Muppet magic examined in new Henson biography
If ever you had a single question about the felt magic Jim Henson managed to create, chances are Brian Jay Jones' sweeping new biography of the puppeteer will answer it.
Wondered why Miss Piggy is the way she is? Consider that her father was killed in a tractor accident, at least in the elaborate character back story created by the Muppets' masters.
Thought Kermit was always synonymous with frog? Fact is, he had not taken on an amphibious identity in initial appearances, and was not green but the milky blue of an old coat of Henson's mother.
Curious about the Muppets' late-night engagements? Bet you didn't know they once shared a Las Vegas stage with Nancy Sinatra and made regular appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”
Jones offers a meticulously researched tome chock-full of gems about the Muppets and the most thorough portrait of their creator ever crafted. Henson's story, from his birth in the Mississippi Delta, to his first forays into puppetry as a teenager, to his sudden death in 1990 at the age of 53, is documented in depth.
We're taken along to the creation of iconic characters, the birth of “Sesame Street,” the strain in Henson's marriage, friction with revered children's authors Roald Dahl and Maurice Sendak, and unending merger talks with Disney. We learn Henson's first choice to cast in the central goblin king character of “Labyrinth” was Sting, not David Bowie, who he was swayed to choose by his children. We're told of Henson collapsing in fits of laughter on the set of “The Muppet Show,” of him spending hours underwater to film the “Rainbow Connection” scene of “The Muppet Movie,” and how the puppets were so real they could be disarming to crew members.
It is, in a word, exhaustive, and at times, exhausting.
At its low points, the book drags, reading like an old datebook of Henson's, chronicling every Christmas, every vacation, every minor project, every critic's review. But at its best, it gives a glimpse of the silliness on Muppets sets, of Henson's drive and his soft-spoken genius that in such a short life managed to create so much.
It is a better world with the Muppets. And we are better off with this careful account of their master.
Matt Sedensky is a staff writer for the Associated Press.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Prophecies of doom’ inspire La Roche professor’s teen novel
- Reporter seeks ‘The Kennedy Connection’