Caroll Spinney

To create a character — the complexity of skills necessary for the simplicity of execution — is an amazing thing. I was too old to be part of the target audience for Sesame Street when it premiered, but my younger brother was.

My whole family watched Sesame Street during those early years when it when it was a brand new thing. It was witty, clever, funny, and entertaining, but it also had heart. And its heart was Big Bird.

There was something ingenious about making the “child” character in the ensemble also the largest, and all the other characters treated this sweet innocent giant with such gentleness.

At Big Bird’s core, literally, was Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer inside the suit, bringing Big Bird to life with something unique inside of him. Somehow this adult man could become a child again — questing, learning, feeling, growing as all children do.

It was a gift, especially for children making the same journey that Big Bird was making. That’s what true artistry is, a generous gift shared with us all.

This clip of Big Bird struggling with the death of one of the original Sesame Street character, after the actor playing the character had passed away provides a taste of what that gift was.

Imagine a child who had lost someone important — like a grandparent, a parent, or a teacher — seeing Big Bird struggling to process the same emotions and experience and loss. Hell, I’m decades past childhood but I can still recognize Big Bird’s feelings and confusion in myself.

As I said before, a gift for us all.

Rest in Peace, Caroll Spinney.

Dorothy Fontana 1939-2019

Dorothy Fontana R.I.P.

Sad news. Dorothy Fontana and I both worked on the Make Way For Noddy television back in early 2000s, and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her at a writer’s meeting for the show. She was a lovely lady.

I doubt I made very much of an impression, but I was thrilled because she had made an impression on me long before I even met her. There’s her work on Star Trek, of course, but she also wrote for the original Land of the Lost, Then Came Bronson, Circle of Fear, The Waltons, Babylon Five, and… even Wild, Wild West.

I didn’t even realize she had worked on that last one until checking IMDB. All of these shows were part of the pop culture stew I lived on back in the days, and she worked on all of them, and many more. The woman had a career and should be an inspiration to anyone with aspirations to write for television.

I’m glad we had her for so long, and I’m glad I got a chance to meet her.