May 16, 1990. That’s the day the world lost a very unique individual — Jim Henson.
It’s hard for me to put into words the influence that the man and his troupe had on my life. I spent my childhood watching everything Muppet. I’m sure if VCRs had been available at the time I’d have worn out two or three re-watching everything. I taught myself to be a puppeteer by studying Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. I had those hard rubber Sesame Street puppets from Playskool and Fisher-Price’s Muppet Show plush (which my mom re-worked into puppets) and I practiced with those things continuously always wishing that they were more like the "real thing". From the age of three until I went to college I think my only plan in life was to be a Muppeteer. When I started junior high my church hired a youth director who also had a love of puppetry. I wasn’t "old enough" to be part of his new puppet group when it started but I was persistant and proved that I belonged there by their second practice. I spent my teenage years hauling around PVC stages and trunks full of puppets. Did I care that everyone thought I was a complete "dork"?… Not on your life, I was doing what I loved and I wore it as a badge of honor. I’m not sure when I let the Muppet dream die but I know it was before Henson’s death. I finally came to the realization that the only way I could actually make a living doing that would be to actually work for Henson. When Henson died my friends pushed me to go to New York, to audition to actually become Kermit and Ernie but I just couldn’t do it. As improbable as any chance would be I couldn’t stomache the thought of trying to fill those shoes. From time-to-time my friends will still forward me audition notices for things like Avenue Q but at 42 my body just doesn’t have the stamina it would take for anything like that anymore.
Anyway, what was all of that leading up to?… There’s an exihibition that’s touring museums through the beginning of 2011. I won’t get to see it until the final stop in Chicago late next year (making plans now) but it opens next in Seattle on the 23rd of this month. Click here for tour information on Jim Henson’s Fantastic World.
James Maury Henson
September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990
I’ll end here with a very special performance of "Bein’ Green" from Henson’s memorial service in New York City…
The Jim Henson Legacy