I was sad to learn of the passing of Dorothy Love Turk, who died earlier this month at the age of 88. Dorothy — or “Dot” as she insisted I and everyone else call her — was one of the very first people I contacted when I began my research on Jim Henson back in 2010. As a guide at the Jim Henson Boyhood Museum in Leland, she was great at helping me track down All Things Jim Henson in their little town–and as a lifelong resident of Leland, she was also the expert on the history of Leland. Heck, she even wrote a terrific history of the place, charmingly called Leland, Mississippi: From Hell Hole to Beauty Spot. That was her kind of title.
Her book on the history of Leland, in fact, was also one of the first I bought when I started researching–I had to grab it from a used book store–and she was genuinely touched that I had purchased it, read it, and even brought it with me for her to sign. When I handed the book over for her sign, she turned to the blank front page, and wrote simply, “to Brian, Dorothy Love Turk.” When I returned to Leland a year or so later for a Henson-related event, she ran up to me somewhat flustered and apologized for “signing [my] book so badly!” She said she was so rattled by the idea that anyone would ask her to sign her book that she didn’t know what to write. That sort of adorable humility was very much part of her charm.
Dot served as my eager tour guide during my time in Leland, introducing me around–having her vouch for me went a long way with the locals–helping me get in touch with some of Jim’s childhood friends, and regaling me with the gossip and town legends that made Leland such a magical place for Jim Henson to spend his early years. They take pretty good care of Jim Henson down there, and it’s thanks in no small part to people like Dot. She took good care of me, too, and I’ll miss her.
If you’re a Muppet fan, chances are you’re already anxiously awaiting the release of Muppet Guys Talking, Frank Oz’s documentary of . . . well, Muppet guys talking about life, art, and working with Jim Henson. And who are the Muppet Guys? They’re Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Fran Brill, Dave Goelz, and Bill Barretta. More information — including how you can watch the documentary when it’s released later this week — is available over on muppetguystalking.com. Go.
While you wait, you might also wanna check out this really wonderful interview with Frank Oz, conducted by those savvy fellas over at Tough Pigs. And I’ve gotta admit: I’m thrilled to be on the receiving end of some first-rate Frank Oz ballbreaking:
NOTE: I actually love Paul McCartney.
This is me lecturing on Jim Henson last week — I had to step in when a regularly-scheduled lecturer was taken ill.
One is truly never really out from under the gaze of Ernie and Bert.
Okay, maybe it’s really not Jim Henson Day — but it’s Jim’s 81st birthday, so over on Twitter I suggested we make #JimHensonDay a thing. And really, when the President of the United States is tweeting like a lunatic, all but taunting another country into nuclear war, I figure now is as good a day as any to remind ourselves that there are still a lot of good people and good things going on in the universe — and that Jim, his life, and work remain an inspiration for fun, creativity, and basic decency.
Here’s the string of Twitter posts I put up this morning. Feel free to comment on what Jim and his work mean to you in the comments — or join the conversation on Twitter on the hashtag #JimHensonDay.
Go out and do something silly today. Jim would approve. Heck, he’d encourage it.
“When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who makes a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave this world a little bit better for my being here.” — Jim Henson
Happy Birthday to Jim Henson, who would have been 80 years old today. Celebrate his life by doing something silly, just because you can. Jim would approve.
Here’s one of my very favorite images of Jim, taken in the late 1980s. This one actually hung in the National Portrait Gallery for a while.
Have fun today, and think of Jim for a little bit while you do it.
Happy Birthday, Jim. We still miss you.
After nearly three years in hardcover, Jim Henson is finally available in a nifty paperback format. Just for fun, I’ve posted the entire wraparound book jacket, so you can see what a nice job the folks at Ballantine have done with it. There was a bit of discussion about the best color to use as a background to give the paperback a different look and feel than the hardcover, and I think the light blue is a nice touch. You can click here to get it on Amazon, here for Barnes and Noble, and here to find it on Indiebound.
It was also neat this morning to see Random House tweet out a photo of the five books they launched today. There’s Jim, in the photo at right, leaning casually up against the Rolling Stones.
I’ve been asked if there’s any material in the paperback that wasn’t in the hardcover, and the answer to that is: yes, but you probably won’t really notice. There were a couple of corrections to be made (somehow, I put Featherstone in the cast of Tales of the Tinkerdee, when, doggone it, I knew better than that), and a reference to the TV reboot of The Muppets, but for the most part, there are no real major additions. I got pretty much everything in the first time.
Oh, and in case you’re still without one, the hardcover will stay around for just a bit longer, too, before it’s finally taken out of print.
At long last, there’s an official release date — and official cover — for the paperback of Jim Henson: The Biography. It’ll be coming your way on May 10, 2016.
You can pre-order it on Amazon right here, at Barnes & Noble here, or from IndieBound here. And, of course, you can also order it from your favorite bookstore near you.
While I’ve been trying to keep appearances to a minimum as I finish up work on George Lucas, here’s one I couldn’t resist:
I’ll be giving an hour-long presentation on Jim Henson at the Guilderland Public Library in Guilderland, New York, on Friday, February 19, at 2:00 p.m. As an added bonus, the library will have several Muppets on display, on loan courtesy of The Jim Henson Legacy.
Which Muppets, you ask? Ah, that’ll be a surprise for me as well.
The Guilderland Public Library is located at 2228 Western Avenue, just northwest of Albany. And did I mention it’s free? Of course it is — so if you’re in the area, come on by.
Months and months and MONTHS ago, I was interviewed on camera by a crack team of documentarians for a new PBS series called In Their Own Words — the first three episodes of which would feature Queen Elizabeth, Muhammad Ali, and (ta dah!) Jim Henson. Back then, they weren’t quite sure when the series would premiere, but now here it is, all queued up and ready to go on a PBS station near you this September — with the Jim Henson episode slotted for September 15. (Looking over the schedule, it appears there’s also one part of a two-part documentary on Walt Disney airing that evening, so it’s a good night to get your fill of creative geniuses.)
Will I be on camera? I don’t really know; looking at the preview, they got tons of terrific people to talk with them — Frank Oz, Brian and Cheryl Henson, Michael Frith, Neil Patrick Harris — so what are ya looking for ME for anyway? Click on the photo of Jim below and have a look:
In Their Own Words: Jim Henson, airs on September 15 at 8:00 pm — but check your local listings, as they say. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.
While I’ve been keeping speaking engagements to a minimum as I work on George Lucas, I’m incredibly honored to be asked to speak on Jim Henson at the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the end of September. I’ll be kicking off the Monday morning session on September 28, down in Vicksburg, Mississippi. For more information, you can check the conference out right here.