Tag Archives: Jim Henson The Biography

West Bound and Down (If Only For a Moment…)*

…and hello again. I’m coming to you from San Francisco Airport, where I’m waiting to make my connecting flight to Los Angeles, where I’ll be taping an appearance on The Tavis Smiley Show tomorrow afternoon.  The moment I finish there, I go whizzing back to the airport and return to the East Coast so I can make another mad dash to New York.

It’s been more than a week since I last blogged – and what a week it was.  On Tuesday, October 1, I was delighted – and incredibly flattered – to attend the booklaunch event for Jim Henson at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. I had great fun sitting on a panel with Karen Falk, Bonnie Erickson, Fran Brill, Barbara Miller, and Dwight Bowers. (The expertise on Jim and the Muppets was so deep and wide that I was joking just before we all went on that all I really had to do was sit there and refer all the questions to my fellow panelists….)

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The panel for Jim Henson: The Biography commences (under the watchful eyes of Jim, Kermit and Ernie): From left, Dwight Bowers, Karen Falk, Your Humble Narrator, Craig Shemin, Fran Brill, Bonnie Erickson, and Barbara Miller.

The panel – moderated by Craig Shemin, current President of the Jim Henson Legacy – opened with three really interesting clips of Jim making various talk show appearances, including one that I had never seen before: a bizarre, ill-fated talk show pilot for Orson Welles. Welles appeared to be doing his best parody of himself, and Jim seemed on the edge of cracking up during most of the interview, while Frank Oz looked wryly unamused.

One of the neatest moments on the panel – for me, at least – was when Barbara Miller, one of the MOMI’s curators, pulled out a precious artifact that’ll eventually be on display for the Jim Henson exhibit. “I nearly brought Ernie,” she said, “but decided for something even more intimate.” There was an audible gasp from the crowd as she pulled out of a box – while wearing protective white gloves – Jim’s very own miked headset that he would’ve used while performing on set.  In fact, it appeared to be the very headset in this photo here (another of my very favorite photos of Jim):

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The audience asked great questions, and it was terrific to meet so many of Jim’s fans afterward who told me how much they enjoyed the book.  Thank you, each and every one of you who made the event. And thank you to the Museum of the Moving Image and the Jim Henson Legacy (and, yes, Random House!) for putting together such a great event.  It was a fitting way to kick off Jim’s biography.

I spent the next afternoon doing various radio shows over at SiriusXM – and as a longtime Sirius listener, it was great fun to see the inside of their studios and meet deejays like Frank DeCaro at OutQ, Meredith Ochs and Chris T at Road Dog, and the dynamite Judith Regan (who knows a thing or two about books and publishing).

And yes, just as I did when I appeared on The Diane Rehm Show, I got to wear the headphones. And no, while I kept my eyes peeled, I did not see Baba Booey. Darn it.

I’m getting ready to board now, so I’ll leave you for the moment.  But I’ll be back here shortly with one – no, make that TWO — exciting announcements.  And to say I’m thrilled about both of these would be the ultimate understatement.

See you in a bit.

* No, I’m not down. I was just making the reference work.

What a Week!

I was up late last night, doing The Jim Bohannon Show live in studio from downtown Washington, DC. I’m a fan from way back — when I was working as the night editor of my college newspaper back in the late 1980s, I would come back to my dorm room in the early morning hours and listen to him when he was sitting in for Larry King — and it was lot of fun to talk Jim Henson with him for a full hour.  If you missed it, the entire show is available right here (you’ll have to forward to the appropriate spot — I don’t come in until after the first hour.) It was such a good time, in fact, that I hardly minded getting snarled in traffic as I made my way out of Georgetown on a Friday night.

That was the exclamation point on a fun and exhausting week.  I spent most of Thursday and Friday on the phone doing interviews for places like Chicago, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and New Mexico — some of which I’ll link to when they’re posted, if you’d like to listen — and so far, I’ve managed to keep my voice and haven’t faded into a Bill Clintonesque rasp.  So far.

As advertised here earlier, I also had the pleasure of taking about Jim on The Diane Rehm Show (also taped right here in DC), with a generous assist from Dave Goelz, who phoned in from California.  To my delight (I’m easily thrilled), I even got to wear headphones while sitting in the studio, and only got a slight stare from guest host Susan Page when I did my Ringo Starr impression and asked it they could “turn  it down in my cans a bit.”

Anyway, if you missed me — and Dave — on Diane Rehm, you can listen to the show right here.

Finally, on Wednesday morning, I was pleased to be included in a piece on CBS This Morning about the Henson family’s donation of 20 Muppets to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  Miss it? Here you go.

All in all, it’s been a terrific week — and the coming week will be even busier (and just as much fun) as I make the trip to New York for talks at the Museum of the Moving Image on October 1, and the 92Y on October 2. If you’re in New York, come on by. It’ll be fun. I promise.

