In Memoriam: Frank Avruch

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When I was a kid, my parents made the very questionable decision of allowing me to have a small television on my bedside table. Being nocturnal from birth, I would stay up late on Sunday nights, fending off the Monday back-to-school ickys by watching classic movies on WCVB-TV’s “The Great Entertainment.”

The show was hosted by a handsome, tuxedo-clad gentleman named Frank Avruch, whom I didn’t realize I already knew from his previous incarnation as the original Bozo the Clown. Years later, after I was lucky enough to call him a friend, I told him that he had turned me on to Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Capra, Cukor and all the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

His response: “Aren’t movies magical?”

Avruch died in March. Always a perfect gentleman, onscreen and off, he was quick to laugh, gracious and kind, with a voice like liquid silver and a charm he seemed wholly unaware of.

Now, when I think back on his influence in my life, both before and after I knew him personally, he stands out as a tremendously reassuring presence, both the consummate clown and the suave sophisticate I’ve always wanted to be. My heart goes out to his wonderful wife, Betty, and their two sons.

Boston’s answer to Cary Grant is gone, and it’ll take shoes much larger than Bozo’s to fill his.

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