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GONZO the...um...

Discussion in 'Classic Muppets' started by Fozzie Bear, Aug 24, 2004.

  1. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    Here is an article I wrote in August 2003 and submitted to a few different places and never got it published. :concern: Hope ya like it.

    Kev
  2. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    GONZO THE…um…

    By Kevin L. Williams
    Fozzie Bear at MuppetCentral.com
    FOZZI3B3AR at ToughPigs.com


    Weirdo! Freak!! Buzzard-beak!!!

    Those are some of the pet names Miss Piggy has for our beloved oddball, Gonzo. With a love of art and chickens here’s a great daredevil “performance artiste” who suffers through failed stunts (the more painful, the better), and is a very essential part of our Muppet friends.

    But who is—WHAT is—this loner character really?

    Officially, the Jim Henson Company (JHC) calls his name ‘The Great Gonzo.’ Unofficially, it’s been stated that Jack Burns, originally of the Burns and Schrieber comedy team, created the concept of the character. There’s been many debates regarding Gonzo by fans of The Muppets for years especially since the film Muppets From Space which answers the question by saying that he’s an alien, which he and his assistant, Dave Goelz, have both accepted and so must be considered fact.

    Looking back in time, Gonzo had humble beginnings. The rumors have one of his ancestors being a turkey, which is a ‘fowl’ idea according to JHC. Still, JHC allowed TV Guide to publish the following description of Gonzo on September 21, 2001: “…little bird with purple plumage, a crooked beak and a fearless gleam in his eye that he probably would never realize all heroes possess.“ Another link to the fowl-ness of being “The Great Gonzo” is that etymology shows the word gonzo possibly stemming from the Spanish “ganso,” meaning “goose, or maybe fool.”

    According to The Muppet Movie, he would have been a plumber looking for a life in entertainment, a dream he would make come true by jetting off to Bombay, India (so as not to do it the “easy way”). I imagine that seeing someone reciting Shakespeare while being blown out of a cannon would be reason enough for Kermit to hire the hook-nosed geek for The Muppet Show. This also brings us to another level of fan-based arguments: Was Gonzo more fun as a character on The Muppet Show, or has the advancement of his personality in recent times made him a better character? That’s open to opinion, isn’t it?

    Then, we’re brought to ask: What is “gonzo,” and how is it used? Online dictionaries tells us: gon-zo 'gän-(")zO' is an adjective, and means 1. Idiosyncratically subjective but engagé. 2. Unconventional. Online thesauruses that I looked at linked ‘gonzo’ to the word ‘bizarre.’ Subjective interpretation and exaggeration characterize the first definition, best example is that Hunter S. Thompson (who wrote “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) represented a style of journalism considered personal and over-the-top called 'Gonzo Journalism.'

    The Japanese have used the term “Gonzo” to mean “the fool,” but it is a name of some historical significance and supposedly they will befriend you if you have that name, considering you one of their own. Oh, and speaking of chickens, there’s the cheaply made, grittily-filmed, and ugly people-filled dirty movie genre called Gonzo Pornography from the 1970’s. I find this somewhat coincidental, since the character was named “The Great Gonzo” during the end of the 1970’s in time for The Muppet Show, and the famous song from a Muppets’ Ed Sullivan appearance (and first act in Episode One)—Mah Na Mah Na—has kind of a pornographic connection.

    A few variations on the use of the name Gonzo comes from Trapper John, MD, a television show from the 1980s with Pernell Roberts of “Bonanza” fame, which had an eccentric but popular doctor nicknamed Gonzo. Arizona Diamondbacks baseball player, #20 Luis “Gonzo” Gonzales, proves the variation on the last name Gonzales to Gonzo.

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled News of the Weird.

    Muppet history leads us to Snarl, a Frackle (a form of Muppet Monster) who lived in a cigar box (causing him to get the nickname The Cigar Box Frackle) in The Great Santa Claus Switch. This program appeared on Ed Sullivan's show on December 20, 1970, in which (according to my sources) the Frackles were evildoers! Dave Goelz was not a part of this, but another actor named Danny Segren performed Snarl.

    After appearances on the Herb Alpert Show (with early Miss Piggy) and a whispering cameo in a 1975 Muppet Meeting Film, “A Few Announcements,” it wasn’t long until Snarl…er, Gonzo…appeared on the second pilot of The Muppet Show, TMS: Sex and Violence, on March 19, 1975. He is found sitting in the audience during the wrestling match.

