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Your Thoughts: "Jim Henson: The Biography" by Brian Jay Jones

Muppet Master

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Probably not, sorry! Posting unedited text is a bit like going about with no trousers on. And my editor was right about it: it was fun, but it didn't quite hang together.



Not annoyed at all! This is the fun stuff!

I wasn't crying when I wrote the last chapter, but it WAS very emotional. I had Jim's medical records beside me, and I knew exactly what he had gone through, including what he told the doctors when he checked in (it's how I was able to track some of his condition in the days leading up to his death). It was a privilege to tell that story, and I took it very seriously.



Ah, okay! I corresponded with someone who was a devoted FTB fan, who was disappointed it hadn't made it into the book. I thought perhaps that might have been you.



I didn't come across anything that would help me give you much of an informed answer on this, sorry, and my conversations with Oz about MTM tended to lean more toward the production side than distribution.
Oh I forgot to ask, which guest star did Richard Hunt badmouth? I remember in the book it says that he said bad stuff about a TMS guest star, and that it was really bad for publicity, but Jim Henson forgave him anyways when Hunt came to see him, Jim just went all emotional.
 

Oscarfan

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It might have been Rudolph Nureyev. There's a (non-Henson) book that mentions Nureyev making a pretty bold, tasteless remark toward Richard on set.
 

Mario500

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Hello, Brian. I have a few question about the way some people were usually referenced in "Jim Henson: The Biography". Why were Jim Henson and relatives of his usually referenced by only their first names and other folks usually referenced by only their last names after the first references to them?
 

minor muppetz

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Jim's involvement in Follow That Bird -- to use your example -- was almost entirely as a performer. It was not a Henson production, Jim didn't write it, direct it, or produce it, design any new characters for it, or -- that I found -- even correspond about it.
By "correspond", I assume you mean he didn't send any notes, memos, or letters to the Children's Television Workshop, Warner Bros., the director, or anyone else involved with the creative aspects of the film, right? Though I remember seeing an interview with the films director, Ken Kwapis, where he said that he did meet with Jim Henson before the film, I haven't read the article in a long time but I think it was actually a job interview for him. I was actually surprised to learn that he had to meet with/be interviewed by Jim to direct a Sesame Street production.

I think you've said somewhere that you got to look in the actual red book. Do you recall seeing Follow That Bird noted there in any way (I.E., "meet with potential directors for Sesame Street movie", "perform in S.S. film", etc.)? In the four years that the Red Book website has been around there have been no entries about that while seemingly everything else has been represented on the website, and the book Imagination Illustration (which is basically a book version of the website) doesn't show anything from the book about it, either (though it is listed in a timeline section at the end of the book).

One bright side I thought about regarding the fact that not everything Jim did is mentioned in the book (though I saw one review that said it did talk about everything) is that there's still plenty of material to talk about the next time somebody does a book on Jim Henson. Though I'd like to see a book on The Jim Henson Company that heavily covers what the company did after Jim's death. Either as the main focus or with just as much focus on the post-1990 years as pre-1990.
 

Oscarfan

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Hello, Brian. I have a few question about the way some people were usually referenced in "Jim Henson: The Biography". Why were Jim Henson and relatives of his usually referenced by only their first names and other folks usually referenced by only their last names after the first references to them?
That's usually the proper way of writing something.
 

Mario500

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If I were Brian, I would have not referred to folks by only their last names outside of direct quotations. I believe referring to people by either only their first names or both their first names and last names after the first references to them is more respectful toward and helpful toward readers who may not be very familiar with them.
 

brianjayjones

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Oh I forgot to ask, which guest star did Richard Hunt badmouth? I remember in the book it says that he said bad stuff about a TMS guest star, and that it was really bad for publicity, but Jim Henson forgave him anyways when Hunt came to see him, Jim just went all emotional.
Ha! I KNEW that was gonna spark some conversation! Alas, while several people told the story, they would't go on the record as to WHO it was Richard was talking about, so I couldn't get it cleared for use. I now officially declare it a Muppet Fan Parlor Game.

Why were Jim Henson and relatives of his usually referenced by only their first names and other folks usually referenced by only their last names after the first references to them?
I made the decision early on to call him by his first name. It just seemed the right way of doing it, and certainly makes things much clearer if you're trying to talk about Jane and Jim and Lisa and Cheryl in the same sentence or same page. I certainly could have called him "Henson" every time, but it just seemed more fitting to call him "Jim," especially as everyone -- even his own kids -- calls him that.

There's really no hard and fast rule on this. The writer just has to sorta decide what feels best and seems right. Neil Gabler, for instance, calls Disney "Walt" throughout his bio, while Robert Caro calls LBJ "Johnson." In my earlier book, I almost always called Washington Irving "Irving."

By "correspond", I assume you mean he didn't send any notes, memos, or letters to the Children's Television Workshop, Warner Bros., the director, or anyone else involved with the creative aspects of the film, right?
That's correct. There was no paper trail -- that I could find -- in which Jim discussed FTB.

I think you've said somewhere that you got to look in the actual red book. Do you recall seeing Follow That Bird noted there in any way (I.E., "meet with potential directors for Sesame Street movie", "perform in S.S. film", etc.)?
I just reviewed the Red Book again to double-check this, and Jim did not reference FTB in the Red Book, either. (And yet, in a May 1983 entry, Jim did make a mention of the TV airing of "Big Bird in China," in which he performed exactly one character. Why one production and not the other, then? Beats me.)

One bright side I thought about regarding the fact that not everything Jim did is mentioned in the book (though I saw one review that said it did talk about everything) is that there's still plenty of material to talk about the next time somebody does a book on Jim Henson. Though I'd like to see a book on The Jim Henson Company that heavily covers what the company did after Jim's death. Either as the main focus or with just as much focus on the post-1990 years as pre-1990.
As I said earlier, perhaps a Mark Lewisohn-type scholar will come along at some point and write the 5,000 page, three-volume treatment. Heck, I know I'd buy it.
 
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Slackbot

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Ha! I KNEW that was gonna spark some conversation! Alas, while several people told the story, they would't go on the record as to WHO it was Richard was talking about, so I couldn't get it cleared for use. I now officially declare it a Muppet Fan Parlor Game.
I have a fanzine titled "Richard Hunt, Gay Muppeteer," which includes a mention of something Nureyev supposedly said to Hunt. It didn't talk about the repercussions, but I figured that this was probably the, er, event.

I can understand nobody wanting to go on record on this matter. I sure wouldn't!
 

minor muppetz

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I just reviewed the Red Book again to double-check this, and Jim did not reference FTB in the Red Book, either. (And yet, in a May 1983 entry, Jim did make a mention of the TV airing of "Big Bird in China," in which he performed exactly one character. Why one production and not the other, then? Beats me.)
Not only one character, but also only one scene.

So did they make you a special copy of the red book, or did they just give away the only one?
 

brianjayjones

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So did they make you a special copy of the red book, or did they just give away the only one?
One of the very first documents I ever received from Karen Falk was a color photocopy of the complete Red Book. The original is well protected and filed away in the Henson Company archives. (I saw it, and got to page through it, but never used it as my formal reference. I wore out my photocopy instead.)
 
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