Bob GoldsboroughChicago Tribune
Marshall Brodien spent 26 years dazzling daily television audiences with magic tricks as the clown-wizard character Wizzo the Wizard on WGN-Ch. 9’s legendary “Bozo’s Circus” and its successor program, “The Bozo Show.”
Brodien wasn’t solely a children’s show cast member, however. Sans makeup, Brodien performed magic and stage hypnosis for years at lounges, clubs, county fairs, parties and trade shows. He also ran his own magic and novelty company.
Brodien, 84, died Friday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the Arden Courts of Geneva memory care facility, said his son, Marshall Jr. He had lived at that facility for the past five years and prior to that lived in Geneva and other west suburbs.
Born and raised in Chicago, Brodien was drawn to magic at the age of 8, when he was entranced by a magician’s performance at his school. Brodien never graduated from high school, and at age 14, he took a job selling and demonstrating magic tricks and novelties at the Magic Center in downtown Chicago. He later held a similar position at the National Magic Co.
By age 16, Brodien was performing magic tricks at Riverview Park on Chicago’s Northwest Side. A few years later, he was performing magic tricks at the Magic Lounge in Cicero, followed by work at the Beacon Inn on the South Side and at the Boston Nocturne Club in Chicago. He eventually bought the Nocturne Club and renamed it the Club Mystic. He didn’t enjoy club management.
“I couldn’t stand running the club,” Brodien told the Tribune in 1994. “It gave me so little time to perform. I had to sell it.”
Brodien served in the Army during the 1950s and was commissioned to the Special Services entertainment division at Fort Carson, Col., where he performed more than 700 shows at hospitals, non-commissioned officer clubs and private parties.
Marshall Brodien as clown-wizard Wizzo the Wizard, left, with Bozo on WGN-TV’s “Bozo’s Circus.” (James Mayo/Chicago Tribune)
Later jobs included working at the Cairo Supper Club in the early 1960s and serving as the master of ceremonies for the Ice Royals, even though Brodien did not know how to skate.
Brodien’s career-defining move took place when he was booked in 1962 to perform his magic act on “Bozo’s Circus,” for decades a lunchtime staple for Chicago-area schoolchildren. He continued making regular appearances on the show before he officially joined the cast in 1968. Several years afterward, he developed the Wizzo the Wizard character. It was a role he relished.
“It’s been a lot of fun to put on that costume and just act crazy and wild,” Brodien told the Tribune in 1994.
With googly eyes and a getup that included a waxed, Rollie Fingers-style handlebar mustache, a long, dark-colored chin patch, a “Stone of Zanzibar” necklace and an Arabian Nights-inspired costume, Brodien — as Wizzo — would utter his trademark, so-called mystical phrase: “Doody doody do” as he presented magic to his often-befuddled clown castmates.
“There was just something very charming about his Wizzo character, charming and mischievous, that as a boy, I loved,” said Dean Richards, WGN-Ch. 9’s entertainment reporter and critic, who began work at the station in 1991. “So when I got to meet him and the other original actors on the show — Bob Bell and Roy Brown and Don Sandburg and Ray Rayner — all the originals, as a lifelong Chicagoan, it was a treat for me. And it was very obvious when you watched the show that they were performing for the kids, but they were also entertaining themselves at the same time. They had natural chemistry.”
Richards recalled frequently going out to dinner with Brodien.
“Many times he’d pull a deck of cards out of his pocket and start doing magic tricks, and before you know it, 10 people were surrounding him and he’s levitating himself,” Richards said. “He just enjoyed making people laugh.”
Brodien’s regular role as Wizzo ended in 1994, when WGN retooled “The Bozo Show” and shifted it from a weekday program to an early Sunday-morning-only incarnation. After that, Brodien made only made only one more appearance on “Bozo” — its final show in 2001.
While his Wizzo character on “Bozo” undoubtedly is remembered most fondly by the legions of youngsters who grew up watching WGN’s cast of clowns, it wasn’t Brodien’s only TV persona. A shrewd businessman, Brodien began hawking his TV Magic Cards in 1970 and founded a multimillion-dollar magic and novelty company, Marshall Brodien TV Magic Catalog Co., in 1975.
“I watched magicians pitch decks of cards at fairgrounds where they could stop 100 people and sell 50 decks of cards,” Brodien told the Tribune in 1994. “I figured if I went on TV, I could reach enough people to sell a million decks.”
Brodien also was a mainstay at local events, including county fairs, sometimes performing with his fellow “Bozo” star Roy “Cooky” Brown. Brodien was a part-owner of the Schaumburg night spot Toto’s and the Schaumburg restaurant Lancers, and also owned a magic shop at the Old Chicago Indoor Amusement Park in Bolingbrook, a venue long-since demolished.
Brodien sold his magic distribution company to Harmony Toys in 1992.
“Every job I’ve ever had throughout my life has involved magic to some degree,” Brodien told the Tribune. “I’ve always enjoyed performing magic and promoting other magicians. It’s my work, but it’s also my hobby.”
A biography of Brodien, “The Magical Life of Marshall Brodien,” was published in 2007. He was the recipient of many honors, including being inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Silver Circle in 2012 and having the city of Geneva commemorate last July 10 as Marshall Brodien Day.
In his later years, Brodien enjoyed traveling, attending magic gatherings and going to flea markets, his son said.
Brodien was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007.
A first marriage ended in divorce. A daughter, Christine, died in 2016.
In addition to his son, Brodien is survived by his wife, Mary; another son, John; a daughter, Anita Brazeau; nine grandchildren; one great-grandson; three stepchildren; and four stepgrandchildren.
Services are pending.
Chicago Tribune’s Ben Meyerson contributed.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.Copyright © 2019, Chicago Tribune