Like millions and millions of others, I grew up on the artistry of Caroll Spinney. Well after first watching Sesame Street, I would learn that Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird were brought to life by the same muppeteer.
About five or so years ago, I had the opportunity to see Caroll Spinney speak at a local event on his theater tour. With his wife by his side, he recounted behind-the-scenes stories. Then, he picked up a bag that sat on the floor beside him, pulled out an all-too-familiar swamp green ball of fur, and brought Oscar the Grouch to life before our eyes. It was pure magic.
A few years back, I was invited to a charity event at Henson Studios that would laud Mr. Spinney with a parade of muppeteers. I had to be there, but my schedule was tight. I flew to LA and back in the same day. Landed shortly before the event started, took off shortly after it ended. As you can imagine, it was so worth it. Two of the most striking moments from that night: Mr. Spinney, wheelchair-bound and looking frail, spoke of Jim Henson and his death. The pain in his voice was as if Jim Henson had died recently—a testament to the love between the artists. Then, Big Bird himself took the stage. Matt Vogel, who inherited the role, brought the entire room to tears as Big Bird addressed his friend Caroll. Big Bird professed his love for Mr. Spinney and assured him that he would always live in his heart. Big Bird was essentially saying goodbye. My heart goes out to the entire Spinney family and all that loved him—thank you for sharing him with the world.