Quantcast
Connect with us

‘Sesame Street’ puppeteer Caroll Spinney — aka Big Bird — dies at 85

Published

on

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on the iconic children’s television show “Sesame Street” for half a century, died on Sunday at the age of 85.

Spinney died at home in Connecticut after living for some time with the movement disorder dystonia, which causes uncontrollable muscle contractions, according to a statement from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces the show.

ADVERTISEMENT

The actor retired from the show last year, having hand-picked successors to play both Big Bird and Oscar — two very different characters he helped create, delighting millions of children.

Those characters — one a towering yellow bird, the other a grumpy, green monster in a trash can — existed in what many considered a magical world created by puppet master Jim Henson and including pals Bert and Ernie, the lovable Cookie Monster and the goofy Kermit the Frog.

Spinney once told The New York Times he had modeled Oscar the Grouch on a cross between a “magnificently rude” restaurant waiter and a ranting New York cab driver.

In 1973, a year after then US president Richard Nixon made his dramatic trip to China, Spinney flew to Beijing for a performance dressed as Big Bird — he said he only paid half-price for the plane ticket because the character “was only six years old.”

When Henson died in 1990, Big Bird sang Kermit’s sweetly melancholy tune “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at a memorial service.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement.

“His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.”

– ‘Infectious love and joy’ –

ADVERTISEMENT

Poignantly, Spinney’s death came as the show marked its 50th birthday, and as it is lauded with one of America’s top cultural awards — the Kennedy Center Honors — at a gala Sunday in Washington.

“We are really grateful that we are all here together tonight, because he was an inspiration for us all,” Leslie Carrara Rudolph, who portrays Abby Cadabby on the show, told AFP on the red carpet at the Kennedy Center.

ADVERTISEMENT

AFP/File / STAN HONDA Big Bird (L) is one of the enduring stars of “Sesame Street” along with Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and other lovable furry friends

Spinney himself won multiple Daytime Emmys for his work, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. He also earned a Grammy Award, for best children’s recording.

At the time of his retirement, he was quoted as saying that his Big Bird alter ego had “opened my mind and nurtured my soul.”

He hand-picked his successors in the two major roles — after mentoring them for more than two decades.

ADVERTISEMENT

A shy child, Spinney embraced puppetry and reportedly owned 70 puppets by the age of 12. He met Henson at a puppeteers festival in 1962 and bumped into him again in 1969; months later, he joined “Sesame Street.”

Spinney’s life was the subject of the 2014 documentary “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.”

Big Bird, the instantly recognizable giant yellow bird with the huge beak, is more than eight feet (2.5 meters) tall.

Spinney, who was 5 feet 10, had to use his hands and wires to manipulate the towering puppet, guided by a TV monitor in the costume.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2000, he was named a Living Legend by the US Library of Congress, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Henson’s family said in a statement that Spinney managed to “perfectly convey the humor and heart in our father’s creations. Big Bird was childlike, without being childish. And Oscar the Grouch reflected universal feelings we all share, no matter our age.”

“That he could do this work so brilliantly, responsibly and with such infectious love and joy is his gift to us all,” the statement said.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Ted Cruz smacked down by ex-FBI agent for suggesting Trump’s Ukraine scheme was about anti-corruption

Published

on

Despite the fact that it is now clear that President Donald Trump did not care if Ukraine investigated former Vice President Joe Biden's family, but just wanted them to announce that they were heading into election season, some Republicans are still attempting to claim that his scheme to illegally withhold military funds until they did so served a legitimate purpose in stamping out global corruption.

One such Republican is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who took to Twitter to argue this point:

A reminder of what this is all about: any president -- any administration -- is justified in investigating corruption.

Continue Reading

Facebook

‘Chuck Schumer is the leader of the Senate next January’ if GOP refuses to allow witnesses: Former Democratic senator

Published

on

Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill delivered a stunning rebuke to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus Wednesday afternoon. Discussing the GOP's refusal to allow any of the 11 amendments Democrats filed in an effort to allow witnesses and evidence to be presented at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Claire McCaskill warned that voters will not be pleased.

"I think Chuck Schumer is the leader of the Senate next January," if Republicans ultimately block witnesses and documents from being presented, the former Democratic Senator from Missouri said on MSNBC.

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

‘Moderate’ GOP senator ‘offended’ by top Democrat’s impeachment remarks – after voting with McConnell every time

Published

on

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, says she was "offended" by remarks Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler made on Tuesday as the Trump impeachment trial got underway. Senator Murkopwski, who values the perception that she is a "moderate" who will cross the aisle when she believes in an issue, did not say what specifically offended her, but she did vote with Republicans against every one of the Democrats' 11 amendments that were designed to allow witnesses, documents, and a fair weighing of the charges of high crimes and misdemeanors against President Donald Trump.

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1 and go ad-free.
close-image