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'Chucko the Clown' Dies -- Performer Took Over the Character Originally Played by His Father LA Times

The performer who played "Chucko the Clown” for years after taking over the character from his father has died. The Los Angeles Times reports that Randy Runyon died Wednesday, Feb. 20, after a battle with lung cancer. He was 57.

Runyon's father, Charles M. Runyon, made the character popular in the 1950s and 1960s when he starred in "Chucko the Birthday Clown" on KABC-TV and KTTV, the story reports.

"Children often waited years for the chance to appear on the popular show on their birthday with Chucko, who, with his finely painted clown face and spinning merry-go-round hat, became a Los Angeles celebrity along with such other kiddie-show stars as Engineer Bill, Sheriff John and Bozo the Clown," the piece says.

Randy Runyon debuted as Chucko Jr. in the mid-1960s, and started playing Chucko full-time in 1984, after his father retired. He appeared on the NBC soap "Santa Barbara" and "The Arsenio Hall Show," and in commercials for Taco Bell.

He retired Chucko in 1995 after what the report calls "several lean years for the clown business." Runyon blamed the 1990 television miniseries "It," a Stephen King story that features an evil clown character.

"He maintained that independent clowns suffered nationwide due to the movie," said family friend Roger Smith, "and he eventually retired the act rather than have children confused and afraid of their beloved Chucko."