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Your Thoughts: Jerry Nelson Tribute at The Moving Image Museum

SSLFan

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Thank you so much for posting these videos. The Snuffy bit was very sad yet powerful. I can tell Marty was very emotional while filming, as he barely did the voice fully. It kind of reminded me of Big Bird singing at Jim's memorial.
 

Ruahnna

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Heartfelt thanks to all who shared. We are grateful for all of those who went to remember Jerry, and share the fond remembrances of his many friends and fans.
 

ploobis

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Jerry's tribute was beautiful and very touching. Jerry would've loved it. :sing: :batty: :smirk:
 

Skekayuk

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Hey Everyone,
It looks like FrackleFan beat me to the punch. No matter, as the videos are fully intended to be shared, so if someone else could before me, it doesn't matter. I think they're all up here, now, but either way, here's a link to the playlist I created, for your convenience: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLumtId7GemGYsjz58JXn-u81XMfGXqrJL. I'm so happy to be able to bring this footage to everyone online, so those who couldn't be there could appreciate it, and that those who were can enjoy reliving the amazing experience it was.
OH WOW! Thanks so much to those who've posted the videos. It means a lot to those of us who couldn't attend. There is some really fascinating stuff there. I'm so glad Louise Gold was in the tribute, and slightly amazed by her lovely comments about the Muppet fans. That's really something coming from her.
 

Walter

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I lost it at the Snuffy bit... Thank you for bringing us these videos. As much as I wish I could've been there, this is the next best thing!
 

BobThePizzaBoy

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I'll keep my thoughts brief but I will say that it certainly was a well-deserved tribute to a great, talented man. :sing::batty::smirk: Every single aspect of the day was moving, funny and charming.

As I discussed with Squigiman there, this event was taped, I sat next to the guy who was taping it, but who knows what they are actually going to do with that tape. But, yes, it was a beautiful event.
 

Muppetfan44

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Okay, here are my thoughts about the event...sorry if it repeats what others have said, but I wanted to share it anyway. I also have voice recordings of most of the intros, but I think most of them were covered in the videos that were posted.


A NYC Muppet Weekend

A Tribute to Jerry Nelson- Museum of the Moving Image


I want to start off my reflections of the Jerry Nelson tribute ceremony by telling you what I did the day before. I decided to head up to NYC a day early and re-discover the magic of NYC ( I used to visit all of the time but haven’t been back in a while) and also hunt out some of the famous Muppet-Henson related sites across the city. My journey started with finding how to get to Sesame Street (standing outside of Kaufman Astoria Studios, wishing I could get in, haha), then continued to the Museum of the Moving Image where the Jerry Nelson puppet was on display, along with a set piece design from Muppets take Manhattan (the locker scene, a super cool piece), as well as a Yoda animatronic puppet and a ton of amazing, non-Henson related movie and TV artifacts. I then found my way to the Henson townhouse, which was sadly being reconstructed, then to the journey in Central Park to find the Jim Henson and Jon Stone benches. When I finally found them- it was the perfect ending to my day. The benches are in an area called Literary Walk on the Mall and all of the trees had golden leaves that were falling and it was just the perfect scene to sit on Jim’s and Jon’s bench and reflect on the wonderful gifts they left behind for us all, all while two men were playing classical music on saxophones and a little girl was dancing away to the beat; perfect moments like that only come around so often and I am thankful that I took the time to treasure and remember that moment. I stopped at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and pictured myself sitting in the audience during the Jim Henson memorial and thanked both him and Jerry for their work and laughter. That night the Jim Henson Legacy held a private memorial for Jerry’s family and his Muppet colleagues where they apparently waved bats in the air; a moving complimentary tribute like they did with butterflies at Jim’s memorial.

Then came the day of the tribute ceremony, which was absolutely wonderful! I got there tremendously early and it completely paid off. I met up with some other Muppet fans that I have been to other events with and we caught up while the line behind us weaved all the way around the museum lobby, and made some new Muppet fan friends as well. I finally got to meet Ryan Dosier from the Muppet Mindset in person and caught up with Bonnie Erickson, designer of Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, and many others, as well as the Executive Director of the Jim Henson Legacy. I had the privilege of meeting Bonnie at a D.C. event for Jim and was so glad I got to reconnect with her at the tribute. Bonnie is a lovely person and the Legacy could not be in better hands. People like Craig Shemin, President of the Jim Henson Legacy and his wife Stephanie D’Abruzzo came in the front entrance, along with Leslie Cararra-Rudolph and others. Bill and Gene Baretta came out from the theater to greet everyone before the show and the crowd was super excited to get into the theater.

