Bill Britten
1928 - 2020
{ "" }
Share
Share Bill's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Bill Britten

Bill Britten, a gifted performer, TV personality and teacher who is remembered fondly by a generation of New Yorkers as "Johnny Jellybean" and "Bozo the Clown", passed away on February 4, 2020. Born William Cohen in 1928, Billy was the beloved husband of the late Mary Louise Jones for 48 years and a devoted brother and uncle. He began his career by working his way through Temple University as a performer at children's events throughout the metropolitan area. He served in the US Army where he wrote, performed and produced shows for Special Services, then earned a Master's in Drama from the University of Washington. After performing on a variety of local TV shows, he became the host of "Time for Fun" on WABC in 1956, where he delighted a generation of children as "Johnny Jellybean" and went on to star as "Bozo the Clown" in the Bozo Show on WPIX. His acting credits included key roles in the original Broadway production of "Man from La Mancha" and the 1980 film "Fame". Later in his career, he served as Programming Director for WNYC and taught drama to generations of students at the Performing Arts High School in New York. All of us lucky enough to have crossed paths with him will miss the way Billy always brightened and enriched our lives.




To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Record/Herald News from Feb. 12 to Feb. 16, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
60 entries
December 24, 2020
Bill Britten was an incredible performer in the early days of TV. His portrayal of Bozo the clown is one of the best!
I had reached out to him years ago, yet, I think I missed the reply.
As a Bozo historian, collector hopes are that I can add his career information, photos, and more about his TV career and his time as one of the early TV Bozo's to my research files.

From what I have learned he was a wonderful friend, as well as a performer who was kind and always friendly.

If any one can help me in adding his information, photos, etc,... to my research files please contact me.
Thank you,
Tom Holbrook
tommy.holbrook@yahoo.com
224-760-3747

I have published books on Bozo the Clown;
"The Bozo Chronicles" 2010
"Being Bozo" 2020
Tom Holbrook
September 11, 2020
He'll always be my Bozo. 65-year-old native of NYC here.....
Chris Miller
July 27, 2020
I wrote to Bill several times. He was always kind to me. I am a Bozo collector and historian and could honestly use some help to piece together Bill's career and work as Bozo the clown. PLEASE contact me at; tommy.holbrook@yahoo.com
I am interested in stories, photos, articles, mementos,...
I am looking forward to hearing from all.
In 2010 I published a book called "The Bozo Chronicles" covering the origin and history of Bozo 1946 to 1956. I am currently looking for finish up my research on the years 1956 to present.
Thank you,
Tom Holbrook
(224) seven, six, zero, three, seven, four, seven
Thomas Holbrook
Acquaintance
May 26, 2020
I just wanted to share this photo of Bill, in which he looks very happy, at the Trump Plaza in December 1993. Bill was a dear sweet gentle man. He is missed.
Bob Grumka, NJ
Friend
April 27, 2020
I am so shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Britton who I lovingly called BozoBill.
Who would have thought that he Clown who brought me so much joy during my childhood would be my next door neighbor.
He was the nicest person and welcomed me to the neighborhood with a beautiful bouquet of flowers from his own garden.
We had long conversations about the history of Englewood and he and his wife's career.
God Bless them both and rejoin their souls.
Love u Bill.
Diane Roberts
March 16, 2020
I am so sorry to hear, just today, about Bill's passing. He was a dear and treasured friend of my mom and dad, Mary and Joe Israel. Having just read his Wikipedia page to my mom, we were astounded by the long, long list of his performances through these many years. Many of them, my mom hadn't ever heard of. We would like to send our love and condolences to Lou (Mary Louise).
Susan Bensen
March 16, 2020
I am so sorry to have heard, just today, about Bill's passing. Bill was a dear and treasured friend of my mom and dad, Mary and Joe Israel. We would like to send our love and condolences to Lou (Mary Louise). We were astounded by the long, long list of performances that Bill did over the years. Many of them, my mom didn't even know about. We're sure that he provided lots of joy and laughter to his audiences.
Susan Bensen
March 16, 2020
I'm so sorry to hear about Bill, just today. He was a beloved friend of my parents, Mary and Joe Israel. I, and my mom, Mary, want to send love and condolences to Lou (Mary Louise). I was just reading Bill's Wikipedia page to my mom. We were both astounded by the long, long list of jobs and performances that Bill did, many that she didn't even know about. What a huge talent and a lot of joy and laughter that he gave to audiences. My mom wants to add what a dear and treasured friend he was!
Susan Israel Bensen
March 16, 2020
I'm so sorry to hear about Bill. I learned the news from an old friend who remembered he was a good friend of my parents, going all the way back to their University of Washington days. I will tell my mother the sad news. I remember him very very fondly from my years as a child and of course as an adult.
Dulcy Israel
February 23, 2020
So sad that I am just hearing this news. Mr. Britton was a larger than life persona to a group of aspiring performing artists. He was not one of my instructors but his love of the craft was evident to all who encountered him...especially in those formative years. Thank you for sharing yourself so generously with us all at HSPA Class of '74.
RIP Mr. Britten
Deirdre Lovell
February 21, 2020
He brought me so much happiness and laughter as a child. Those were much simpler and carefree days.
Robb Lizzio
February 21, 2020
My first acting teacher at PA. He was a sweet, warm, and enthusiastic man. Just thinking of him makes me smile.
Barbara Traub
February 20, 2020
I grew up with Bozo the Clown who I am sure reflected your character. Thank you for blazing the smile and light heartedness for so many generations to come.
Carol Thornton
February 20, 2020
so many great memories , a lot of fun and laughter.
sue smaw
February 19, 2020
Thank you for the happiness you brought to me as Bozo. Fond childhood memories .
Scott
Acquaintance
February 19, 2020
Shave and a haircut...rest in peace.
Robert Merhaut
February 19, 2020
My sincere condolences to the Britten family. He was a lovely man and a dear friend to my family for many, many years. May he rest in eternal peace.
Ellen Adams
February 19, 2020
So thankful for the many days of fun watching Bozo the Clown as a child. You were a blessing to many Mr. Britten.
Demphna Krikorian
February 18, 2020
Bill Britten was one of my favorite teachers. He always had a positive attitude. i don't think I ever saw him lose his temper. May he rest in peace.
Stephanie Martin
Student
February 18, 2020
Uncle Bill you are missed.

