Occupation: puppeteer, Big Bird and Oscar
Last Seen: The Great Beyond
Awarded For: entertaining
the world in a giant, stinky bird costume
December 8 is
a day that will go down in entertainment
we observed the anniversaries of the deaths of
two rock legends due to crazy people with
guns: John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell Abbott.
But on this past Sunday, three more folks
crossed over who brought us all joy.
The world was
stunned when rapper Juice WRLD died after
collapsing at Midway Airport in Chicago. He
had just turned 21. Best-known for the tune
"Lucid Dreams" and best-selling albums "Death
Race For Love" and "Goodbye and Good
Riddance", Juice WRLD had just gotten off of a
private jet when he suffered a seizure. Police
confiscated several bottles of codeine cough
syrup and 70 lbs. of marijuana from the plane,
along with several guns and ammo.
Sunday, René Auberjonois, best-known for
playing Odo on Star Trek:
Deep Space Nine and Clayton
Endicott III on Benson died
at 79 from lung cancer. He started as a stage
actor in the 1960s and made his film debut as
Father Mulcahy in the 1970 film "MASH".
But if there
was one person who touched more people who
died yesterday, it was a man who made his
living portraying a giant canary who was a
For 49 of the
last 50 years, Carroll Spinney was the voice
and body of Big Bird, the star of Sesame
Street. He began his life as an artist
and puppeteer. Jim Henson loved him so much
that in 1969, he gave him the ever-so-daunting
task of putting on that giant bird outfit. Sesame
Street was a runaway
success. It was so popular that PBS allowed
secondary affiliations with TV stations in
towns without a PBS affiliate so they could
air the show.
Street was originally
designed for inner city children with a
racially and culturally diverse cast. But as
we all know, the Muppets turned out to be the
big stars of the show and Big Bird was its
leader. Yes, he taught us to count and spell,
but he also taught us feelings. When Will Lee,
the actor who played Mr. Hooper died in 1982,
he was taught that if somebody dies, they're
not coming back. The show used the opportunity
to teach children how they can pay tribute to
fallen friends and loved ones. Big Bird also
taught us about imagination and lots of other
things birds simply can't do.
also portrayed Oscar the Grouch. The angry,
cantankerous - yet lovable - green monster who
calls a trash can his home.
being Big Bird and Oscar's provider, Spinney
was an accomplished artist. The subjects
of many of his works were - who else - Big
Bird and Oscar.
years, however, lots of changes have occurred
with both Sesame Street and Spinney. The show
went from being an hour long to only 30
minutes and in 2016, the show shocked its
longtime fans when its producers, Sesame
Workshop announced that first-run episodes of
the program would be moving to HBO with PBS
continuing to air after a nine-month embargo.
Also, Carroll reduced his role as Big Bird due
to him being diagnosed with dystonia, a
disease that causes muscle contractions. He
remained his voice until 2018 when he retired
from the show for good.
announcement was made, It simply told me that
he probably didn't have that much longer on
this earth. Well, I was right, since he died
on Sunday. For the past several years, Both
Big Bird's voice and puppetry has been
performed by Matt Vogel, who also does the
voices for The Count and since 2017, Kermit
the Frog. Oscar, OTOH is now done by Eric
Jacobson, who also performs Bert, Guy Smiley
and Grover, all roles once performed by Frank
As a young
boy who grew up without cable, Sesame
Street was a part of
my daily TV diet, along with other PBS shows
like Mister Rogers'
Contact and Square
One Television. Yes, there were kids
with cable in my highly-rural northern
Michigan school district and they got to watch
other kids get slimed on Nickelodeon. But at
least for me, I've learned to be somewhat
smarter than a lot of the kids I went to
Yes, Big Bird
will live on forever and forever, but nobody
can ever fill those big orange talons like
Carroll Spinney could.
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