Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch Muppeteer Caroll Spinney Dead at 85
Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are two of the most famous and recognizable characters in the history of television, but they would be nothing without Caroll Spinney.
Spinney was the man that, for almost 50 years, put on the big yellow suit and brought joy to fans of all ages around the world. Sadly, he is no longer with us.
As officially announced by Sesame Workshop, the iconic puppeteer has recently passed away at the age of 85 at his home in Connecticut after living with dystonia for quite some time.
A LOVE FOR PUPPETS
Born in 1933 in Waltham, Massachusetts, Spinney always had an obsession with puppets, which, unfortunately, made him a target for bullies at school.
After four years of service in the Air Force, Spinney portrayed a number of characters on "Bozo's Big Top," where he was described as a "very creative, wonderful artist" by Frank Avruch aka Bozo the Clown.
The Puppeteer eventually left the show and caught the Muppets creator Jim Henson's eye during a puppet festival in Salt Lake City. Although his act didn't go as planned, Henson still liked what he saw.
"He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well."
In 1969, Spinney started working on "Sesame Street," the job that would lead him to greatness as Big Bird and the character's grumpy trash can-dwelling neighbor.
BECOMING BIG BIRD WAS QUITE HARD
However, operating the suit was far from easy. The puppeteer had to hold the bird's five-pound head above his head with his right arm and operate the mouth with it, using his pinkie to control the eyebrows.
Meanwhile, Spinney's left arm would be inserted in the left wing, which was attached to the right wing as a counterbalance. Spinney would also tape the script inside the claustrophobic suit.
THE EMBODIMENT OF PASSION AND DEDICATION
As aforementioned, the late 85-year-old played the part for almost 50 years, which earned him plenty of acclaims. Joan Ganz Cooney, the co-founder of Sesame Street, said:
"Caroll Spinney’s contributions to Sesame Street are countless. He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well."
Caroll Spinney, the legendary puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died today, December 8th 2019, at age 85 at his home in Connecticut, after living with Dystonia for some time. https://t.co/q7FVDul5WT pic.twitter.com/CvWBD0NQyp— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) December 8, 2019
Spinney might have passed but his legacy will live forever in the memories of those who grew up watching Sesame Street. He is survived by his wife, Debra, as well as his children and grandchildren.