Out For Launch

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Jim Henson in The Octagon. Not starring Chuck Norris.

With the Today show scuttled for this morning (but for good reason!), I was home in Maryland all day today — so just for fun, Barb and I spent the morning checking on Jim Henson in our local Barnes and Noble in Gaithersburg. We arrived in the store only a little after its 9 a.m. opening, and almost immediately spotted  Jim perched among the books on the highly-coveted center display table we only recently learned is called “The Octagon.” And it was even right there next to my pal Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost. Not bad.

It got even better almost immediately, as we’d only been in the store for a few minutes before the first copy was purchased. And now, ladies and gentlemen, here I am with Mr. Rich Wood, the first person to buy Jim Henson at my own local Barnes and Noble.  Pretty nice.

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Me with the super nice Rich Wood, who bought the first copy of Jim Henson at my local Barnes & Noble in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

It’s been a gratifying to see the book so well received by so many today.  There was this terrific review in the Washington Independent Review of Books, this long piece in The Atlantic, and lots of enthusiastic mentions by Jim Henson/Muppet fans across the web. To top it off, I was unexpectedly called to CBS Studios down in DC late this afternoon to be interviewed for a segment airing on CBS This Morning all about the Henson family’s latest donation of Muppets to the Smithsonian.  That piece will air tomorrow morning. 

It’s been a  great day, and I appreciate all the kind words, warm wishes, and enthusiasm for Jim Henson: The Biography. I hope you’re enjoying it — and when you get done, let me know what moved you, what made you laugh, what made you angry, what made you cry, and maybe even what made you shout, “No WAY!”

Thank you all so, so much. I mean it.

Finally, Happy Birthday, Jim! We still miss you.

And Now, Please Kick Your Set…

Okay, once more, with feeling.

We’ve now been told that we’re being rescheduled for Today once again — but there’s actually a good reason behind it.  Apparently, they’d like to do a longer segment on Jim, rather than just a quick chat on the couch. While I am (once again!) a bit bummed to miss Jim’s birthday and the launch date for his biography, I’m all in favor of them taking the time to do a lengthier piece.

But that also means I can’t yet tell you when the segment will air. So . . . stay tuned again.

Isn”t live television fun?

High Society and “Tough” Talk

A couple of events for you to put on your calendar, if you’re in New York the week of October 7 (yes, I know I seem to be in New York a lot — I’ll be posting a few non-Big Apple venues here shortly).

6a00d83453b09469e20133f58e2bf6970b-400wiOn Thursday, October 10, I’ll be speaking at one of my favorite places in New York, the New York Society Library. I had the privilege of talking about Washington Irving here a few years ago (wow, was it really five years ago now?) and it’s a great room in a great building, in an organization that’s got some seriously cool history. I’ll be speaking in the Members Room, starting at 6:30 p.m. This is a ticketed event, open to the public. And it should be fun.

nycc-panel-posterThe next evening, on October 11, I’m delighted to be taking part in a panel at the New York ComiCon, hosted, moderated, and put together by Joe Hennes and Ryan Roe over at ToughPigs. Officially titled “Tough Pigs Presents: Jim Henson: The Biography: The Panel” (yeah, I see what you did there, Joe), we’re bringing along three special guests to sit on a panel with me to discuss Jim’s life and work: Muppet designer Bonnie Erickson, Henson Company archivist Karen Falk, and Sesame Street performer Fran Brill, who I’m thrilled to at last be meeting in person.  This is yet another panel with a really deep bench when it comes to Jim Henson and the Muppets — heck, even the moderators are experts.  So, if you’re at ComiCon and wanna learn more about Jim Henson, the Muppets, the Muppet performers, or any number of his projects, we’ll be in Room 1A01 at the Javits Center, starting at 7:45 p.m.  Join us, won’t you? Thank you.

Okay, NOW You Should Adjust Your Sets…

UnknownIf you’ve got your DVR set for Tuesday, September 24, to catch me with Frank Oz on the Today show . . . well, it’s time to adjust your settings. NBC told us last week that this might happen, but now it’s been confirmed:

The Today Show appearance with Frank Oz has been moved from Tuesday, September 24 to Thursday, September 26. 

Not to worry, nothing’s gone wrong — apparently, these things happen all the time when scheduling live television.  While it’s a bit of a bummer that we won’t be there on Jim’s birthday (and official launch date for the biography), my bigger concern was whether Frank Oz’s schedule would still be open.  Thankfully, it was.

So, once again, set — or reset — those DVRs, because we’re gonna be on the Today show. Yes, really. I swear.

The Book Trailer for Jim Henson: The Biography

A great job by the fine folks at Random House. My thanks also to the Jim Henson Legacy for the great behind-the-scenes footage, and to Sesame Workshop and Puppeteers of America for the assist.