    On April 25, 1977, Episode One of The Muppet Show airs and forever breaks the history of television with a guest star, puppets, music, Mahna-Mahna, and Gonzo eating a tire to “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Suddenly, the little Frackle is becoming a star—a Performance Artiste—to whom many future performers will give credit for influencing them. Not only do we learn of his stunts-man-ship, but we’re also learning of his musical skill as a gong player, trumpet player, and even the violin, so he is also a musical virtuoso.

    What talent this kid has, huh? Exploding himself, playing musical instruments—no wonder he inspires folks!

    It’s obvious by now that Gonzo will be a staple character for the Muppets, and he gets a face-lift from Dave Goelz who felt the Muppet needed moving eyelids to give him more life.

    During the run of The Muppet Show, there was another milestone in puppetry created called The Muppet Movie. Here is where we learn how the Muppets “sort of approximately” met, especially when Kermit and Fozzie (literally) run into Gonzo and his love, Camilla the Chicken.

    Huh? Chicken? Is this some kind of innuendo or what? At any rate, the original ‘assumption’ that there was someone in Gonzo’s ancestry that was a turkey might be the answer to his love for chickens. However, it was a rumor taken too far that he must really have believed and let himself fall in love with chickens. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to believe the rumor both because he never fit into any other species of Muppet, except Frackle, and he was the only one of those which looked like he did! Still, his question of who he was in his own mind wasn’t answered, and he was no longer considered a Frackle, I guess since he wasn’t that ‘monster-ish’ and was labeled a “Whatever.”

    I’m sure that throughout all his life, our little freak wondered about who he is and where he comes from, and would find him self gazing into the stars. I think it’s a little more than subliminal on his part when we catch him singing “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” in The Muppet Movie (1979), a song he would reprise in 1999 on another soundtrack.

    So a quick recap: Originally named Snarl, Gonzo believes his ancestor is a turkey and is considered a Frackle until he discovers he really doesn’t fit into that Muppet Species; and is termed a “Whatever” until 29 years after we’re first introduced to him in The Great Santa Claus Switch.

    In 1999, a startling revelation came about as Gonzo and Rizzo, sometimes along with Kermit, visit news programs and talk shows to promote the upcoming film, Muppets from Space—a movie which has caused cyber-fist-fights among Muppet Fans the world over. Why? Simply because this: Gonzo discovers from a box of cereal and a sandwich that he is an alien.

    According to Muppets from Space, the rumor of the turkey-ancestor is laid to rest. His real family comes from outer space, and we’re introduced in this film to his blood ancestors, his brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, everybody who he should be happy to see, and is. But when it comes down to it, deep inside his heart, Gonzo is still the “Whatever” we have always known. He now knows ‘what’ he is, ‘who’ he is, ‘where’ he comes from; but at the thought of 'going back there’ he realizes that what he is about to leave is all he’s ever known: Home. We see him regretfully turn down his life’s quest of finding out the answers to “What’s Gonzo” in order to stay with his friends, accepting the fact that he is an alien, but will always be considered The Great Gonzo, a “Whatever” to himself, his friends, and his fans.

    Whether he is considered a Frackle or a turkey or a geek, he is first and foremost, in the bottom of his heart, a ‘Whatever.’

    Special Thanks To:
    Ryan at Muppet Central, and other friends there who’ve discussed him deeper than my one question Ryan answered.

    Filmography:
    Besides multiple television engagments on shows such as The Today Show on NBC and Hollywood Squares, Gonzo has appeared in Ed Sullivan’s “The Great Santa Claus Switch” under a different name, and most importantly in “The Muppet Show” (1977). In 1984 he had a cameo on The Cosby Show and in 1985 guested on Larry King Live. He appeared in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1986), A Muppet Family Christmas (1987), The Jim Henson Hour (1989), The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990) and the attraction Muppet-Vision 3-D (1991), Muppets Tonight! (1996), and the made-for-tv movie It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002).

    Gonzo’s motion picture career includes: The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), and Muppets from Space (1999).

    His straight-to-video debut was in Muppet Classic Theater in 1994, then in It’s Not Easy Being Green (1994).

    Video Game appearances include Muppets Treasure Island and The Muppets Inside CD ROM (1996), Muppet Race Mania (2000).

