1 The Muppet Mindset: Remembering Jerry Nelson, Part 2

Aug 26, 2012

Remembering Jerry Nelson, Part 2

Sailin' through the eye of that storm by Ryan Dosier

David Hosay - I have no memory without having Jerry in my life. His characters from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock entertained, educated, and inspired me. I listen to his voice almost every day: Muppet music, his Truro Daydreams album, or his spoken word on the "It's Not Easy..." audio book. Why? His voice is like listening to an old friend. One that has been with me for 36 years. His songs were a constant reminder to appreciate the world around me, have fun, and never stop dreaming. When I made the high school chorus, I would listen to Jerry and try to mimic him, as he was my idea of the perfect tenor.

Last year I got to fulfill a dream of creating and performing a puppet character for a series of commercials for a local furniture store. When looking for the voice, I started with Jerry's weasel character from Emmet Otter and just repeated in my best Jerry impression, "Me and Chuck don't wanna go to no dumb music store." It began there with the New York accent, then I tried to make it sound more like me, but with Jerry's edge.We were fortunate to be nominated for an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy award for "Best Commerical Campaign." During the ceremony, I thought of all the people that influenced me in my life that brought me to the moment of being a regional Emmy nominee for writing, producing, and performing for a puppet. Jerry was at the forefront of my mind all that weekend. He was my inspiration through the whole process. I wanted so badly to thank him for it.

My wife and I have three children, ages 8, 5, and 2. Just like Robin realized in "Just One Person", there are people that believe in them and they can do important things when they believe in themselves. Just like Gobo learned from his uncle in "Follow Me", they can explore the possibilities that life offers, make their own paths, and invite others along the way for the fun. My kids sing Jerry's songs and they will believe the same way I did. I could just tell them all that good stuff, but it's more fun and memorable when it's Jerry's songs. Remember what Jerry says, "Be Positive!" This morning, for some reason, my daughter, Piper picked Gobo to want to take with her to the sitter's. I told her Gobo's friend, Jerry Nelson, died last night. She hugged Gobo tightly to comfort her friend.

I loved Jerry very much, although I never had the opportunity to perform with him, meet him, or even personally thank him. His performances will forever be an inspiration to me and my family. Without Jerry, it isn't the same... Fortunately he and his work lives on through those that are left to carry the torch.
 Jerry Nelson 1934-2012 by Nickyle Edwards

Matthew Drapper - Jerry Nelson's Muppet characters existed for the pure, unadulterated LOVE of the things they do. Uncle Deadly loved the threatre, The Count loved to count things, Floyd lived to play guitar and sing, Lew Zealand loved to throw the fish away and they loved to come back to him, Crazy Harry just loved to blow things up. Follow his lead. Love everything that you do and do everything that you love with every ounce of life that you have in you. I did not meet Jerry Nelson, but he impacted my life. I feel sad for all those who were close to him, because if I miss him this much I know they must miss him so much more. They must know, as we do, that his work will continue to impact every generation. 
 The Count by cinemawhirpool

Hilarie Mukavitz - I think for those of us that have had the Muppets in our lives since our early childhoods, there is an important rite of passage. When we are really little, we think that there is some magical place where the Muppets walk and talk and live their lives. For me, Toronto will always hold a big of magic because in my mind, that's where Fraggles come from. When we got a new neighbor named "Ralph" I was really hoping that it was Rowlf the Dog that lived next door.

However, then we come to a point where we realize behind (or under, really) every Muppet is a human being. I, like many of you, got obsessed with figuring out which Muppeteer played which character. I pretty quickly could identify the Jim Henson and Frank Oz characters, but I remember my jaw dropping when I saw which characters were played by Jerry Nelson. I was floored that the Count, Crazy Harry, Floyd, Robin the Frog, Gobo Fraggle, and Marjorie the Trash Heap were all played by the same person.

Jerry was also one of the most musical of the Muppeteers. A lot of his vocals, particularly as Floyd Pepper with the Electric Mayhem, would stand up to any band. Such as when he sang "New York State of Mind" or "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" with fellow musical Muppeteer Richard Nelson.  When he did a duet of "In the Good Old Summertime" with Pearl Bailey, it was a meeting of equals. Jerry further displayed his musical talent on his solo album "Truro Daydreams" featuring his own compositions.  

Jerry Nelson was also the "rock" in Fraggle Rock. Initially, Jerry liked the character of Boober best. But Jim wanted Jerry to play Gobo the leader, and I got the sense he did that both on camera and off. Gobo, like so much of Fraggle Rock, was deceptively simple on the surface, but really a rich, complicated character. While he was a good happy-go-lucky "When's lunch?" Fraggle, he also struggled to find his way in the world. He traveled to exotic places (like Doc's Workshop) faced down fierce monsters (like Sprocket) and even clashed with friends and family members in his ongoing quest to understand the world around him.

