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Caroll Spinney Book Signing in NYC

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by MuppetFan123, May 6, 2003.

  1. MuppetFan123

    MuppetFan123 Well-Known Member

    Just got back from the book signing and I must say, this was the best time I've ever had.

    Caroll started out with a joke when he opened up by giving a bible chapter and then said just kidding and went on to read a passage from his book.

    After he was done, he opened the floor up for questions.....I cant remember everything and the questions may not be in chronological order, but I will try to give some highlights to the best of my recollection:

    Talked about how he got his start in the business and how he was discovered by Jim Henson

    Mentioned that the average time he can hold his hand up for Big Bird is for 11 minutes or so, but can go for 20......Had to hold his hand up for an hour and a half in Australia doing Big Bird, but he said he couldnt pass up the opportunity to go to Australia

    Talked about how he performs both Big Bird and Oscar at the same time

    Talked about Danny Devito and the time Devito was dressed as a hobo and how much fun it was working with Danny and how Danny when he was doing a movie oversea's took 13 episodes of Sesame Street with him for him and his kids and after watching them over and over, he was calling all over the states trying to get some new episodes.

    Talked about Jim Henson death and how he got the call in the morning from Henson's assistant/secretary called him and told him Jim had passed on. His wife, Debra thought that Caroll's father had passed on when they got the call (This story is explained in the book)

    Talked about Jim Hensons funeral and about the 1500 butterflies that were floating and about Big Bird signing "It's Not Easy Being Green" and how he did it while he was trying to hold back his tears.

    Mentioned the Henson sale to the German TV people after Jim;s death and how Sesame owns their Muppets

    Told some stories about Richard Hunt and Richards characters, specifically mentioning Don Music and the reason we no longer see him

    Told a story how he performed Lefty the Salesman once and just recently saw his appearance as the Salesman on TV recently and joked that Frank Oz gets the royalty check for that segment, even though he performed him

    Spoke of how Frank was on the set to perform his characters this past season, but is not as active as he used to be due to his busy schedule and mentioned that Jerry Nelson still performs the Count

    Talked about how Oscar was originally supposed to be purple and live in the gutter, then when he he saw him for the 1st time, he was orange and lived in a trash can Told the story of how Oscar's voice originated and how the 1st puppet barely fit his hand and how small the garbage can was.The green Oscar was first debted on the Flip Wilson show.Someone from Sesame Street was there and saw the green Oscar and was like "What the ****" and wanted the whole thing shot over, but it couldnt be done due to what it cost to film the skit

    I got to ask a question and it was about Bruno...I asked What ever happened to Bruno and how was he performed -- According to Caroll, Bruno came about as a means to transport Oscar around when he had to perform him on stage at a concert or operan hall due to there being no curtains or areas to hide behind.He created the concept of Bruno and made a drawing of what he should look like.Recently he asked about bringing Bruno back, but it cant be done as the puppet has deterioated and it would cost about 10 to 20 thousand dollars to restore him (OUCH !!)

    The highlight of the evening, was a suprise appearance by one of his characters...I dont wanna ruin the suprise, if he does it in your area...Lets just say that you wont be disappointed :)

    After the Q&A and suprise character appearance, Caroll started to sign the books. They started with children first (which I think is only right, and then went row by row). I happened to be sitting in the 1st row right in front of the podium, so I was like the 6th person to meet him. Caroll was very nice and such a gentleman.We talked about Muppet Central and how he's heard of it, but never visited it as he don't have a computer.He asked me what I do for a living and I mentioned I work with computers and he started talking to me about Sesame Streets website.I also asked him about Richard Hunt's involvement in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and if Richard puppeteered Oscar while he did Big Bird..Caroll said he might have, but he could not remember, but that Richard was with Jerry Nelson performing Snuffy on CEOSS. He also mentioned that CEOSS is one of his all time favorite Sesame Street productions.I also started talking with him about Eric Jacobson and David Rudman and their characters and he was like "Wow..you're real knowledgeable" and I replied "I've been a fan for over 25yrs" and with that he smiled and shook my hand and I went my way.

    All and all, if Caroll comes to your town for the book tour, I suggest going as you will not leave disappointed !!!

    I will be developing my film tomorrow and will send the photos over to Phil to be posted on the web site.

    On a side note..if anyone videotaped this, please let me know as I would like a copy.Thanks !!

  2. pezbalubah

    pezbalubah Well-Known Member

    Hey Michael, I sat next to you (seperated by a row) and was right in back of you on line. I heard a little of what Caroll said to you. I got to ask him about Lefty, at first he didn't remember who Lefty was, but then remembered that he did perform him once and then Frank performed him.

