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

Slackbot

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First, Jim was almost pathologically conflict-averse. You suspect it, sure, because Jim’s such a decent guy, but I had no idea the sheer extent of it. Jim wouldn’t resolve debates with his attorneys, couldn’t fire or discipline his staff, and wouldn’t even bicker with his wife, Jane. As Jane herself told me, “it was fight or flight, and Jim always chose flight.”
That also surprised me...but the more I read, the more sense it made. Jim was always the nice guy, the Good Cop. He could manage a band of like-minded hippies (affectionate humor here!) but when the business got too big and required a stronger hand, it was hard for him to cope. Now I see why he didn't come down hard on Hunt for saying what he shouldn't, and why the Christmas bonuses turned into an upsetting kerfluffle. And now I can really grasp why he wanted to sell his company to Disney: so he could focus on the creative stuff rather than being The Boss.

It saddens me to think that if he hadn't been so averse to conflict, he might have had a longer marriage--dealing with issues as they arise is important!--and he might not have tried to wait out the illness that ended up taking his life.
 

D'Snowth

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While still in his twenties, he was offered a very large sum of money to sell one of his characters outright, and Jim refused, telling his agent, “Bernie, never sell anything I own.”
I just kind of wish Jim was better able to really keep legal hold on his creations throughout his career, such as how Lord Grade owned the rights to TMS and such, not Jim (though luckily, Jim was able to buy them all back later).

That sort of brings to mind a question I have for you Brian; I know Jim and his company really had a lot of creative and artistic success, though it was arguably Sid & Marty Krofft who really had far more commercial success during the same time period. I've watched an interview with Marty Krofft circa 2000, and he admits other puppeteers and puppet companies hated them for it, even saying that he had recently met Lisa Henson, who confessed to him that she hated them as a kid since they had all these different shows on all three networks in the 70s, while her father only had one show, and she didn't understand why it that way - Marty told her, "It's because your father was a much better puppeteer than us," and also added that he and Sid weren't necessarily interested in the artistic aspect of puppetry as we all know Jim was. You wrote in your book that the Muppet folks were a tad envious at the success that the Kroffts were having, particularly with live shows whereas Jim seemed to always have problems getting people interested in taking a chance on some of his live acts - puppets or not.

I'm actually a fan of both Henson and Krofft, so I was wondering if you had any other details you could share about how any of the people working for Jim (or maybe even Jim himself) felt about the Kroffts' work and their commercial success?
 

dwayne1115

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Yea that quote Brian keeps saying holds meaning "never sell anything I own" If they had held true to that I wonder what would have happend.
 

Muppet Master

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Sure. There were two big things.

First, Jim was almost pathologically conflict-averse. You suspect it, sure, because Jim’s such a decent guy, but I had no idea the sheer extent of it. Jim wouldn’t resolve debates with his attorneys, couldn’t fire or discipline his staff, and wouldn’t even bicker with his wife, Jane. As Jane herself told me, “it was fight or flight, and Jim always chose flight.”

Second, I was surprised and impressed with what a fantastic businessman he was. Again, it makes sense; you can’t own a company with workshops in London and New York without being good at what you do. But Jim was really good, even from a young age. He was seventeen when he started his company, and from day one, he knew his work had value. While still in his twenties, he was offered a very large sum of money to sell one of his characters outright, and Jim refused, telling his agent, “Bernie, never sell anything I own.”
I have a question, who was the TMS guest star who was surprised that Miss Piggy was performed by (Frank Oz) a guy?
 

brianjayjones

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I'm actually a fan of both Henson and Krofft, so I was wondering if you had any other details you could share about how any of the people working for Jim (or maybe even Jim himself) felt about the Kroffts' work and their commercial success?
I couldn't really speculate beyond what's already in the book. When Jim was putting together his proposals for the Broadway show that never materialized, he would use the live H.R. Puf'n'stuf Show as an example. The Kroffts were already doing what he wanted to do -- sort of -- and had gotten there first. I'm sure that was a bit frustrating.