Thank you Jerry. Our lives are so much richer because you have been a part of them. Now, as a proper Fraggle, I think I'll do some honky tonk grief and Dixie Wailin' as I mourn you.
 Two Lost Souls... by Gavan Sullivan

Jeni Rizio - Today, like many other Muppet fans, and as a sort-of acquaintance, I was crushed to read of Jerry's passing. In 2002, I met him on the set of Sesame Street. They were taping the "Cookie Hood" episode. I first spotted Jerry off in the distance and we exchanged glances in passing. After they taped the bit, I had the pleasure of meeting him in the Muppeteers' dressing room. I told him who I was, and that I was a friend of Caroll Spinney's.

We talked a little bit about my previous, failed attempt to connect with him via email, and he told me that his computer was in the shop at that time, or that it was inaccessible to him for some reason. I also told him that I enjoyed his work and that I was glad to finally meet him. I got the impression that he was a lot more shy and reserved than some of the other people on the set. My only regret is that I did not get my photo taken with him, as my camera had just run out of film. It was a rewarding experience to meet someone whose work meant so much to me all my life, to say the least. The image will stay in my mind forever!

We became Facebook friends over the past few years. When I found out that he went into the hospital, I sent him a private message on the Facebook site, letting him know that I was thinking of him and that I hope he gets feeling better soon. Sadly, I never heard back and he did not get better. I hope that he at least had a chance to read my message.
Untitled by Ceris Thomas
Ceris Thomas - We knew this day was coming, as Jerry Nelson's health had been in decline, but as Muppet fans, we enjoy a sense of fantasy, whimsy and denial of things "sensible," so, I think, many of us decided that this day was still a long way off. Or we hoped it was. Waking up that morning was tough. I didn’t have foreknowledge of any sort. I hadn't stayed up late and heard the news. When I went to my computer and saw, well, tears sprang to my eyes.

It’s not the same as when Jim died. Then, I was in denial and anger. (In a way, I still am in denial and anger... but...). Today was profound grief. Today is the loss of a great, gentle, and supportive talent who was suffering and didn't deserve to do so. Jerry was ill. And now, he's not. I'm happy about that, but I'm sad for the cure to his illness. I'm sad for his close friends and family. I'm sad for the Sesame Street Gang and the Muppeteers who will feel this loss so keenly. If I am feeling this loss, I can only imagine their woe at this time. I'm happy for his fans. His many, many legions of fans, who don't even know they are his fans. These people still have hours and hours and hours of recordings to enjoy. At least he was able to continue to work to a decent time in his life. I wish he could have continued longer.

I will revel in the sharing and the celebration. I will remember and rejoice that we were so lucky to share his genius. I will research, repost and reblog to keep his memory alive. This won't be difficult, as he left us so much to enjoy. I will continue to follow and create and share joy, because it seems that's what Jerry did best. I am humbled to have been entertained by this wonderful person. I am profoundly sad that he has gone on to another adventure. I am extremely grateful that he left us some of his magic. I am inspired.
 Jerry Nelson by Brian Knatchbull

Michael Wermuth, Jr. - Jerry Nelson was a great Muppet performer. Some of my favorite characters of his include Herry Monster, Biff, Pa Gorg, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Scred, Louis Kazagger, and Fleet Scribbler. Jerry Nelson most likely holds the record for the biggest number of Muppet characters he performed, but I must say that he gave pretty much all of his characters perfect-sounding voices. It was great hearing his vocal cameo in The Muppets last year. He will be missed.
 Thanks for letting us Count with you, Jerry by anad

Lara Frazier - I don't remember Jim Henson dying. I knew he was gone, I think. I remember watching The Jim Henson Hour and thinking how amazing Jim was, how friendly and how great getting a hug would be from him. And how awesome that white lion was. Death usually brings awareness and appreciation. Either to someone's work, or life in general. A lot of people say that the dead deserved to know, while they were still living, how much they were loved. We're lucky, us fans, because I'm sure Jerry knew. We don't have to worry about that. I think we'll see a lot of the Count in the coming days, and I hope we can appreciate that a lot of people will discover, even if it's only for a three minute news blurb, the man that we all knew was there the whole time, just below frame.

My favorite tiny memory of Jerry is a personal one. I never got to meet him but I did direct message him on Twitter when I discovered he had one. I asked him a question and he answered, though he didn't know the info I was looking for. I thanked him anyway. "You're welcome, sunshine." He replied. Jerry Nelson called me "sunshine." And no, I will never stop telling people that. Not for as long as I live.

Jerry was a fantastic and moving performer, a terrific singer and someone that I will never, ever forget. He was the best smokey voiced ex-beatnik and the sweetest six year old frog. From all wise and all knowing pile of trash to a Fraggle who thought he was pretty wise and really cunning, and was usually kicked down a peg by the end of the episode... but boy did he have some groovy hats.

But most of all, best of all, Jerry Nelson was cooler than you. And that was awesome.
Jerry Nelson: Rainbow in the Sky by Delta-Shout

Beth Kondrick - I got back into Fraggle Rock right around the time I graduated from college--starting a new adventure and feeling so unsure of life--I related so much to Gobo Fraggle and the new chapter he began at the beginning of the series of Fraggle Rock. I attribute so much of Gobo's relatability to how Jerry performed him. He brought this character to life that resonated with me so much--facing adventure, unsure, yet a wisdom inside. There were so many layers. It was all Jerry.

