Tag Archives: Fraggle Rock

Wonders Follow Me: A Personal Reflection on Jerry Nelson

24 Aug

Yesterday a star went out, as news quickly spread that long time Muppet and Sesame collaborator, Jerry Nelson, had passed away.

Many of you probably assume you don’t know who he was, and you’d be incredibly wrong in thinking so. If you grew up with Sesame Street, then you’d know Jerry best as The Count, Herry Monster, Sherlock Hemlock, and Mr. Johnson (ie. Fat Blue). If you grew up with Fraggle Rock, then you’ll know him as Pa Gorg, Gobo Fraggle, and Margery the Trash Heap. And with the Muppets he will always be known for Lew Zealand, Robin the Frog, Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, and hundreds of others. Just looking at all his puppeteer credits on the Muppet Wiki should clue you in to how much Jerry’s been apart of not just your childhood, but your life as well.

Jerry was seventy-eight, and his health had been deteriorating over the years, so his sudden death wasn’t too considerably shocking… but then again, losing such an influential figure is always jarring. I knew straight away I’d want to write a personal reflection on the part Jerry’s played in my own life, but finding the words have been so difficult for me. I can’t help but think on these lyrics from The Muppets Take Manhattan:

“Saying goodbye, why is it sad?
Makes us remember the good times we’ve had.
Much more to say, foolish to try.
It’s time for saying goodbye.”

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I haven’t been in the Muppet fandom for very long. Not compared to the multitude of friends I’ve made, who’ve been obsessing over Muppets, Sesame, and Fraggle Rock for years on end. I’ve always loved Sesame and the Muppets, but I’ve only been around the fandom for a little over a year and a half now. Even so, that’s still enough to make me want to run outside and sprint through the streets screaming, “Don’t you realize what’s happened? Doesn’t it eat away at your heart? Doesn’t anyone care?”

I’ve been playing the song ‘When the River Meets the Sea‘ on constant repeat since my friend, Scott, informed me of Jerry’s passing last night. The opening verse Jerry sings of this song touches me so much, because I can’t help but relate it to his passing:

“When the mountain touches the valley,
All the clouds are taught to fly
As our souls will leave this land most peacefully.
Though our minds be filled with questions,
In our hearts we’ll understand
When the river meets the sea.”

Jerry Nelson was the first Muppeteer I became aware of after Jim and Frank, seeing as I knew about Jim and Frank long before my Muppet love became a prominent part of my life. I’d seen footage once in 2010 of all the Muppeteers performing at Jim’s memorial, but while I recognized the voices I couldn’t place the faces (besides Frank’s). Cut to January of 2011, I’m stuck in bed with strep throat and discovering more and more by the minute that the Muppets are the most amazing thing on this planet. I made the first real steps of my life as a Muppet fan while bed ridden and ill: I found the Muppet wiki. I spent hours on that thing, learning people’s names, who played what character, who wrote for the shows/movies, and so on. I remember the first Muppeteer I ever looked up was Jerry. I remember this as clearly as if it were yesterday. I remember thinking, “Okay… Floyd! Yeah, I know who Floyd is. And Robin too, but… Uh… Who’s Louis Kazagger? … And is Crazy Harry the one with the bombs? And who’s Gobo?” I had a long way to go as a fan, but I cemented Jerry’s face and voice in my mind that day, and it’s never left me since.

Jerry’s also the reason I found the Muppet fan community so quickly. I’m sure I would’ve found them out eventually, but upon doing a Google search for Jerry I found that he had posted on Muppet Central before. This led me to making my own MC Forums account, which led me to meeting some incredible people and, eventually, got me onto Tough Pigs. Again, I’m sure I would’ve discovered all this on my own time, but thanks to Jerry I learned right from the get go that I was not alone in this brand new obsession.

One thing that saddens me about his passing is that I’ll never get the chance to meet the man. For months now I’ve had the idea of getting the words “Something’s Calling Me” tattooed on one wrist, and “Wonders Follow Me” on the other. I had always hoped I’d someday meet him once I had these tattoos so I could show him. I bet he would’ve gotten a kick out of them. He seemed like the type of guy who would.