I have a question, who was the TMS guest star who was surprised that Miss Piggy was performed by (Frank Oz) a guy?
It was Spike Milligan.
 

dwayne1115

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Hey Brian, this may sound like a silly question. Do you have a favorite Muppet or skit,or movie?
 

brianjayjones

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Hey Brian, this may sound like a silly question. Do you have a favorite Muppet or skit,or movie?
That's three questions, actually! Choosing a favorite Muppet is REALLY hard. I really fell in love with Rowlf the more I read and researched and watched. I think he's probably closer to Jim's personality than Kermit. And when you watch Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show in the 1960s, it's like nothing else. However, I'm a Sesame Street kid, first and foremost, so if it's not Rowlf, it's Ernie. Or Guy Smiley. Or Grover. Or . . .

You see how hard this is.

I've got several favorite sketches. Again, because I'm Sesame Street generation 1.0, I go there first, and almost ANY Ernie and Bert sketch kills me -- but I'm particularly fond of the 10Q sketch (which my brother and I would perform with our own Muppets ad infinitum), and Bert sneezing his nose off into a hanky. Runner up: the Muppet New Flash where Kermit and the Count go to interview the Three Little Pigs. And apparently, when I was a kid, I would sing Mahna Mahna until my mother went crazy -- and this would have been the initial 1969 version with the Anything Muppet that was on Sesame Street.

My favorite of the Muppet movies is probably The Muppets Take Manhattan. I think it's the cleverest one. But that's just my opinion. I know my fellow Muppet fans are all over the place on the movie question!
 

minor muppetz

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Second, I was surprised and impressed with what a fantastic businessman he was. Again, it makes sense; you can’t own a company with workshops in London and New York without being good at what you do. But Jim was really good, even from a young age.
It's interesting, you say in the book that he ran it like a great businessman, while Street Gang says that he didn't run the company like a great businessman. Though in Street Gang it says that because he couldn't get himself to fire anybody (though he clearly did arrange for Jack Burns to be fired as head writer of The Muppet Show) and his projects often went overbudget.
 

Muppet Master

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That's three questions, actually! Choosing a favorite Muppet is REALLY hard. I really fell in love with Rowlf the more I read and researched and watched. I think he's probably closer to Jim's personality than Kermit. And when you watch Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show in the 1960s, it's like nothing else. However, I'm a Sesame Street kid, first and foremost, so if it's not Rowlf, it's Ernie. Or Guy Smiley. Or Grover. Or . . .

You see how hard this is.

I've got several favorite sketches. Again, because I'm Sesame Street generation 1.0, I go there first, and almost ANY Ernie and Bert sketch kills me -- but I'm particularly fond of the 10Q sketch (which my brother and I would perform with our own Muppets ad infinitum), and Bert sneezing his nose off into a hanky. Runner up: the Muppet New Flash where Kermit and the Count go to interview the Three Little Pigs. And apparently, when I was a kid, I would sing Mahna Mahna until my mother went crazy -- and this would have been the initial 1969 version with the Anything Muppet that was on Sesame Street.

My favorite of the Muppet movies is probably The Muppets Take Manhattan. I think it's the cleverest one. But that's just my opinion. I know my fellow Muppet fans are all over the place on the movie question!
Yes, I remember reading on the back of the cover of Jim Henson: The Biography that Rowlf was your favorite, also it says you were 9 when TMS began airing, do you have any fond memories as a child watching the show when it first aired?
 

brianjayjones

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Yes, I remember reading on the back of the cover of Jim Henson: The Biography that Rowlf was your favorite, also it says you were 9 when TMS began airing, do you have any fond memories as a child watching the show when it first aired?
I remember seeing the first episode, actually. Back in The Old Days When We Had Only Five Channels, I used to go through the TV Guide each week and circle anything I wanted to be sure I watched. And there were always these breakout boxes that took up about half a page called "Close Up," I think it was, where they would give you a short write up on any shows of note. I must've read the write up on the first episode of The Muppet Show a billion times. And I also remember watching that first episode and going, "Where are Ernie and Bert?" because at 9, I had no concept of the Muppets beyond those I knew on Sesame Street. And neither did anyone else, yet, either--but I DO remember being slightly confused and thinking, "I'm NEVER going to get used to ANY of these characters!"

I also remember being really, REALLY amped up when I found out the STAR WARS cast was going to be on. For me, that was the perfect storm.
 
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