Caroll Spinney retires

Caroll Spinney retires.  This news broke yesterday that after nearly 50 years, Caroll Spinney is retiring from Sesame Street.  This may be one of the longest gigs for a puppeteer.  Today he will record his final voice session that will be used in the upcoming season of the television program.  It is a retirement that is very well deserved.

Caroll Spinney retiresMy encounters with Caroll

Everyone has their favorite Muppets and favorite puppeteers who performed them over the years on Sesame Street.  Some love the antics of Ernie and Bert as performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, while others love Jerry Nelson’s, Count von Count.  For me, it was always Oscar the Grouch.   I watched Sesame Street on November 10, 1969.  I was almost five years old and remember it well.  He was an amber-orange color back then, which may be one of the reasons that my eyes were drawn to this cantankerous creature.  Orange is my favorite color.  Enjoy this video of Oscar’s debut on Sesame Street.

During this time in my life, my father was a radio announcer and would play Oscar’s signature song “I Love Trash” for me on the radio now and then.  My dad even brought me to a puppetry convention in Boston in 1970.   There we met both the orange Oscar and the bearded man from Waltham, Massachusetts who made him talk.  That man is Caroll Spinney of course.  I do not recall ever having a photograph of that magic moment of my childhood.  I did have an autograph for many years, that has been lost, unfortunately.   

Jumping ahead several decades.   Puppetry is back in my creative life.  I am a father of a little girl who loves to watch Sesame Street with her daddy.  One of Eleanor’s early baby words was “Bau Bau”, which was how she first said Big Bird.  A few years later my son Tiernan was born.  What was his favorite DVD to watch every single day?  “Follow That Bird” of course!  I have very happy memories of my children enjoying Sesame Street with me.

Encouragement from The Grouch

 Caroll Spinney retires Wump Mucket PuppetsI have had the wonderful opportunity to meet Caroll when he was visiting the Cincinnati area.  There’s a fun story about this can be read in my blog.  We also exchanged letters several times.  Caroll has always been very kind and encouraged me to be a puppeteer.  For someone of his celebrity to take the time to write back to a longtime fan means a lot to me.   

Thank you Caroll.  You have given the children of the world so much love through your characters and inspired several puppeteers too.  I wish you nothing but the best.