I’m sure every fan and friend of Jerry is thinking the same thing today: what did Jerry mean to me? Mortality tends to do that to us. It makes us think on all that the person did for us and the rest of the world. And Jerry did so much. He taught us to count. He taught us that halfway down the stairs is a great place to sit, and that being little isn’t such a bad thing (which is good to know, as I am a pretty short person). He taught us that silly things like boomerang fish can be art, that chickens can be beautiful, and that theatre phantoms aren’t always so scary. He taught us that adventures are worth going on, and what some people consider to be trash can be the most important thing on this planet to others. He even taught us that sometimes you just get bad service at restaurants and it can’t be helped (curse you, Grover!).

Goodbye, Goodbye,
And every eye is dry.
Leavin’, there’s no grievin’,
Just a rainbow in the sky.
Goodbye, goodbye.

More so than anything, Jerry taught me what it means to be an all around swell guy. I never met him, as previously stated, but I’ve heard enough about interactions with him to know he was a truly amazing human being, just as every person who works with the Muppets is. He brought laughter with performances by Lew and Mr. Johnson, tears with songs by Robin, and the need to dance with pretty much every song Floyd ever did. He was a guy filled with soul, which is greatly reflected in his own personal music that he’s recorded on his own.

This morning I deliberated if I wanted to go on my usual run, since I wasn’t feeling quite up to it. The only reason I decided to go really was because I had to make a stop at the bank to deposit my paycheck anyway. I’m glad I did though. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have noticed the book on the bank’s table of toys for kids that had the Count on the cover. It made me realize that, even though Jerry is gone, his characters will truly live on forever. I also noticed two older men bickering in a friendly fashion on the sidewalk that bore a striking resemblance to a certain two hecklers, which I couldn’t help but think of not just Jerry, but Jim and Richard as well.

Times like this makes us reflect on not just who we’ve lost, but everyone we’ve lost. The song ‘Can You Picture That’ came up on my iPod during my run, and I couldn’t help feeling heartbroken that the main three singers of the song are all now gone. Not just those guys either. Over the years we’ve lost Jerry Juhl, Eren Ozker, Will Lee, Don Sahlin, Judy Freudberg, Northern Calloway, and the list goes on. I wasn’t alive for the passing of Jim, and I was only one when Richard passed on, so this is the first time I’ve ever had to cope with losing a truly prominent person of Muppet and Sesame renown.

I don’t know if I believe in heaven or not, seeing as my relationship with religion is so jumbled, but I know I’d like for it to exist. If heaven does exist, then I really hope Jim, Richard, Christine (Jerry’s daughter), and Jerry Juhl were all waiting for Jerry as he made his way through those pearly gates. Especially Richard. I can just see Richard, a big silly grin slapped on his face, approaching Jerry with open arms. The duo reunited. What a sight to see.

If you guys have some time, I recommend watching these clips of Jerry’s performances:

I’ll end this piece with a quote from the article the AV Club wrote up on Jerry’s passing, that I think defines Jerry’s contribution to Sesame and Muppets to a tee:

“If Jim Henson was the heart of The Muppets, and Frank Oz the brains, than Jerry Nelson was the soul.”

Worries for Another Day

8 May

I don’t have anything to write about so far today, and I doubt I will later seeing as the rest of my day is going to be spent prepping for my Thursday journey to Portland, so I’m going to share this picture I came across earlier today.

 

Dance your cares away!

 

It’s a picture taken during the 1980s of the cast and crew of Fraggle Rock. I found it on the Jim Henson’s Red Book site (which I have no clue why I don’t visit it more often). Just look how happy all of them look. Man, what I’d give to jump back in time and work on the set of this show. I wish I knew more of the crew, and even the cast as well, of this show. I know the Fraggle five, Rob Mills, Jerry Juhl, and Jim’s in this picture as well, but that’s about it (I can’t spot Karen or Jerry to save my life though). But geez, look at all those smiles. How could they not smile? They’re working on a show that Jim pitched as “a show that will bring about world peace”. I’d be pretty happy too if I were one of them.

And oh my god, Steve, stop being so adorable. I could spot your hair from a mile away.

Music to Help Find the Beauty in Life

26 Jan

So, like most people in this world, I love sad songs. Songs that bring tears to my eyes, songs I can heavily relate to, songs that I can listen to when I’m already having a bad day. We, as a people, like songs that let us emote with them.

