I’m older than Sesame Street, but not by much. I was less than two years old when America’s babysitter debuted and I spent my formative years all but permanently parked in front of the television watching my fuzzy friends (literally – I used to sit just a few feet from the screen, likely the cause or result of my already-failing eyesight).
The fast-paced commercial-free dry comedy hooked me in hard and fast. Kermit, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Hr. Hooper, Don Music, Snuffy, Big Bird, and Grover (especially Grover) were my closest companions, my teachers…my friends. When Kermit led a whole new cast of characters into prime time with The Muppet Show the whole muppet universe opened up for me. Add in The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock and even (can you believe it) the great Yoda…well, Jim Henson my hero he became. As a matter of fact when I entered university as a music student my goal was to eventually write music for Henson in some capacity. Unfortunately he passed away while I was in my first year and with him went my desire to work within his franchise.
However, about seven months after Jim died I found myself home for the holidays when lo and behold Sesame Street Live was booked into the Moncton Coliseum. I had no idea what to expect as I virtually ran to the venue to purchase tickets, and when December 28th, 1990 arrived my girlfriend and I took our seats on the floor, midway back from the stage. We soon noticed that we were the only adults in the entire arena that were there without children.
No matter, I was as giddy as a six year-old as a parade of my hairy heroes hit the stage. One after another Ernie and Bert, The Count, and the star of the show Big Bird had their turn centre-stage singing familiar songs and cracking easy jokes as the elementary plot unfolded around the impossible-to-wake yellow-feathered giant. When Big Bird did wake up and addressed the crowd I noticed how the costume worked; the two arms (wings?) of the costume were connected with a thin wire so when the actor moved one arm the other would also moe. This freed up the other arm to extend upwards and operate the beak of the beast.
While the show was paced well and was written to keep the adults entertained as well as their offspring, it was mainly rabid nostalgia that kept me engaged throughout.
Curiously, the image that stays with me the strongest came from after the show. As we were walking out of the venue we walked by the backstage area and through the curtains I saw the roadies loading up the Big Bird costume. The seven feet tall outfit was packed upright in a cage-like box (appropriately enough I suppose) standing fully erect, with wires and straps holding the inanimate character frozen in place. Having this image in my mind of one of my childhood companions rides the line between kinda cool and somewhat traumatic.
Pulling out of the Coliseum parking lot I noticed we were the only vehicle without screaming kids aboard. I believe we were also the only vehicle blasting Led Zeppelin II at full volume on a kickin’ six-speaker 300W Pioneer cassette deck.