As we walked into the theater, the Jim Henson Legacy gave everyone some great gifts: a Jerry button designed by one of Jerry’s fellow musicians, a poster in honor of Jerry made by Sesame Workshop, and a DVD of behind the scenes of the recording of Truro Daydreams, paid for by Jane Henson and shot by Craig and others from the Legacy. We all filed into the theater with a picture of Jerry from the studio recording of the album greeting us on the screen, along with a mix of Jerry’s music from his career playing in the background.

The ceremony started with Craig Shemin introducing members of Jerry’s family who were there and telling a few stories about times he had worked with Jerry. He then introduced his wife, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, who did an amazing clip reel of many of the characters that Jerry played throughout his career (150 of them, and that wasn’t even all of them). She noted that the listing probably wasn’t complete, noting that she saw a few “tough pigs” in the audience and wanted to point that fact out. The reel was amazing! Cleverly edited so that Jerry’s characters seemed to be responding to one another in silliness and satire.

Then Fran Brill came up to introduce a reel of clips that contained some of Jerry’s work on Sesame Street. Fran said that Jerry was the backbone of Sesame Street and that many of his whatnot characters became prominent on the show because of the amazing way he performed each one. She talked specifically about Biff and how she played Biff’s niece and how she loved that performing relationship. She talked about how Jerry was a lot like Biff, a little gruff on the outside, but like melted butter on the inside. The Sesame Street clips included many great moments, the best being a clip where Jerry as the Count hired Ernie to answer the phone but then stopped him from answering it, wanting to count the rings each time, saying, “ I told you it wouldn’t be easy!”

Craig Shemin came back up, introducing a special video tribute that one of Jerry’s friends did because he couldn’t make it in person, which led to one of the most touching moments of the whole ceremony: The video was of Marty Robinson as Mr. Snuffelupagus talking to Jerry, “dad” saying that he was alright on Sesame Street and knew that Jerry was inside him and always would be. Snuffy then did a little dance and exited stage left while the famous Sesame Street ending music/riff played him off and I was in tears through the whole thing. You can tell how heartfelt Marty was through his voice and he still pulled off an amazing performance (apparently that was done in only one take). Snuffy has always been one of my favorites on the Street as a child and the video tribute was so touching and just plain adorable.

We then heard from Dave Goelz, who introduced a bunch of Fraggle Rock clips. The first thing that Dave said was, “You notice how nobody that comes up here is nervous, ever? That’s because wherever you go to talk about the Muppets you’re among friends.” He talked about how Jerry went through the best and worst moments of his life during Fraggle Rock- his daughter died of cystic fibrosis when Fraggle Rock started and during Fraggle Rock he married his wife Jan, and how Jerry’s life showed in his work on Fraggle and the amazing range he played with his characters. The Fraggle clips were also great- an awesome compilation of Jerry’s characters and how through song and silliness he helped make Fraggle Rock magical. I loved watching Steve and Dave and Louise during the clips, they were bobbing along to the songs and laughing along with the rest of us, truly treasuring the moment to look back on the work they did. For me, to get a bird’s eye perspective of that is something I’ll never forget.

Craig then came back up on stage to introduce that some of the “surprises” were that mentioned in the announcement of the tribute: Lawrence Mirkin, producer of Fraggle Rock was in the audience as well as Steve Whitmire! Steve didn’t say anything officially but everyone was glad that he was there.

Next up was Bill Baretta, who did a little shtick on Dave’s character flub earlier, to which Dave came up to the stage to help him out. He then talked about how Jerry taught him the art of upstaging and how they used it against Kevin Clash’s Polly Lobster on Muppet Treasure Island and how he gave him no guidance on being Blind Pew’s hands, but told him to do whatever he thought. He watched and listened to Jerry to do Blind Pew’s movements, which we all know was a great performance. He also talked about how generous Jerry was, both on and off screen. He brought his guitar to a party once and jammed with his brother Gene and he didn’t want to take the guitar home, so he just gave this amazing guitar to Gene. He introduced a set of musical clips that focused on Jerry’s work with the core group of Muppets. This reel was also one of the more touching collections of Jerry’s work. It included infamous pieces like Floyd’s jam sessions with Diana Ross and Pearl Bailey, as well as Robin’s Halfway Down the Stairs. It ended with Jerry as the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Muppet Christmas Carol singing It Feels Like Christmas. It felt like the perfect song to describe the day for us Muppet fans that were there- it really felt like Christmas- spending the day with so many other kindred spirits who loved the Muppets and wanted to show his family and the other performers how much we appreciated them and were thankful for the gifts of laughter and entertainment throughout the years; another very touching moment for me personally.