    There were several soundtracks, compilation videos, magazines, books, and other published works that are not listed here as that would take forever and I’m just really too tired to fool with it.

    Bibliography:
    www.henson.com
    www.muppetcentral.com
    www.toughpigs.com
    http://www.kermitage.com/html/characterindex/tms/characterg.html
    http://www.geocities.com/muppetchristmas/santa_switch.html
    http://us.imdb.com/Title?0158811
    http://www.sideshowtoy.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?category=muppets_s2&item=8010R&type=store
    http://www.tvguide.com/newsgossip/insider/010921b.asp
    http://www.tvacres.com/creatures_gonzo.htm
    http://forum.muppetcentral.com/showthread.php?t=6246
    http://home.wanadoo.nl/nicemoon/Gonzo.htm
    http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?search=gonzo
    http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary
    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=4576
    http://www.granzeau.com:8080/~gonzo/name.html
    http://www.gonzo.co.jp/index2.html
    http://www.creationent.com/muppetfest.htm
    http://us.imdb.com/Name?Goelz, Dave
  3. Xerus Active Member

    That truly was a great article you wrote about The Great Gonzo. Yep, he's been around for many years and is a major character to the wonderful Muppets. And seeing Gonzo get his own movie and revealing the mystery of what he is was just great. :) I can't wait to see Gonzo in more future Muppet stuff. :)
  4. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    He's Tin Man in the Muppets Wizard of Oz!!
  5. Beakerfan Active Member

    Whoa!Really? That's an interesting pick. I would've guessed Kermit for Tin man.
  6. erniebert1234ss Active Member

    If you remember "The Muppets Go To the Movies" special, Gonzo is the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz number; Scooter might have been a better choice for Scarecrow as he was Scarecrow in that special. Fozzie would have to be the Cowardly Lion in my book because of that special. My choice for MY role in our production of the Wizard of Oz, the Gate Guard of Oz, is going to have to be a muppet; Piggy as the Witch? Not even possible. Put Brooke Shields or Vicki Lawrence in as Dorothy (Vicki Lawrence would actually be better as a Mama-ized version of Auntie Em; my bad). Make that Brooke Shields and Sandra Bullock as Dorothy!

    BJ
  7. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    Both Brooke Shields and Sandra Bullock are too old for Dorothy roles anymore, or at least can't pull of acting as a young person. For more discussion on this, go check out this thread here:
    http://forum.muppetcentral.com/showthread.php?t=13141

    I want to keep this thread dedicated to Gonzo.
  8. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Hmmm.... something I've wondered....


    Do you think that some people hinted at Gonzo being an alien early on?

    Atari's Pigs in Space (second picture down... that blue schnozed space ship is him) and That stupid Nintendo game both have Gonzo in alien related activity. There was also a letter in an issue of Muppet babies comics where someone actually guessed that Gonzo was an alien..... hmmmm...
  9. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    Thanks for pointing that out about those games there. Hey, can you link the Pigs in Space link over at the Pigs In Space and Beyond thread? It's in Classic Muppets.

    Hmm. I suppose, then, that maybe Jim had it in mind long ago that Gonzo would be an alien. Could be one of those industry character secrets scheduled to come out at so-and-so date.

    "I want Gonzo to be an alien, but we won't tell folks until the late '90's," kind of thing. "Keep 'em wondering."
  10. Wilhelmina New Member

    lol Love it. Anyone who writes articles on the muppets is my hero. :) :) :)
  11. GelflingWaldo New Member

    Great article. Verry informitive, and fun to read. :concern:
  12. McFraggle Active Member

    Great article Kevin. Good work. :excited:
  13. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    *Puts on tights and a cape*
    Thanks for the comments everyone!
  14. Xela New Member

    Cool article! Gonzo is my favorite muppet. :concern:
  15. JaniceFerSure Active Member

    Very informative article Kevin,thanks for sharing with us.:)
  16. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    I'm glad you're all still enjoying this article.

    Be sure to check out my Pigs In Space fanfic under the fanfic threads, too!
  17. JaniceFerSure Active Member

    Wow Kevin,I just watched your avatar change.Good choice.
  18. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    Thanks--(and I thought MY life was slow)! :D
  19. JaniceFerSure Active Member

    On my days off of work,my life slows down to a snail's pace.:zany:
  20. sarah_yzma Active Member

    wow...GREAT article Kev! I really like it! You sure can write!

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