That being said, I don’t think there are enough songs out there about beauty. No, not the beauty of a woman or the beauty of love, but the beauty of the world. The beauty of life. Songs that make you stop dead in your track, ponder the lyrics, and say to yourself “Why yes, I am rather grateful for this life I’ve been given.”

So I composed a list of ten songs I think best do a job of this. I did it really rapidly in my Young Adult Fiction class, so I’m sure I’m forgetting a song or two, but whatever. This is what I came up with:

1. Beauty – Starship

We don’t got
Any kind of worries
Our way of life is laissez-faire
No wealth, no poor, no hypocrisy
Just beauty
Beauty everywhere

Yes, Starship, the Starkid production from last year. I think this song is absolutely gorgeous. It builds up this world where anything and everything is considered beautiful, and, sure, it’s a world made up entirely of bugs, but I think that drives the point home even more. They don’t have materialistic wants or needs; they’re simply happy doing the jobs they are assigned and living their life out in peace.

2. Good Morning, Baltimore –Hairspray

Good morning Baltimore
Every day’s like an open door
Every night is a fantasy
Every sound’s like a symphony

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t listened to this song in probably over two years now. Nonetheless, it’s still a great song. Baltimore’s not exactly known for it’s – erm – cleanliness, but even so Tracey’s able to find beauty in everything from “the rats on the street” to the sketchy people around her. It’s just a very uplifting song.

3. Haven’t Met You Yet – Michael Buble

And I know some day that it’ll all turn out
You’ll make me work so we can work to work it out
And I promise you kid that I give so much more than I get
I just haven’t met you yet

This one touches much more on the beauty of life. I just love the idea that in presents. We may be alone now, but that’s just because the person we’re going to spend the rest of our life with hasn’t been acquainted with us. Not just yet. But this idea that everyone has someone who they just haven’t met yet? Fucking beautiful.

4. Beautiful Ride – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

It’s about the good walk
And the hard walk
And the young girls you’ve made cry
It’s about make a little music everyday ‘til you die
It’s a beautiful ride

Yes, we’re talking about the Judd Apatow film that flopped at box offices several years back. Thanks to my best friend, Nick, I have seen this movie more times than I can count. That being said, the movie ends with this and, quite honestly, it’s actually a really beautiful song. This may be hard to pick up on whilst watching the movie, but if you have the soundtrack (like me…guilty as charged), then you’re bound to pick up on this fact. The lyrics are lovely. Simple, maybe, but beautiful. It depicts how materialistic needs can never hold a candle to the time you spend with your family and friends, and also “loving yourself”…”but not only yourself.” And, in the end, it’s about everything you achieve. Life is, simply a beautiful ride.

5. Life’s A Happy Song – The Muppets

Everything’s great
Everything’s grand
I’ve got the whole wide world
In the palm of my hand

Don’t act like you’re surprised a Muppet song made it onto this list.

I shouldn’t have to explain why this song is about appreciating life; the title really says it all. Life’s a happy song, and “we’ve got everything that we need, we can be whatever we want to be.” It’s such a lovely message.

6. Beautiful World – Colin Hay

And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up I watch it as it sets
Yeah this is as good as it gets.

This has always been one of my favorite Colin Hay songs. It just describes some beautiful moments in life. Swimming in the sea, driving in your car, drinking tea, making love, and so on. It’s got a really gorgeous tune to it.

7. Twenty Something – Kerrigan & Lowdermilk

This is it. This is what’s hot.
It’s your moment. It’s your decade.
But you’re only twenty-something til you’re not.

This one applies more to my generation than others, at this point in time. “Twenty Something” is about being a twenty something year old and having so many opportunities open to us. The world is our oyster; we can accomplish anything.

8. Follow Me – Fraggle Rock

Everyday the world begins again
Sunny skies or rain
Come and follow me
Every sunrise shows me more and more
So much to explore
Come and follow me

Yes, I am, in fact, listing a Fraggle Rock song. Not too much to say on this song, it really just reinforces the idea that everyday is a new beginning and a chance at a new adventure.