Denise
Denise Short
February 18, 2020
Bill Britten, my teacher, mentor and friend.
R.I.P. Mr Bill Britten, born William Cohen, actor, director, producer, writer, teacher and one of the original comic actors who portrayed BOZO THE CLOWN I recently read that Mr Britten passed away peacefully on February 4, 2020 @ 93 years old.

In my Senior year of NYC's High School of Performing Arts (a.k.a. "P.A.") 1977, Mr Britten was my Drama teacher and Director of our Spring Drama Festival Senior production of 'Our Town.' I LVED him as a compassionate teacher & as a gifted director.

~ However, AFTER graduation, I kept in touch with Mr Britten. He allowed my to warm-up some of his Drama classes after P.A. moved from West 46 Street to merge with the High School of Music & Art, now called LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Later on in life, Mr Britten attended my afternoon 50th Birthday party in Manhattan, along with his beautiful wife and some fellow P.A. alumni.

~ Once in awhile, we'd talk on the phone. Mr Britten was ECSTATIC when I told him that I found continuous paid work as a children's party performer, I called my character "Loco Rico The Clown" and that his portrayal of Bozo The Clown has been my constant inspiration

~ During our very last phone conversation, I asked Mr Britten's permission to call him by his 1st name, Bill. His response, "David, we've been friends for soooooo many years. Of course, you can call me Bill." - I didn't tell him this, but his response made me cry silent tears of joy. I simply said, "Thank you, Bill. I hope to visit you in New Jersey when the weather gets warmer."

~ Yes, I was planning on visiting my former Drama teacher & former Director this Spring, dressed as Loco Rico, but I guess that wasn't meant to be.

Rest In Peace, Bill. You've made many, many other people's lives BETTER with your teaching, direction, sense of humor, being an excellent listener, compassion, caring and most importantly, your genuine L❤VE for others❣
Godspeed
David Enrique Ramirez
February 18, 2020
He was such fixture to my childhood
Louise brinkman
February 18, 2020

God Bless Bill Britten Cohen..

While most who are posting condolences to Bill here knew him when he was at the height of his career in television or when he was teaching at the HSPA, I had the very good fortune to know him for the last two years of his life, and what a sweet gentle man he was.
My goal during those two years was to entertain, engage and most of all make Bill happy during my visits. I wanted to give back to him the smallest percentage of what he gave to millions of us kids and young adults over the years. I'd like to believe I was successful, and more than once upon leaving Bill, at saying my last goodbye for that given visit, he would say as I was at the door.. Please, Please, Please come again.. anytime, annn-yyytime.

At least twice unintentionally I made that dear man tear up which made me feel awful and wonderful at the same time. Once was when I gave him some original 8x10 photographs, most of which he had not seen in almost 60 years and three of which he had never seen before. Bill did a short lived show in the fall of 1962 called The Cartoon Express with Engineer Smokey Bill and when he saw the pictures of himself as Engineer Smokey Bill, well he started to tear up, and so I quickly tried to change the subject moving on to other pictures I had for him.

The other time was when I read for him a birthday card I gave him, of which if there is space I will post at the end..

