Remembering Richard Hunt
By Byron Summers
Richard Hunt... The name just speaks volumes. Speak it to the average person who enjoys the Muppets and it may not ring a bell, but speak it to a devoted Muppet fan and it performs a symphony.
I grew up watching "The Muppet Show" with my mom, dad and sister, and memories stay with me of the four of us watching the Muppets on early Saturday afternoons in the early-to-mid eighties. I relished watching these great entertainers week after week, and had no idea that one man was behind so many I loved.
Nor did I have any idea of when he died. It was such a shame that his being taken away from the Muppets and from us was barely spoken of. In the future, perhaps he will get the recognition he truly deserves.
Any person who can perform so many different characters with distinct personalities and voices and able to make us laugh or sympathize with them is nothing short of walking talent.
Richard's characters were unique, and they each touched me in different ways.
Beaker... As a child I really felt sorry for this poor guy, but still I couldn't help laughing at his misfortunes. I was very intrigued by his "Meep!" language and his test tube-like body. I could always count on a good laugh from Beaker.
Statler... He was one half of that classic critical duo in the balcony, always ready with a critique of an act and a few boos and hisses. Never did he fail to come up with something rather negative to say, although it was always funny as well.
Scooter... Many say he *was* Richard, and, although I wish I had known him to say it was true, I can do nothing but believe them (which I do). When I was little, I sometimes wanted to be Scooter. To wear that cool green jacket and those neat glasses, and especially to be hanging out at the Muppet Theatre. I still remember his first appearance on the show, where it was defined that he was Kermit's "go-fer." He was a little boy's best friend in the Muppet World.
Sweetums... Such a big, intimidating creature, but only from his appearance. I was scared of him for a long time when I was younger, but then I paid more attention to him and saw him for what he really was: a kind, caring, optimistic character, "sweet" indeed. Once I got to know him, the fear was gone forever. He truly deserved that gentle name.
Junior Gorg... Someone who terrified me even more than Sweetums. Whenever I was lucky enough to be somewhere where I could watch "Fraggle Rock" I would sink down in my seat and come close to hiding my eyes when the Fraggles had to go to the Gorgs' Garden. I knew he wanted to catch and kill them, and he was so big I knew he could do it. But now I see Junior in a different light. He may be one of the biggest Muppets on a series, but inside he's just a little boy at heart. Most little boys like to catch bugs, and Junior's bugs were the Fraggles. Still, when a Fraggle made it safely to the Trash Heap or the Fraggle Hole I felt at ease and noticed a little tension relieved in my body.
Gunge... Philo's pal, something of a mysterious rodent-like species. Grey, with his big, open eyes and that mischievous little voice, he was a constant companion to Philo and served his Trash Heap well. Isolated from the other inhabitants of Fraggle Rock, his quirky, observant comments always brought a little laughter.
I've been away from Sesame Street for so long, but I can still remember Gladys the Cow and her well-bred manner; Don Music desperately trying to finish his newest classic tune, always ending up with a headache from his piano; Placido Flamingo letting the world hear his operatic talent; and Forgetful Jones and his quests to remember what has left his mind which will not come back no matter how hard he tries. And then there was one.
Janice... Janice is my favorite Muppet, and always will be. I have always been fascinated by her. I remember as a kid seeing this girl Muppet with the funny voice and the long, blonde hair who walked about the Muppet Theatre in her own groovy way. When I was very young and couldn't remember her name, I would affectionately call her "Macaroni Hair." I thought she was so unique. As the lone female member of The Electric Mayhem she held her own, and went on to grace us with her "like, totally awesome" presence in the much-loved "Veterinarian's Hospital" sketches, among many others. She didn't crave the stardom as the others did. Janice was in the theatre in her own laid-back way and seemed to think it was a pretty fun gig. Richard gave Janice such a youthful vitality. It's almost impossible not to have the urge to move around when she's onstage singin' her heart out, rockin' with the music as if it churns in her body. She was always there, ready to do whatever the script called for, and never failing to give her audience some good laughs. As a member of The Electric Mayhem she was a core member of what I have deemed The Classic Muppet Trilogy and her presence in scenes always brightens up the film for me. Richard also came up with a great voice for Janice, a deep alto, and a way of talking which made her sound like she could have, like, you know, really come from a beach in California, you know? I will always be so grateful to Richard for giving Janice the wonderful personality that he did, and for putting his all into every performance she had. I love her.
Indeed, Richard put his all into every performance of all of his characters, and that makes it all the more sad, knowing he can't do that anymore. But he worked in TV. and films, and I deeply appreciate the fact that I have some of his best work right here in my house, knowing I can watch his Muppets whenever I need a smile or a cheery thought.
Richard, I know you can't read this or respond to me, but thank you so much for all you've done. For decades you strove to entertain, and for decades you succeeded. You will never be forgotten. Your talent was too great and your characters too touching. One minute I can burst out laughing, the next give a deep, sympathetic sigh. . . who knows? Maybe somehow you do know how we people that loved you and your work feel about you.
I was wrong, you can respond to me. . . anytime I watch a beloved Muppet of yours on the screen, you remind me of how much fun we can have in life. You shared your best with us, and I am forever grateful. May you rest in peace, and be a source of merriment where you are. I know you must be, for you sure were one of the greatest while you were here with us.
Good night Richard.