OFFBEAT: Always smiling 'Bandleader Bob' for WGN's 'Bozo Circus' dead at 99

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2011-07-22T00:00:00Z 2011-07-25T11:50:17Z OFFBEAT: Always smiling 'Bandleader Bob' for WGN's 'Bozo Circus' dead at 99By Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

My broadcast friends at WGN-TV have sad news to report this week.

They say it best, with: "The man best known for bringing the music to 'Bozo's Circus' on WGN-TV has died."

Robert "Bob" Trendler led the 13-piece Big Top Band from the time the show started in 1961 until he retired in 1975.

"He was a long-time member of the WGN family, starting as a musician and arranger for WGN Radio in 1935 and, later, musical director of the WGN Orchestra in 1956," the folks at WGN explained in a tribute.

Trendler died of natural causes and was an amazing 99 years old.

Since I was born in 1970, I might have been young during his run on the show. However, I still recall him always being willing to step away from his music role and participate in the silly clown skits, including many times, being hit in the face with "shaving cream" pies.

Long-retired and living near Sarasota, Fla., Trendler's funeral was Thursday at First Presbyterian Church in Bradenton, Fla.

Ticket anticipation

After a column earlier this week about Goodman Theatre in Chicago announcing actor Brian Dennehy's return to their stage next year in "The Iceman Cometh," I've had a number of excited readers calling and emailing with questions about tickets.

And of all the readers I've talked to, Carolyn Dongu of Hammond is certainly the most exuberant about this news.

"As I told you before, I have been a fan of Dennehy's movie and TV films for years," Dongu said.

"But after taking your advice after reading your column about about his double-bill appearances last year at the Goodman in 'Hughie' and 'Krapp's Last Tape,' I realize that Dennehy's true talent is on the stage. Since then, last November, I even traveled to New London, Conn., to hear Mr. Dennehy read 'Anna Christie' at the Eugene O'Neill Celebration. And now, I'll also be traveling with my children to Stratford, Ontario, Canada to see him in 'Twelfth Night' and 'The Homecoming.' I am truly beside myself. After your column this week, I've already called the Goodman regarding tickets for 'Iceman.' When I went to New London to see him, I had the chance to speak with him three times. He was on his way to rehearsal for the play when I saw him walking to the Eugene O'Neill home place. I ran up to him and said I had come from Indiana to see him. I toured the O'Neill home and then waited to get into the area where the play was. To my surprise Dennehy was outside still just talking to people. He autographed my playbill and even personalized it to me. We spoke for several minutes and he also posed for a photo. I could not believe my good luck, not only did I get a free performance of an O'Neill play, but I also got to spend time with this wonderful, funny man.

I thank you again because if it had not been for your wonderful review of 'Hughie' and 'Krapp's Last Tape" back in January 2010, I never would have been influenced into seeing Brian Dennehy on stage and have started my theater quest of all things Dennehy.

Best, Carolyn Dongu"

Thank you for sharing your story with other readers Carolyn.

I first saw Dennehy on stage at Goodman back in 1990. Of course, he's also famous for his role "Death of a Saleman" by Arthur Miller, which not only was a box office smash in Chicago, but also played the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York for a long run.

Chicago's Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls is directing this just announced run of "The Iceman Cometh" April 22 to June 10, 2012, in the Albert Theatre.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.




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