I met Big Bird
Fri Oct 26 2007
One of the many perks of working at Time Out New York Kids is the opportunity to live out childhood fantasies--playing with all the amazing toys you were once denied, gorging on chocolate cupcakes whenever you please, etc. But last night 's experience topped all those treats. At the Children's Television Workshop's screening and release party for their new DVD ("Sesame Street Old School: Volume 2", reviewed in our November issue), I got to meet the one-and-only Caroll Spinney, who has laid claim to the Big Bird suit on Sesame Street since the show aired in 1969. He has also played Oscar the Grouch since day one; when I met him, the crabby (yet somehow so loveable) puppet was perched on his arm.
There were other Sesame Street legends in attendance--Bob McGrath ("Bob"), Roscoe Orman ("Gordon"), Fran Brill (Zoe, Prairie Dawn and other Muppets) and Carol-Lynne Parente (the show's current executive producer). But nothing could really compare to meeting the bird himself. My sister and I have been a wee bit obsessed with him since we saw the Sesame Street movie Follow that Bird in the 1980s. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you rent it right now (and prepare to get a little traumatized by a family of Dodo birds).
Back to the topic at hand: The most wonderful part of meeting Spinney was that he was actually AS NICE as Big Bird. Never have I met a kinder celebrity nor one who seemed happier about his job. In fact, all the Sesame legends seemed remarkably content to have spent the past 30+ years working for PBS. I didn't think I could become a bigger fan of this show, but it happened.
Plus, I picked up a few fun facts: It once took Ashley Judd 57 takes to get a Sesame Street guest-spot right, sometimes Spinney messes up and uses his Oscar voice while in the Big Bird suit, and Bob can do outstanding impressions of nearly every Muppet in the cast.
My only worry is what will happen to this brilliant TV staple when this cast of legends retires. Luckily, I am happy to report that Spinney, now 74, shows no signs of slowing down.
What questions would you have asked Big Bird? Who do you think is the bigger celebrity: Big Bird or Elmo? Talk back below.