UPDATE: The video is down for a moment for a technical fix. It’ll be back shortly.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.) Okay, it’s back up, at a slightly new URL. Click on the image above for the new one.

Jim Henson (and Rachel Syme and Me) at the 92Y

On Biography with Rachel Syme

Mark your calendars now for what’s certain to be a fun event — provided you’re in the New York area, and I hope you will be, because this is a good one.

Unknown On Tuesday, October 2, at 7 p.m., I’ll be sitting with Rachel Syme for her On Biography program at the 92Y. We’ll be talking Jim and the Muppets, as well as the craft of biography — and Rachel already promised on Twitter to dress as Miss Piggy, so there’s that, too.*

This is a ticketed event, so if you’re interested in going, head on over to their website and click away now.

This is one of the most prestigious venues in New York — take a quick peek at their website and try to keep your mouth from hanging open as you look at all the cool people participating in various events and functions  — and I’m beyond honored to have been asked to participate.

See you October 2!

* We won’t actually hold her to that.

Do Not Adjust Your Set…

Here’s the announcement I’ve been waiting to make for a while, but I wanted to wait until it officially showed up in my own TV listings.  Which it finally did last night on my snazzy Verizon FiOs DVR:

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On the same morning Jim Henson is published, I’ll be on The Today Show to talk all about Jim, some time (so I’m told) between 7 and 9 a.m. That’s pretty freaking cool in itself — and I’m both excited and a bit nervous about it — but what this listing doesn’t tell you is who’ll also be sitting with me to talk about Jim Henson . . . someone who knows quite a lot about Jim and the Muppets.

It’s this guy, right here. MV5BMTI1NTM4ODA0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODMxMjQ0._V1._SY314_CR6,0,214,314_

Yup. It’s FRANK OZ.

If you’re writing it down, it’s The Today Show on NBC on September 24.  Check your local listings for the right time. You won’t want to miss this one because, come on, IT’S FRANK OZ.

Book Launch, Radio, Reviews, and More . . .

I’m a virtual plethora of information today. Ready? Here we go…

MOMI-logo-176x176-72dpiFirst, the official book launch for Jim Henson will be on October 1 at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Working with the Jim Henson Legacy, there’ll be a panel discussion about Jim Henson and his work, featuring me, Muppet performer Fran Brill, Henson Company archivist Karen Falk, Dwight Bowers of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and MOMI curator Barbara Miller.  That’s a deep bench of folks well-versed in Jim and the Muppets, so this should be a lot of fun–especially as the panel is moderated by Craig Shemin, current president of the Jim Henson Legacy (and an ace in Jim’s story as well) who’s bringing rare video, along with a beautiful new print of Jim’s 1965 experimental film Time Piece.

The event starts at 7 p.m., and when that’s done, I’ll be signing books–and, as this is a ticketed event, thanking everyone profusely for coming–until they close the place down.

Why the MOMI? Not only did the museum recently host the exhibition Jim Henson’s Fantastic World, but the Henson family recently donated hundreds of puppets and artifacts, which will serve as a permanent exhibit–housed in their very own gallery, courtesy of the support of  The City of New York–starting in early 2015. It’s sort of Jim’s home away from home.

More information on the museum and the event can be found right here.  And don’t worry, while the launch event is October 1, the book is still coming out on September 24. Promise.

UnknownSecond, on Wednesday, September 25 — the day after the book comes out — I’ll be live in studio to talk Jim with guest host Susan Page on The Diane Rehm Show. And if that weren’t exciting enough, we’ll be joined by Muppet performer Dave Goelz.

Yup.

DAVE.

GOELZ.

So okay, you say — those are two cool events, but neither takes place on September 24, when the book is published.  True enough.  I have something else in store for that day — with another special guest. But more on that as we get closer to Tuesday the 24th.

Third: The fine folks at ToughPigs — who are nearly Kirkus-like  in their take-no-prisoners, call it like they see it assessments of Muppet- and Jim-related products — reviewed Jim Henson: The Biography . . . and liked it. A lot. I’ll let you go read the entire thing yourself, but here’s a taste:

“[T]he sheer amount of information, both new and old, in this book is simply staggering . . .  Jim Henson: The Biography is the most complete record of Jim’s history that I’ve ever seen, which is completely relatable to all sorts of Muppet fans . . . This is a must-buy.”

My thanks to Joe Hennes at ToughPigs for the kind words.

Finally, nods to Jim are showing up on all sorts of wonderful and unexpected places.  There was this nice little piece in Hemispheres–the magazine you find in your seat back on United Airlines flights–as well as this full-pager in Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine. Additionally, look later on this month for Jim Henson to show up in Vanity Fair, Real Simple, and over on Parade.com.