Craig then introduced that the next set of clips were rare pieces from the figurative “Muppet Vault, just tapes on the shelf that are a little bit dustier than others.” He then said that another surprise that they found out very recently was that Louise Gold was coming in all the way from London and that it was such a treat to have her here. She came up and was already in tears and gave a very touching speech about how she loved Jerry and loved working with him and how sad she was when she found out that he died. She talked about how she loved the fact that many of Jerry’s fans got the opportunity through the internet how much they appreciated him and loved his work and that it meant a lot to her. The clips from the vault were great- they included an appearance on the Dick Cavett show where Jerry, Jim and Frank performed the Muppet trio and then came out from behind the barrier dressed exactly as their characters were dressed. Other pieces were a shot from a Sesame Street Season 23 wrap party where Jerry and Louise performed a spirited rendition of “friendship” for everyone there and a part of Muppetfest where Floyd and Zoot did a little intro while they were changing set pieces in the back.

Craig then introduced Bonnie, who read letters from Jim Lewis and Duncan Kenworthy, while also talking about how Jerry would fight for things he believed in whether it was the environment or other causes. She talked about how Kevin Clash and other helped Jerry put together the Truro Daydreams album because so many of them wanted to hear Jerry’s music in their own homes. Duncan called Jerry the “unsung Muppet workhorse, saying that he was a lovely and generous man.” Jim Lewis wrote that Jerry, like Lew Zealand’s boomerang fish, would never go out of style and would always come back to us. She introduced a set of clips that were from the filming behind the making of the music album, as well as clips from Jerry’s life with his family and friends.

Before the last montage, Craig introduced Joseph Bailey, who was in the audience and was a writer on Sesame Street and the Muppet Show, responsible for the lobster banditos, and made some final announcements thanking the Legacy for all they did to put the tribute together. He then said, “We figured we’d let Jerry have the last word.” They then played a clip of Jerry talking about his career and how when he first saw Roy Rogers at the movies when he was 12, he never figured that he would be performing with him years later, and how he loved the many moments like that in his life and how blessed he felt. The last clip was a montage set to Floyd and Janice singing, “Act Naturally” with clips of different performances and moments we saw throughout the day.

It was truly a beautiful and touching tribute filled with love and laughter, put together by people who truly appreciated Jerry for the amazing talent that he had and all that he had given to the Muppet troupe over the years. The Muppeteers stayed around afterwards and met with fans, bonded with friends, and hugged his family until the museum had to kick us out of the theater. I feel very honored and blessed that I was there with other fans to share in that moment and although I never had the pleasure to meet Jerry in person, I felt like I got to know him through the tribute and missed him even more now that he’s gone. No there wasn’t 10,000 people filled in a cathedral full of celebrities, but there was a packed theater full of family, friends, and colleagues who knew how much Jerry gave to the world and how much joyful and warmer the world is because he was here. Thanks again so much to Bonnie and Craig and everyone from the Jim Henson Legacy who organized this lovely event and gave fans the opportunity to share in the moment. I will never forget it as long as I live. Rest in Peace Jerry, and Thank You!
 

Plaid Fraggle

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All so beautiful :') Sure wished I lived anywhere REMOTELY nearby; attending would have taken priority over everything else!

One of my favorite moments from Squigiman's generous footage was Dave Goelz getting flustered at the Gonzo/Gobo bit. It just surprised me how he seemed really guilty about it, even though I think it really turned out to be a nice, light moment for a bittersweet event :smile: And of course, it is always nice to hear more about Fraggle Rock.

Jerry Nelson's diversity as a performer was extraordinarily well-showcased, and all of the speakers plus the audience clearly were moved by his work. What a lovely event. Those of you who got to attend are truly lucky! :sing:
 
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