The last time I saw Bill, about a month before his passing, I found out that he read The Hardy Boys books as a kid, which may partially explain how he developed his sense of adventure and fun.
Just before I left that last time I started telling Bill about a rare and all too short film clip I'd recently seen of Bill performing a skit, as part of the Bozo Show, with him playing some corny/shyster type body builder selling his 26 week course. Well I wasn't sure he understood exactly what I was saying so I stood up and, in abject failure I'm sure, performed that 6 second clip for Bill, to which he smiled and shook his head, perhaps to tell me to not quit my day job or perhaps for thanking me in trying, but either way when I asked him if he remembered that character from 57 years ago he shook his head in the affirmative.
I then quickly got up and said goodbye, and now I find it was my final goodbye To one of the most gifted and giving people to ever have graced the earth.

Following is that Birthday Card (BTW I have Bill's birthday as 11/15/1927)

Happy Birthday Bill Britten Cohen!!

Any man who touches the Heart and Mind of a child is a Great Man, for the child knows him as and calls him friend.
But when a man also inspires and touches the soul of a child, perhaps a sick, saddened, or lonely child who may not have a friend, a child that might be shunned or ridiculed because they are different; well that man is Blessed!

And that man is Bill Britten, a child's friend.
No finer role can a person play in life

All the best on your Birthday Bill.