My other memories of Jerry that I will never forget are of him singing "Halfway Down The Stairs" at Jim Henson's funeral and then of hearing his voice in the the new Muppet movie... it gave me chills both times and will forever. I'll never forget his kind soul and his connection with his fans.
Tribute to Jerry Nelson by Mr-R0bby-R0b

Andrew Smith - After waking up this morning and logging on to my Macbook, the news of Jerry Nelson's passing hit me like a shovel to the face. Listening to "When the River Meets the Sea", I wept. That voice. That voice.

I'd always hoped to talk with Mr. Nelson, but never had the chance. I regret this not for the questions I will never ask him, but for the declaration of admiration, love, and respect that I will never be able to relay. Still, he must have known; we all felt the same and many of us did have the chance to thank him.

In tribute to Jerry, I pulled what few strings I have and got "Halfway Down the Stairs" played on local BBC radio. It wasn't much of a gesture, but it was nice to hear Jerry's voice alongside the likes of Elvis Presley, Jake Thackray and other soulful musicians. I didn't know the man, but I think he would have liked that.

Goodnight, Mr. Bassman.
One Voice Harmony by Nothin' Bunny

Chris Stulz - I had the pleasure of meeting Jerry Nelson in 2001 at Muppet Fest! in Santa Monica, Ca. I'll never forget walking through the exhibit of Muppets and turning around to see Jerry just hanging back in the corner watching everyone enjoying the artistry that went in to the puppets themselves. I quietly walked over and talked with him for a few minutes as he signed my copy of Jim Henson: The Works. He was just so gracious and happy to have the immediate fan feedback that the Muppeteers don't get very often. We will miss you Jerry Nelson.
Halfway Down the Stairs by Diana Leto

Patrick Cotnoir - Who taught you how to count? Your parents? Maybe. I think that a strong argument could be made, however, that Jerry Nelson did. I was introduced to Muppets early. I mean early. They have been a presence in my life for literally as long as I can remember, my grandma had kept my aunts Muppet memorabilia from when she was a child growing up in The Muppet Show heyday of the 1970s and I played with them every week when I visited their house. I wanted to work with the Muppets, I wanted to be a Muppeteer. Seems like a strange career choice for many, but it was what I wanted (and still want a little bit inside).

Growing up, we would visit Cape Cod each year, visiting beaches and lounging in the sun. One year, there was an article in the Cape Cod Times about Jerry Nelson, the man behind Count von Count, having visited a local library and talking to the crowd about working with Henson throughout the years. I was very upset that we had missed it. Somehow, my dad managed to get Jerry on the phone. I have no idea. I'm sure he was probably in the phonebook, not being a household name, he probably was not bothered much. I remember him talking to me about career aspirations, what I wanted to do, what I liked to do and gave me advice that if it was really what I wanted to keep it up and someday, I may be working with him.
I was over the moon. I had just spoken with one of my heroes. An icon that literally had shaped my childhood (and life since then). I was overjoyed. I later wrote Jerry a letter and sent it to him. He sent it back that same week, answering any and all questions I had about literally anything. It was amazing. Having that much contact with a man who meant that much to me gave me hope that, maybe, someday I could work with him and do what I wanted to do most at the time.

Cut to 11 years later: I have an internship at Sesame Street. Literally working on the Street. I would spend extra hours at work after I was supposed to be done, just hanging around, watching them film. It was a dream come true and I was so happy to be in the presence of people that I admired so much. And then Jerry Nelson showed up. I had never met him. I had never seen him in person. He was there to do live voice-over reading for the Count. He would sit off to the side and do the voice while Matt Vogel would puppeteer. It was amazing to see him with such charisma and energy. Jerry had been sick for years with various cancers and emphysema and required the use of an oxygen tank now. It did not seem to slow him down as he could still do the character's voice as if it was still 1970. This man had been doing the same characters for over 42 years. That is amazing. The amount of children across the WORLD that he had impacted cannot be measured.

I sat and watched him perform for a very long time. I probably should have been doing other things, but I knew that this was special. It was rare that he was in the studio in the first place and to see him doing, arguably, one of his most famous characters was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that I could not pass up. From what I can tell, this was probably Jerry's last performance as the Count and possibly his last performance with the Muppets in general. The idea of me seeing Jerry's last time doing both of those things is mind-boggling to me. I grew up memorizing his work, studying it and learning so much from him. To see him doing this for the last time is an amazing thing that I will never, ever forget. Many people would have killed to be in my position; to see Jerry perform EVER would have been an honor. I am still blown away that after all these years, he continued to put in 110% into work

I will never forget Jerry Nelson and all that he meant to me. He is my hero and he should be yours too. Rest in Peace, Jerry. Thanks.

"Halfway Down the Stairs" Tribute Video by Mike Slawinski


Thank You, Jerry Nelson by James Hance

From the bottom of the hearts of Muppet fans all around the world, whose lives you changed for the better, we thank you, Jerry Nelson.






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. "with fellow musical Muppeteer Richard Nelson."
    RICHARD NELSON XD

    ReplyDelete