K is for Kermit the Frog

The great thing about Kermit is his every-man (every-amphibian?) quality.

Kermit_the_FrogI have been a big fan of the Muppet known as Kermit the Frog, at least since his first appearances on Sesame Street in 1969. But the character has a much longer history.

The earliest iteration of Kermit was on local television in the Washington, DC area, on WRC-TV’s Sam and Friends beginning in 1955. Here’s Kermit with Harry the Hipster from 1959, e.g. SamuraiFrog has clips of many appearances of Kermit, and the other Muppets in his blog Electronic Cerebrectomy, many of them quite early in the frog’s career, such as this video from 1966.

The Muppets Character Encyclopedia – yes, I own the book- establishes that Kermit was born in Leland, Mississippi alongside approximately 2,353 siblings.

The great thing about Kermit is his every-man (every-amphibian?) quality, where he fit in quite well in Sesame Street, which I watched, even though I was in high school and then college at the time.

But he also fit well on The Muppet Show, which aired 120 episodes between 1976 and 1981. From the Wikia: “Kermit the Frog and the Muppets put on a weekly musical/comedy revue at the Muppet Theater. Unfortunately for them, things never quite go according to plan, for the Muppets or their weekly guest stars.”

Kermit has appeared in a number of Muppets movies over the years, a few of which I have seen. He’s also been a guest or guest host on a number of talk shows over the years.

As of September 2015, there’s a new Muppets TV show, done in a “mockumentary-style series that follows their personal and professional lives,” including the romantic breakup, after a number of years together, of Kermit and the porcine diva Miss Piggy.

Kermit was voiced by Muppets creator Jim Henson, from the beginning of the frog’s career until Henson’s untimely death in 1990. Since then, Steve Whitmire has done the job.

Kermit is particularly known for two songs. Bein’ Green, a/k/a It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green, a/k/a my theme song, was written by Joe Raposo, was originally performed on Sesame Street and subsequently on The Muppet Show. It was later covered by Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Tony Bennett, and many other performers.

I so relate:

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold-
or something much more colorful like that.

It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water-
or stars in the sky.

Listen

The Rainbow Connection was written for the 1979 Muppet movie The Muppet Movie. Music and lyrics were written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. The song reached #25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in November 1979, with the song remaining in the Top 40 for seven weeks total. Williams and Ascher received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song at the 52nd Academy Awards.

Listen

abc18
ABC Wednesday – Round 18

November rambling 2: Walmart returnables, and Blotto musicology

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DVD review: I Am Big Bird

Caroll Spinney’s first performance before legendary Muppets master Jim Henson was disastrous.

bigbirdThere was a Kickstarter campaign to make a movie about a guy named Caroll Spinney back in July of 2012, which successfully raised $124,115 USD from 1,976 backers.

Who’s Caroll Spinney? Why, he’s the guy who, for over 40 years, has played the iconic character on the children’s television show Sesame Street named… Oscar the Grouch. Well, yes, he does, but he also occupies the costume of an internationally-known, eight-foot-tall, yellow avian creature.

The movie I Am Big Bird garnered some success at film festivals, so it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I had a chance to see it digitally (and, because I was too busy, I didn’t). Finally, this yellow envelope arrived in the mail in early August, and I got to watch the film.

I’m oddly fascinated by negative reviews of movies I like. Though it got 84% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (53 out of 63), those who were less enthusiastic suggested that it was a puff piece with “little sour to temper the sweetness of this portrait.” One critic thought the tension between Spinney and a Sesame Street director was contrived, even though Emilio Delgado (Luis on Sesame Street) and Bob McGrath (Bob) confirmed the conflict onscreen.

Those critics must have missed the part about his painful growing up with his father’s hair-trigger temper that he seemed to find ways of bringing out. This was mitigated by his mother’s introduction of puppet shows, but his “dolls” became a source of bullying by some of his classmates. His first performance before legendary Muppets master Jim Henson was disastrous. His early days on Sesame Street, aggravated by his failing marriage, were so bad he considered quitting the job, or worse.

When I was in college, I used to watch Sesame Street (the show didn’t start until I was in high school), and few things on television have made me more verklempt than when the human cast explained to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper, the shopkeeper on Sesame Street, had died, a programming decision based on the death of his portrayer, Will Lee. Seeing it again brought back that sentiment.

There were other less upbeat aspects, including Spinney’s loner status, Jim Henson’s funeral, and the Challenger disaster. There’s this story. And the movie told of the physical wear of being Big Bird, as well as the Bird being supplanted on Sesame Street by the Muppet Elmo.

Yet maybe the critics didn’t find enough drama because Caroll Spinney is a great guy. The story of how he met his second wife, Deb, is absolutely charming. His now-adult kids adore him, his coworkers are touched by his continued sense of wonder.

You should check out I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. If it lacks a sufficiently dramatic narrative arc, it is nevertheless a loving portrait of an interesting man.

John C. Reilly Would Really Understand Me

The Muppet Rowlf was a regular on the Jimmy Dean Show, sometime during its 1963-1966 run on ABC-TV


I’m watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently, miraculously only a couple days after the show aired. John C. Reilly, who I know best from the movie Chicago, was on, ostensibly to plug his new movie, Cyrus. But it is what he said about music, at about 4:20 of this clip, that really struck me. Seems that when he was a kid, when his mom or dad would say a word or a phrase, he would come up with a song to go along with it. I did/do the same damn thing!

And while we both realized it could be really annoying, it was not done for that purpose. It happened because that’s the way we connect the dots in the world. I was reading a cereal box recently, FCOL, and the first sentence was “Life is complicated.” IMMEDIATELY, I thought, “Why is life SO COM-pli-cated?” That’s a line from which uses the Stevie Wonder-penned song, because I haven’t yet SEEN that yet.
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I wanted to write about the singer Jimmy Dean, but needed an angle, and didn’t find one until I read this article. Of COURSE! The Muppet Rowlf was a regular on the Jimmy Dean Show, sometime during its 1963-1966 run on ABC-TV, which I would occasionally watch. So Dean hired Jim Henson early on. Here’s a dated bit between country singer and dog, a Rowlf ad for the Dean show, and an ad for a Rowlf doll; note the early version of Kermit the Frog.

The other thing about Jimmy Dean is his big hit, Big Bad John, and how near the end, when the line reads, “At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man.” Yet I always hear something coarser, such as “a helluva man.”

If I ever had his sausage, I have no recollection.
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Crispian St. Peters died, best known for song called Pied Piper. But he also had a minor hit with Evanier gives details of the great artist’s life.