I'm not so sad about Kermit Love, the creator of Big Bird and Snufflelufagous dying, because he was 91, after all, and seems to have had a great life. But the story is really interesting, so I'm copying it here. It originally ran in the Chicago Tribune.
Oh, and by the way, Ken's sister's husband's brother-in-law is Steve Whitmire, who voices Kermit the Frog. So we feel kind of related to Sesame Street, in a very round about way.Costumer Hatched 'Sesame's' Big Bird: Former Ballet Outfitter Also Made Mr. Snuffleupagus ?and No, Kermit the Frog Wasn't Named After Him
Published June 25, 2008 12:00 AM
By Chicago Tribune
Jun. 25--Kermit Love, the ballet costume designer whose greatest fame came as a creator, with Jim Henson, of the beloved "Sesame Street" characters Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus, died Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 91.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said Christopher Lyall, Mr. Love's partner of 50 years.
Although Mr. Love collaborated with luminaries of dance like George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Robert Joffrey, Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp, it was the 8-foot-2, yellow-feathered Big Bird and his 7-foot, woolly mammoth-like friend Mr. Snuffleupagus--both perennially 6 years old--that brought him global attention.
"For Kermit, the costume was just the beginning," said Kevin Clash, who is now senior puppet coordinator for "Sesame Street." "He taught how to create the character out of the costume."
Caroll Spinney, 74, the man inside the bird since "Sesame Street" was first telecast in 1969, said, "We traveled the world doing shows for kids, sometimes with Big Bird conducting orchestras."
In 1973, Spinney said, he and Mr. Love and a "big, hooped sack" containing Big Bird flew to Beijing to perform, a year after President Richard Nixon's diplomatic breakthrough with Communist China. He said Mr. Love was "was very picky about how the bird was handled."
Big Bird had his own seat, Spinney said, adding, "They gave us a half-priced ticket because he was only 6 years old."
Henson, the creator of "Sesame Street," who died in 1990, did the original sketches of Big Bird. Mr. Love built the bird, with its manhole-sized orange foam feet. He added feathers (with some designed to fall off) to make the creature cuter.
Inside, Spinney controlled Big Bird's mouth with his hand and the eyes with a lever attached to his pinky finger. A television monitor inside the puppet allowed Spinney to see the set.
Mr. Love, who, with his Santa Claus-like beard, played Willy the Hot Dog Man on the show, also helped design Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster; he insisted he was not the namesake of the famous frog. He created characters for 22 foreign versions of "Sesame Street."
Mr. Love began making puppets for a federal Works Progress Administration theater in 1935 and soon after was designing costumes for Orson Welles' Mercury Theater. Then he began working with Barbara Karinska, the costumer for the New York City Ballet