9. The Beauty Is – Light in the Piazza

I don’t understand a word they’re saying,
I’m as different here as different can be.
But the beauty is I still meet people like me.

Okay, so maybe this one specifically made the list because I’m going to be going to Italy in two months, but there’s more to it, I swear. This song’s all about the beauty you find when going to a different place you’ve never been to and still being able to make these connections with the people there. It focuses on the beauty of how, no matter where you go, people are all the same. The end of the song is really my favorite part: “And the beauty is, when you realize, when you realize, someone could be looking for a someone like you.” It really ties more in with what’s going on in the show than with the rest of the song, but still, it’s lovely.

10. Being Alive – Company

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

This, to me, has been the most beautiful song since I first heard it back during high school. It’s all about coming to that realization that we need people in our life, and that we can’t do it alone. We need other people to “make [us] alive”, even if it is being “used” and being “put through hell”. It reminds us of the beauty of lie and the beauty of making those connections with those around us, because, in the end, there is nothing more beautiful than being alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

An Entry Where I Try To Explain My Muppet Obsession To The World

7 Jan

You all knew this was coming. You had to. It’s me, after all. How could I go without writing an entry dedicated to them? Hell, the URL for this blog pretty much says it all. It was unavoidable, so we might as well get this subject out of the way now, while this blog is still shiny and new. Best not to draw it out any longer.

I thought it appropriate to breach the topic of my Muppet infatuation today, January 7th, which is the twentieth anniversary of the great Richard Hunt’s passing.

What? You don’t know who Richard Hunt is?

Good grief, okay, well, you do know who he is, you just don’t know that you know. You know Beaker? Sweetums? The left head/hand of the Two Headed Monster? Scooter? Statler? Forgetful Jones? Junior Gorg? Gladys the Cow? Janice? Well, up until his passing in 1992, he was all of those characters, and much, much more. So while you may not recognize his face or his name, his voices and his performances you do and they will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

So. Right. Muppets.

For those of you who haven’t noticed, I love Muppets. I love them a lot. Over the course of this last year I have become the girl who loves Muppets; at least, I have in the eyes of my friends and family. It was my official one year anniversary as a Muppet fanatic last week, and I couldn’t be any prouder. For the most part, my adoration of all things Jim Henson has been received quite well. Some may find it a tad odd, but most people have been rather appreciative of my Muppet love. I’ve even been thanked for bringing back a few fond memories for quite a lot of people. And, of course, I wrote the somewhat popular “Where The Fraggles Roam” slam poem, which has garnered me quite a lot of attention in the realm of youtube and the Muppet-verse, which is lovely in its own way.

That being said, I do think that I underplay my obsession around loved ones. I kind of have to. If I were to show my true colors to my friends, my family, this quality of my life would go from endearing to questionable in a pinch.

I mean, how would I even go about it? How am I supposed to say that I once watched the Emmet Otter blooper reel ten times in a row in one sitting? How am I supposed to admit that I have 30+ friends on facebook who I’ve met via online Muppet forums? Or that I actually met and hung out with someone from one of those Muppet forums (and had a goddamn delightful time)? Or that I’ve sketched Muppet creations of my own? Or that I’ve read Muppet fanfiction? Or how I started sobbing in the middle of a street when Bill Barretta responded to one of my tweets? Or that I’ve seen The Muppets six times in theaters and cried at the same parts each time? Or that I once broke down in tears because it hit me how old and sick Jerry Nelson has gotten? Or that I have Big Bird’s autograph on my wall? That I dream Muppets? That I daydream Muppets? Or that I have a speech prepared for the day I meet Steve Whitmire? Or that I’ve been in constant turmoil about what Muppet quote to get for my first ever tattoo?

Yes. It’s difficult to explain.

(And yes, I do cry a lot. Shut up.)

About a week ago, someone online called me out on being just a “Muppet poser” and that because I have yet to still see a lot of Henson’s work I’m just going through a “phase” and will move onto the “next fad” when I decide Muppets are “too mainstream”. First and foremost, this is bullshit. After the year I’ve gone through? I don’t think there’s a person who doubts that Muppets are going to be a part of my life for, well, the rest of my life.