    When I got my book signed, I asked him about being inside Big Bird. Apparently now he uses some kind of neck cooling thing, he doesn't use any kind of bandana or head band to absorb his sweat (that's what I use to do when I was a theme park character). He told me how during the first few years, he had the opportunity to get a cooling vest for $200, but Jim wouldn't spring for it. (sounds just like Six Flags)
  3. MuppetFan123

    MuppetFan123 Well-Known Member

    It was good to see a fellow Muppet Central Member at the book signing. Its also good to know that Caroll is aware that Muppet Central exists.

    The Lefty question was a good one, especially when he was joking about the royality check Frank gets for the one segment Caroll did as Lefty. I didnt even know that he played Lefty in a segment. I always believed Lefty to be performed by Frank. Thanks again for asking that question as I just learned something new.

    I also like how Caroll told the Don Music story and why Don ain't used anymore.

    What saddens me is how Sesame Workshop or for that matter, Henson let the Bruno costume/puppet deteroiate. You would think they would have put the costume/puppet in some type of storage unit and have it checked on occasionaly. It's just SAD :(

    I had a whole lot of questions to ask Caroll during the Q&A, but I narrowed it down to the Bruno question.

    Whats even more amazing, is that I just finished watching the Flip Wilson show before I went to the signing and lo and behold, Caroll started talking about it and I knew what he was talking about.

    BTW...Did you happen to hear Caroll mention about Henson being sold...Was he refering to when they originally sold it EM.TV or the current sale ongoing ?

    This book signing & Q&A makes up for me not being able to go to Muppet Fest.

  4. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    Awesome review ! Sounds like Caroll is a great guy as we all know and he's a diamond for taking questions and having the time to speak to people.

    You might be saddened by the deterioration of Bruno but if people knew what other characters have basically fallen to bits or disintergrated they would be depressed for a year. I don't think Henson have had the right facilities in the past or something bad happened along the way.
  5. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I am going to the Boston area one tonight... I cannot wait...
  6. matleo

    matleo Well-Known Member

    Micheal I was also nearby. Actually I was the one sitting on the other side of Pez who asked about Richard Hunt, plugged the Garden State Guild of puppetry, and helped Carroll remember the website for Puppeteers of America. Sorry we didn't actually know it was you. Next time we should really try to coordinate these things. Anyway, yeah it was fun night. Carroll is a great guy very warm. I can't really add much to what Mike just said. He summed up most of it pretty nicely.

  7. Jackie

    Jackie Well-Known Member

    Man, I really wish I wasn't in the middle of exams!!!!
  8. Hays

    Hays Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for the post, guys - heard him on NPR the other morning doing an interview during the news.

    Can't wait - will be seeing him in Naperville on the 13th.

    I'm amazed that he's doing an independant bookstore in a smallish suburb of Chicago, and not, say, the downtown Borders - or even Barbara's, another indepentant. Hope it's his choice and not the stupidity of the larger stores.
  9. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    Do they charge admission????
  10. MuppetFan123

    MuppetFan123 Well-Known Member

    I cant speak for all the places that he'll be on his book tour, but last night in NYC admission was free. Best bet is to call the store where he is going to be at and ask someone.

  11. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I went to the one in Boston last night...


    I even asked the first question (about Picklepuss and Pops on the "WOW! You're a cartoonist " video

    Man... I will NEVER part with my aurtographed book!
  12. electricmayhem

    electricmayhem Well-Known Member

    Me too. The one nearest me is the night of the day I'm officially done. I'm trying to convince my mom that inthe midst of moving out, we should drive the two hours to see him!
  13. Muppetsdownunder

    Muppetsdownunder Well-Known Member

    Sounds like a great experience. Being here in Australia I cannot get to events like these, I would love to meet someone who had something to do with the muppets. What I feel really sad about though is that I never even got a chance to meet Jim Henson, I would have loved to get an autograph from him, Im only 17 now so was quite young when he died. Its also very sad about those muppet puppets deteriorating like that. Im sure there are many things that us muppet fans dont know about whats happened to various puppets/sets and props. its all a big mystery in the world of muppets but a world I am very happy to be able to be a fan of.

    I just try and collect every muppet item I can, thats all I can do being here in Australia.:) :p
  14. petula

    petula Member

    I was there too!

