Ryan Dosier - On Saturday afternoon at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City (technically Astoria, but you don't really care about that), dozens of Muppet fans, plenty of Muppet performers, and a who's who of Muppet history showed up to pay tribute to the legendary Jerry Nelson. I was lucky enough to be in attendance at this truly special event and I just wanted to share with you a little bit of my experience. My friend Ryan Roe has written a spectacular, totally precise rundown of the entire program for ToughPigs, which you should absolutely read. I can't even try to one-up what Ryan recapped, so instead I'll just share my thoughts on the proceedings.
First and foremost, I have to mention that the Jerry Nelson Muppet, best known for performing with the Country Trio on The Muppet Show, was on display at the entrance of the museum. The puppet was cleaned up and brought by Bonnie Erickson just for the event. Here's Jerry below...
Once the tribute began and the Muppet fans settled in, all of the Muppet performers entered the auditorium and sat down in reserved seats in the front row. In attendance: Dave Goelz, Fran Brill, Bill Barretta, Steve Whitmire, Louise Gold, Matt Vogel, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph. Other Muppet people who came to the tribute were Craig Shemin, Bonnie Erickson, Larry Mirkin, and Joe Bailey, as well as Jerry Nelson's wife, brother, daughter, and grandson.
It was truly amazing to have all of these people in one place to remember Jerry with Muppet fans. It would have been sufficient to just show clips of Jerry's amazing career with introductions from just one of these individuals, but it speaks to the generosity and the love they have for Jerry that they were all willing to come out to celebrate his life.
Every speaker built upon he last with beautiful sentiment and charm. Dave Goelz and Bill Barretta shared a few hilarious moments as Dave accidentally called Gobo, Gonzo, to the extreme laughter of the entire auditorium. This led Bill to go onstage and remind Dave of who played who. It was a truly funny moment that reminded us of how fun the Muppet performers have when they're together.
The most moving speaker was Louise Gold, who traveled all the way from England to come celebrate Jerry. She fought tears the entire time and I'm sure it caused more than a few tears to flow in the audience as well. It was clear how much love and respect she has for Jerry, and it reminded us all of how much we respect him as well. The clip package that followed her piece was incredible, with extremely rare clips including the Country Trio on The Dick Cavett Show, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry on various talk shows, and Jerry and Louise singing "Friendship" at the wrap party for Sesame Street Season 23. That final moment was the most incredible and probably never-before-seen. I got to speak to Louise briefly afterwards and she was the sweetest person you could possibly imagine. It was so wonderful of her to come.
The greatest piece of video shown, however, was without a doubt the special message from Snuffy. You could tell that Marty Robinson, who was unfortunately unable to attend, was expressing his real feelings for Jerry through Snuffy. I really can't do it justice... so you should just watch the video, taken by YouTube user Squigiman, below:
Throughout the entire tribute, it was clear that everyone there adored Jerry. The laughter that filled the room during the clip packages, the singing along that occurred, the chorus of "Aww" during the entire program... it was just clear that Jerry had affected everyone there. At the beginning of the program, The Jim Henson Legacy gave everyone in attendance three extremely special gifts: a button with Jerry's likeness, a poster featuring Jerry (seen at right) from Sesame Workshop, and a DVD showcasing the recording session for Jerry's album Truro Daydreams. The DVD is positively incredible, and hopefully Craig Shemin will continue to upload those videos online soon.
All in all, this was an incredibly special, moving tribute. It was such an honor to be in attendance there to celebrate the life and career of Jerry Nelson. To all the Muppet fans I met there, it was such a delight to talk with all of you. I thank you, and I know that The Jim Henson Legacy and the family of Jerry Nelson all thank you for being there to pay your respects. And last of all, I thank Jerry Nelson... for being such a true inspiration.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org