Thursday, September 24, 2009

It Ain't Easy Being Green

The unkempt fellow above is one Jim Henson born this day 1936, in Greenville, Mississippi. He is the fellow responsible for "creating" the Muppets. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, Statler and Waldorf, and all those other priceless characters are products of his fertile imagination, and wonderful talent. As a student of studio arts at the University of Maryland, Henson was introduced to what was to be his calling by taking a puppetry class. Who the hell offers a puppetry class? Is that like underwater basket weaving? A course for the clowns, and football team to get credit? Apparently not, because from that class a star, and his cast of characters was born, to the great delight of millions of people around the world. His first foray into TV was a little show called Sam and friends, it contained many of the characters that were to make him famous. In 1969 he got his big break by being asked to work on Sesame Street, and there Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch (one of my personal favourites). This was the break he needed, up till then he had been stuck in the "hell" of making commercials, Sesame Street got him out of that, and in the process entertained millions of latch key kids (myself included). From there he pitched the idea of the Muppet show, it was not well received in the U.S. so he picked up stakes, and moved to England. With the right financial backer, the Muppets made their TV debut in 1976, and history was made. We all know the great shows, and the great movies, and stories of the Muppets, and I can not recommend the Muppets Christmas Carol movie (with Michale Caine as Scrooge) enough. I went to see when it first came out in the theatre, and will never forget the moment after the movie as I was in the backroom taking a lovely whizz, and an eight year old boy sidles up to the urinal next to me, looks up and say "enjoy the movie? I liked it a lot." Priceless stuff. His most endearing character is probably Kermit the Frog, a character he freely admitted was his alter ego, and could "say the things I can't." He was the voice of Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf the Dog, Waldorf, and the Swedish Chef. He was a man of extreme talent, and the world was robbed of his gift way too soon. His death from Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome in 1990 was a great tragedy, and probably completely avoidable. He put off going to the doctor because he did not want to bother people. He had two memorial services on in New York City, and one at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Pretty impressive for a man who started out as a mere puppet master. So, for entertaining me for all those lonely, childhood hours, and for creating characters that will last forever, Jim Henson (September 24th, 1936-May 16th, 1990 at the age of 53), you are my hero of the day.

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

Oscar the Grouch is your favorite?? You're kidding?! Never would have seen any kismit there. :^)