Growing up, I’ve gone from obsession to obsession to constant obsession. From Harry Potter to Star Wars, from Xmen to Lord of the Rings to Newsies in middle school. From Broadway musicals to LOST, from Firefly to Geoffrey Rush movies in high school. From Repo! to Parks and Rec, from pirates to Game of Thrones, from Steve Buscemi to Stanley Tucci in college. You name it, I obsessed over it. Some obsessions lasted a week, some five months, some two years, and some even longer, but the Muppets have been different. It’s almost as if I’ve been flitting around from obsession to obsession looking for the one I can call my own; the one I can call home. An obsession filled with wonderful fans, fascinating facts, interesting processes, innovative minds, extraordinary hilarity, brilliant and beautiful movies, and just a world I can learn and apply to my life.

That is the Muppets for me. They are my heart. They make me happy and they give me hope and fill me with a sense that anything is possible. They remind me of the importance of friendship and the necessity of dreams. They bring me peace, joy, laughter, harmony, and love. I view them not only on a personal level, but a philosophical one. They see the world the way I wish everyone could see it. They see rainbows as a sign of hope, not hate. Dynamite is used for humor instead of hurt. Everyone has the right to love and befriend whoever they want. Death, when mentioned in any of the Muppet mediums (and Sesame, Muppets, and Fraggles have all touched on it majorly at this point) is talked of so genuinely and beautifully. They offer a world where balloons can whisk you away, where a bear and a frog can conceivably be identical twins, where appearance doesn’t matter, and where friendship and love will always outrank evil doing and fame. To quote Kermit the Frog: “Yeah, well, I’ve got a dream too. But it’s about singing and dancing and making people happy. That’s the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with.

Why wouldn’t anyone want to live in such a world?

Not to mention the fact that Muppet fans do not bicker or quarrel, like Starkid, Community, or LOST fans. We are not scary like tween girls who fawn over Twilight; we are calm, collected, warm, and welcoming. We understand that you are never too old to love Muppets. We are intelligent. We are comedic. We are awesome, in every sense of the word. While some people see mere fabric on hands of men and women who shape them and make them talk, we see magic and wonder and beguilement. We feel real emotions, and we connect with these characters because they are able to make us feel those emotions. It doesn’t mater that the characters are made of felt and faux fur, in those moments when we watch their shows and movies they are real to us and that is all that matters. And no, we are not stupid, we do know, for a fact, that the characters we’re watching aren’t real, which makes us even more dedicated to the people behind the fabric. We know the names of the performers, the writers, the costumers, the crew. We appreciate every single person, because we understand how much work and effort goes into creating these performances, which makes me come to the conclusion that Muppet fans are truly the most appreciative fan base out there. Just saying. We may be a small community, but we are mighty.

And it’s not like Muppets are the be all end all of my own life. I mean, okay, they kind of are, but believe it or not I actually do have days where I don’t want to watch anything Muppet related. I once planned a week in advanced on watching The Muppet Show on my free night off from school/work, but when it got to that night I decided I’d rather catch up on Merlin instead. What can I say? Most days are generally Muppety, but other days I’d just really rather be watching 30 Rock or Doctor Who.

That being said, Muppets are still number one in my heart. To quote a very wise man:

“As long as there are singing frogs and joking bears, Swedish chefs and boomerang fish, the world can’t be that bad of a place.”

…. Okay, fine, yes, I did just quote a Muppet. Um… Okay! Wait, here, here’s an actual quote from someone who’s real:

“[Muppets] are just such a force for good, and I know that’s crazy to hear me talk about it, but I’m in love with them. They remind us of the best version of ourselves. They’re who we wanted to be when we were kids.”

Jason Segel said this in an interview. Oh what a wonderful, wonderful man (ie. my future husband-to-be).

I don’t know what else to say. To me, Muppets are more than just an amazing fandom. They’re a lifestyle. As odd as that may sound, I like to think in the world we live in people are going to be rather accepting of this fact. If not? Well, I’ve got my ToughPigs and MC Forums peeps to rely on.

So thank you, Muppets, and thank you especially to Mr. Hunt, on this day of all days, for being one of the key contributors to the thing that brings me the most happiness in life, because that’s really what everyone should strive for: To find the thing that makes us happier than we ever conceived.