And All the Best in Heaven Bill.
Bob Grumka
February 18, 2020
As a child Mr Bill (Bozo the clown) gave me so much joy & laughter. Growning up in the Bronx in the 60th, he was my escape while watching on TV. Until this day I collect clowns & thats because of him. I learned from him that every clown has a different face & thats what they feel. Life is different for everyone, so just put on a Happy Clown Face, love & Enjoy Life. Thank you. To the family my deepest condolences. May he Rest In Peace.
Norma Gonzalez
February 18, 2020
We used to watch the Bozo Show every Sunday! It was something we looked forward to every weekend! Great memories! Bill, tthank you for making kids smile! Rest in peace! My condolences to his family and friends!
Melinda
February 18, 2020
Bill was my acting teacher in 1970 at the High School of Performing Arts. He directed me in Under Milkwood and was the first adult actor/director to really encourage me as a pro. It's 50 years later and I'm still doing it.
Mr. Britten, you brightened a lot of lives with your talent and personality. I'm proud to have known you. I tell stories of you and that keeps you alive for me and for many.
Terry Greiss
February 17, 2020
Among my favorite memories as a child growing up in NYC. Thanks for your positive energy, and dedication to entertaining kids.
Albert B.
February 17, 2020
Mr. B
You made me your doormouse in your bus and truck and I have always thought and think of you because you taught me so much that I use to this day. I learned the true double take and how to have laughter from the gut. I thank you you were a real treasure
Jami (Susan) Richards (Kae)
February 17, 2020
My condolences to the family. Bill will live forever through his acting. May he smile down on us all.
Melody Lane
February 17, 2020
My mom brought me to the WPIX/Daily News building on E.42nd St where the theater was located. I was so exited to go and remember the date 6-21-61. When we got to the studio we were told that Bozo wasnt there that day because his dad passed. Chuck McCann was the host that day. Growing up Bozo inspired all us kids to learn and have fun. May his memory always be a blessing.
Friend
February 17, 2020
I was a huge fan of Johnny Jellybean. I was sitting on a curb at Pailsades Amusement Park, he walked by with fans all around him. By time I saw him, he was way past me. I yelled. "Johnny"! He turned & came back. He talked to me & gave me an autographed picture. He made my day!!! I was 9 at the time. I am now 72 & I still tell that story! I'll always remember him.
Rest In Peace Bill Britten.
LINDA
February 17, 2020
He was a shining light. His pixie-like energy was impossible to resist. A very kind and polite gentle man.
David Steven
Student
February 17, 2020
RIP Mr Britten. You were my first Drama teacher at HSPA. Thank You.
Dave Gordon
February 17, 2020
Thank you for the laughs and love! May you be in Heaven smiling down on everyone you brought laughter to in our lives. God Bless you!
Adrienne D
February 17, 2020
R.i.p you wonderful man you made my days when I was younger. I loved watching your show sending prayers to your family
Janet cotton
February 17, 2020
RIP Bill. I remember you fondly as a child of the 50's. My condolences to the family.
Karen Morris-Schultz-Musumeci
Karen Musumeci
February 17, 2020
For the past few days I have been trying to find the right words... maybe also the courage to express my hurting. My dear Mr. B was the one who led the team of educators and mentors who taught me how to do that. (and managed not to throw me in the river) Still... this is tough. My day is a bit dimmer... but my life... never brighter because this wonderful man helped shape it... and will always be a part of it. So with love and a ton of respect... Thank you.
Eric Gerstein
Student
February 17, 2020
Mr. Britten was my acting teacher and mentor at the High School of Performing Arts. He was a warm and supportive teacher who excelled in teaching acting to those who were new at it but quite serious about perfecting the craft. He always had a warm smile and words of encouragement. He was a good, generous man.
Seth Gordon
February 17, 2020
May you find the program directors office in the sky. Im sure youll find more people to entertain there. Safe travels, Bill!
Maureen Pescaia
Acquaintance
February 17, 2020
You were a big part of my childhood, Rest In Peace...
Tammie white
Friend
February 17, 2020
My condolences to the family. He brought much joy to my life. Thank you and may God bless you all always.
CHERYL LYNN
Friend
February 17, 2020
Always made me laugh or smile, no matter what. A wonderful man. RIP
Bill King
Friend
February 17, 2020
His nickname for me was Charlie Brown. He once said in class that all performers would get a break, but they needed to be ready for it. Mr. Britten was kind, patient, and silly. As a high school teacher and school librarian, I used Story Theatre throughout my professional life, thanks to Bill Britten.
Ellen Goldfinch, PA, Drama, 72
February 17, 2020
Thank you Mr. Britten. Rest in paradise.
Tammi Cubilette
Student
February 17, 2020
Mr. Britten was a sweet and gentle man who was fiercely loyal to his students and remembered EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US by name. He knew my dad back in the day, and when I visited him in the nursing home, his face brightened up and he said "Well if it isn't little Bambi" (That's what my dad called me in the 60s.) He was devoted to his wife, his students and laughter.I am sure he is giving the angels some belly laughs.
Bambi Everson
February 17, 2020
God rest you kind sir. My earliest memories of television were of the energetic and entertaining Bozo the Clown. It's almost like looking back to another life those early children's black and white television programs but we heartily enjoyed them. I Will always treasure the memories and my autographed picture. Life was so much more simple then. All the children loved Bozo the Clown.
Greg Dray
February 17, 2020
Some of my first memories are of watching Mr. Britten as Johnny Jellybean. I remember the Jellybeaner song and him being squirted in the face while trying to drink from a water fountain. Those were much simpler and more innocent times. Mr. Britten was an important part of my early childhood. Thank you for the memories.
John Glowa
February 16, 2020
Im very grateful to have had him as a teacher and friend. He is a bright light forever in my heart.
Kecia Lewis
Friend
February 16, 2020
Thank you for all the great memories enjoy watching you RIP
Robert Schad
February 16, 2020
Thanks for making my childhood so full of laughter! I always wanted to be on the Bozo show, but the closet I got was my Mom surprising us with Bozo chocolate syrup!
Patricia Warch
February 16, 2020
Thank you for touching the lives of so many of us as a performer, teacher, director and friend. You will always be a big part of my wonderful memories of Performing Arts High School. May you Rest In Peace!
Al Rodrigo
Student
February 16, 2020
He was the best teacher in the world for me. A truly great person. He championed my success in PA. He was always amazingly supportive and generous. RIP Bill Britten.
Martin Breeson
February 16, 2020
Mr. Britten was always a tremendous booster for his former students. He posted articles about alumni on the bulletin board on the second floor, outside the drama office.
He so loved his wife Mary Louise. Mary Louise and I worked together in a production of South Pacific at the Jones Beach Marine Theater, before I attended Performing Arts. I always looked forward to his thoughtful holiday cards.
He will be sorely missed.
Keenan Shimizu
February 16, 2020
I WORKED AT WPIX WITH HIM AND ON MY DAY OFF SHOT THE OPENING FOR JOHNNY JELLYBEAN AT THE CONSTRUCTION AREA WHERE LINCOLN CENTER IS LOCATED. HE HAD PRINCESS TICKLEFEATHER IN THE 30 SEC FILM I SHOT AND EDITED. A REALLY GOOD GUY.
WALTER BOOTH
February 16, 2020
I was so lucky to have this wonderful man as my acting teacher in my senior year at Performing Artsmy last year, his first! And he always remembered our class, even decades later. I learned so much from him! May he rest in joyous peace, reunited with his beautiful wife, whom he adored!
Debbie McCann
February 16, 2020
Such a terrific teacher, and boy, did he put up with a lot from me at PA! I was able to apologize to him in later years and he was so kind about it. A one-of-a -kind guy. Rest in peace Mr. Britten.

Ben Prayz, PA 81
February 16, 2020
I loved Bill Britten. He was my teacher and my hero. Kind, always patient, always interested in others. A rare man. I will miss him greatly.

Alexander Carney
PA 81, Drama
February 16, 2020
Mr B was a gentle teacher and director. His legacy is his students and what he gave to us all. Gods speed dear sir.
John Maraffi
February 14, 2020
Will always remember him fondly, great guy and teacher.

Alison, PA '77
Alison Shaiman
February 13, 2020
RIP! A fun part of my past is gone!
Cathy Yarrington
Acquaintance
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences