponsored by Hartz Mountain Pet Foods, the series revolved around
different animals and parakeet tricks. Captain Hartz was supposed to
be an airline pilot who traveled around the world returning with a wide
variety of animals all of which he was deemed an expert on. There
was usually two children on the show (who were "neighbors" ) who
came to see the animals and visit with the good captain.
In a incident that could only happen on live television, a black bear cub that Locke had been feeding grapes, decided to give Ned's leg a "bear hug" when the grapes ran out. With the bear just slightly out of camera range (Locke was being shot from the waist up) the good captain struggled bravely not to cry or swear at the bear while on the air. Eventually he was able to shake the bear off.
His debut on Chicago television was in 1951 when he briefly substituted for Johnny Coons on his Noontime Comics series in 1952. His smiling personality did not go overlooked by the bosses of WNBQ and in short time he was reading the Sunday comics from the newspapers on Sunday Funnies. Sunday Funnies was also the home (at different times) to another up and coming Chicago children's show host, John Conrad of Elmer The Elephant.
Ned was a busy guy during his years at the NBC o&o station. He appeared in the role of district attorney on the soap A Time To Live. He wrote a show called Jet Pilot (but didn't appear in it) and also starred in a musical for NBC called Long Hair For Butch where he played interpreter to a host that spoke with a thick European dialect. And for many years he was Santa Claus on the yearly NBC Christmas specials. Over at ABC and WENR-TV, Locke was the live commercial actor for the popular Wednesday Night Fights. No matter where the fights were being held that night, the commercials always originated from Chicago where Ned would appear on screen popping vitamins or shaving with Mennen Shave Cream.
Ned Locke came to WGN-TV in 1956 where, like most of the other WGN-TV on air talent, wore many hats during his stay. Ned was a weatherman for The Ten O'clock News; starred in what's considered the template for Bozo's Circus, Lunchtime Little Theater (which Locke has stated that it was his favorite show), and wrote, produced, and starred in a short-lived adventure series called Paddleboat. But it was the top hat he wore for Bozo's Circus that Ned will always and warmly be remembered. When WGN-TV brass decided to expand on the "Bozo" franchise to include a live show with games and a studio audience, Locke was the natural choice as the ringmaster. In fact, Locke had played the role from time to time over at WBKB's Super Circus. Even after he retired, Chicagoans could hear his jolly voice announcing the seasonal opening of "Santa's Village" amusement park.
He began his broadcasting career at the tender age of nine appearing on radio in the Twin Cities. Feeling bored he retired from broadcasting. He then moved to Kimberling Missouri where he entered local politics, serving as police commissioner and, later, until his death, mayor.
copyright 2001 Steve Jajkowski All rights reserved