Growing up, I always had a fascination with puppets. Some of my favorite shows have always had puppets in them. Sesame Street, The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, Bear in the Big Blue House, The Great Space Coaster, they have all had an element of puppetry associated with them. But it wasn't until I started building my own puppet that I started to be fascinated with the people behind the puppets and got a better appreciation for what they do. Throughout the years I've always known of and admired Jim Henson, but then I delved deeper and started looking into other puppeteers like Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt. There was also another puppeteer that really got my attention. His name was Caroll Spinney. He joined Sesame Street for the inaugural season in 1969 and was the man behind many Sesame Street characters including two of my favorites, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
I recently got the chance to meet Mr. Spinney a few months ago at Rhode Island Comic Con. I wasn't planning on going until I found out he would be there. So after waiting almost two hours outside the Rhode Island Convention Center in the freezing cold, I headed straight to his table where a small group of people had gathered and were talking Sesame Street with Mr. Spinney and his wife. I chatted with these fellow fans for a few minutes before it was finally my turn to meet him. I told him what an honor it was to meet him and how he was one of the people who inspired me to chase my dream of becoming a puppeteer. He thanked me, gave me some words of encouragement, signed one of the last out-of-print copies of "The Wisdom of Big Bird" that he had, and took a photo with me.
It is a rare opportunity to meet someone who has had such a profound impact on your life, someone who loves what they do so much, they never stop wanting to do it. It was an honor and privilege to meet him and I hope one day I can inspire young children to chase their dreams and do what they love.
If you would like to learn more about this amazing man, I would suggest watching the 2014 documentary I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. It is a heart-warming look at the life of the man who through his work in puppetry has impacted young and old alike for over 40 years.
"Frankly, I think if I won the lottery and won a billion dollars, I'd still want to continue doing this job. I love expressing myself through it. I've gotten to really love acting. And I've gotten to know Big Bird from the inside out so thoroughly it's like playing my kid. I can't imagine deliberately stopping."
- Caroll Spinney
Below are a list of links that you can visit for some more information.