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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Rhea

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  1. Performing_Kermit_copy.jpg

     

    Biographer Brian Jay Jones spent five years researching Jim Henson: The Biography—interviewing all five Henson children and Henson’s widow, Jane, poring through notes at the The Jim Henson Company archives in New York, and rewatching Henson’s masterpieces. The result is an insightful look at the gentle artist. Below, Jones shares six little-known facts about the puppeteer.

     

    For the millions around the world who know and love his work, Jim Henson is more than just the creator of the Muppets; he’s practically a member of the family. Whether it’s Muppets, Fraggles, Gelflings, or Goblin Kings, Henson and his creations have educated, entertained, and inspired generations.

     

    Here are six things you might not know about Jim Henson and the Muppets:

     

    1. Jim Henson didn’t originally want to be a puppeteer. 
    Growing up, what Jim wanted to do more than anything was work in television, preferably as a stage designer or art director. But when a local TV show advertised an opening for puppeteers, Jim—who was still in high school—built two puppets, taught himself how to perform with them, and got the job. “I never played with puppets or had any interest in them,” Jim said later. “It was just a means to an end.” It was a means that worked—and once Jim got on TV, he would redefine puppetry for television—and films—over the next thirty years.

     

    2. Jim Henson was nominated for an Academy Award in 1966—but not for the Muppets
    Before The Muppet Show, before Sesame Street, there were the experimental 1960s—an era in which Jim hit a wildly creative stride, developing Twilight Zone-ish TV specials, hippie documentaries, and short animations, all without a Muppet in sight. His seven-minute experimental film Time Piece earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Short Subject. (He lost to the French comedy The Chicken.)

     

    3. The first nationally-famous Muppet was Rowlf the Dog.
    Originally created for a Purina Dog Chow commercial, Rowlf the Dog was added to the cast of The Jimmy Dean Show in 1963, and was an immediate hit. Each week, fans would send the jazz-loving dog—performed by Jim with the assistance of a nineteen-year-old puppeteer named Frank Oz—over two thousand pieces of fan mail, more than even Dean himself received, making Rowlf the Muppets’ first genuine national celebrity.

     

    4. Cookie Monster originally had fangs.
    Okay, he wasn’t the Cookie Monster yet; instead, he was a ravenous, fanged Muppet monster called the Wheel-Stealer, built for a 1966 commercial for Wheels, Flutes, and Crowns snack foods. Three years later, he would be defanged—and made slightly more lovable—for Sesame Street, where he would devour cookies instead.

     

    5. Jim performed Kermit from underwater for The Muppet Movie.
    The opening scene in The Muppet Movie—with Kermit sitting on a log in the middle of a swamp, strumming a banjo—was done by cramming the six-foot-one Jim into a makeshift diving bell and sinking him under four feet of water. He could then perform Kermit by sticking his arm up through a rubber sleeve in the top, watching his performance on a monitor cradled between his knees. Not a comfortable way to spend an afternoon.

     

    6. Kermit the Frog wasn’t the host of the original version of The Muppet Show.
    In the early 1970s, Jim taped two pilots for a weekly Muppet TV series. The first was called The Muppets Valentine Show, and was hosted by a sorta human Muppet named Wally. When that pilot failed to take hold, Jim produced another—called The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence—this time with the vaguely amphibious Muppet Nigel at the helm. It wasn’t until Jim started work on The Muppet Show in 1976 that Kermit was finally installed as the host of the show—and the rest is Muppet history.

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    Are you a David Bowie fan like me? Do you know much about the man?

     

    Here's a little background...

     

    David Robert Jones was born in Brixton on January 8, 1947. At age 13, inspired by the jazz of the London West End, he picked up the saxophone and called up Ronnie Ross for lessons. Early bands he played with – The Kon-Rads, The King Bees, the Mannish Boys and the Lower Third –provided him with an introduction into the showy worlds of pop and mod, and by 1966 he was David Bowie, with long hair and aspirations of stardom rustling about his head. Kenneth Pitt signed on as his manager, and his career began with a handful of mostly forgotten singles and a head full of ideas. It was not until 1969 that the splash onto the charts would begin, with the legendary Space Oddity (which peaked at  #5 in the UK). Amidst his musical wanderings in the late '60s, the young Bowie experimented with mixed media, cinema, mime, Tibetan Buddhism, acting and love. A first rock album, originally titled David Bowie then subsequently re-titled Man of Words, Man of Music and again as Space Oddity, paid homage to the kaleidoscopic influences of the London artistic scene, while hinting at a songwriting talent that was about to yield some of rock n roll's finest and most distinctive work--even if it would take the rest of the world a few years to catch up.

     

    What is your favorite memory of David Bowie? Was it his movies? Music? Maybe it was his outrageous outfits? Lets talk!

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