    Btw, book signings do not cost money. It's just an opportunity for the store to make money from the book sales. And from what I've seen (one girl was holding at least five books), it works! :)
  15. Treelo

    Treelo Well-Known Member

    Foam breaks down with time and/or use. There is really nothing that can be done about it. The old Muppet puppets that have fallen apart couldn't really be saved. It isn't the fault of the Henson staff - it's just a sad reality.
  16. Hays

    Hays Well-Known Member

    What a wonderful, nice man he is! I never knew he had children and grandchildren - he told a story about how his grandchildren call him and ask to speak to Big Bird (and how they tell Big Bird all kinds of stuff they wouldn't tell Grandpa!)

    It was amazing to see Oscar live - I'd been explaining and preparing speeches to my little boy in case he got upset about Oscar being a puppet - and then he was WAY more real than he is on TV!

    God bless him, when he signed my book, he even threw me a bone - and I fumblingly stepped all over it! I thanked him for being the inspiration to my brief career, and mentioned where I had worked last, and he started a story about an old boss of mine which in my nervousness and excitement I gufuffled all over and ruined. He was incredibly gracious and kind, clearly enjoys having the opportunity to tell his stories.

    One funny thing - there was a kid (fortunately not my son!) who was having a serious tantrum near the stage. Mr. Spinney looked over a little helplessly, and then, with a devilish grin, growled "QUIET!" in Oscar's voice. It worked!
  17. Ol' Buddy Bert

    Ol' Buddy Bert Well-Known Member

    I was there too, Hays. I was sitting next to the cranky child at the beginning of the evening. Caroll _was_ extremely charming and very, very giving to each person he talked with.

    I especially appreciated his story about Big Bird's appearance on Mr. Rogers. He was very funny and animated as he commented on his realization that he was having a 20 minute disagreement with Mr. Rogers of all people.

    Another interesting comment that stayed with me was when Caroll commented on how Jim Henson was a very gentle leader and that if Frank Oz had been the sole leader, despite his giftedness in puppetry, things would have been a lot more uptight.

    Puppet Builder was there too and he brought his hand built Hip Cat from the Designs and Doodles book, as well as his Kermit puppet which was signed by Jane and Brian Henson. Caroll puppeteered both of them (even going so far as to do his intepretation of Kermit...which was quite fun) and invested a good deal of time talking with and encouraging him. They were really great puppets, too.

    After most people had left he shared another story about Jim's leadership. There was a time early on in Sesame Street's production when Caroll was having trouble with the lip-sync for "Everyone Likes Ice Cream". Jim kept encouraging him but Caroll said that he just wasn't able to count the beats right in his head. After a particular take, Caroll recounted how he stood behind Jim who was watching a playback. Jim didn't know Caroll was there. As Jim watched the monitor he quietly said to himself, "Garbage." Caroll felt terrible and told Jim that he shouldn't be working with the Muppets and Jim was surprised and said that it was his performance he was commenting on not Caroll's but that if he heard a little "ding" he would know when to come in. Caroll said he could tell that Jim was fibbing a little bit but that Jim had found a way to point in him the right direction.

    I stayed late with a few others...Kristin (Electric Mayhem) was there, as well and we had a very pleasant chat.

    Caroll was surprised that I had traveled so long to meet him and was kind enough to draw Big Bird into my inscription. I too was overwhelmed at the prospect of meeting him and found myself just a little tongue tied. But he was very, very kind and afterward allowed me to get my picture taken with him. I thanked him profusely and he told me that since I had traveled 6 hours I could ask for anything. He then allowed me to have my picture taken with him and Oscar despite the fact that he had an early morning ahead of him.

    It was a memorable visit and I learned that when someone asks for a little bit of my time and attention at the expense of my own agenda, it's incredibly affirming when you just stop and invest in that person right then and there.

    That was the most signifcant gift Caroll Spinney gave to me tonight and I will always remember that.
  18. petula

    petula Member

    Guys, thanks for sharing your stories. I haven't read the book yet (saving it for a plane trip tomorrow), but since the nyc signing, I've been craving more!

    Hays, wasn't Oscar incredible??? I was overwhelmed. If anyone has pictures, please share. I would love to see them.
  19. Hays

    Hays Well-Known Member

    It was an extremely humbling experience. I loved when they talked to each other - like all muppeteers, you don't even notice he's doing both voices.

    For those of you who were there, I was the one with the (hopefully not cranky) boy with the baseball hat and baseball who was trying to get the kids to sing. Wish I could have stayed to talk puppets and muppets, but had a 2-hour drive home. Glad to know I wasn't "alone."
  20. Ol' Buddy Bert

    Ol' Buddy Bert Well-Known Member

    Hays, my entire family thought your son was very well behaved and very cute too!

    I heard you bantering with some of the customers and thought for sure you were probably from MC. Glad you you could make it!

    BTW, I took tons of pictures so if anyone is interested just send me an e-mail.

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