September the 24th, 2011 marks what would have been the 75th birthday of the late Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. Henson passed away in 1990 at the age of just 53 after ignoring flu-like symptoms and developing a form of bacterial pneumonia. If spending the better part of three months writing a book on Henson’s most famous creations has done nothing else, it has confirmed one thing I already knew; this should never have been allowed to happen. The word visionary barely manages to do justice to a man who single handedly brought puppetry into the modern age, who helped change the face of educational television, who predicted the rise of reality television, who envisioned a children’s series that would bring about world piece, and who did more in his fifty-odd years than most people could achieve in 200. The world is lesser place for his not being in it.
Jim with Kermit on The Tonight Show back in 1975.
What is often overlooked, however, is that September the 24th also marks the birthday of the second man to bring life to Kermit the Frog, Steve Whitmire. Whitmire was an experienced and versatile puppeteer when he took over the role in 1990 and since then has done an admirable job of keeping Kermit’s green spirit alive. Yes his voice is different, but his soul remains in tact. Nobody on the planet could do a better job.
Steve Whitmire performs Ernie in this behind-the-scenes peek at Sesame Street.