When I read the announcement of Caroll Spinney’s retirement from Sesame Street last week, my mind immmediately took me back to the den of my family’s home in Great Neck, NY, circa 1977, where I would lie on the floor in front of our Sony Trinitron television. Sesame Street was just one of many shows that kept me fixated.
One of the reasons I kept visiting Sesame Street was to hear what Oscar the Grouch had to say. He was the antithesis to most of the other characters on the show and that’s what made him so compelling. It’s a testament to Caroll Spinney’s talent that he was able to play the roles of both Oscar the Grouch and Oscar’s polar opposite, the decidedly un-grouchy Big Bird, for fifty years. According to a press release, the two characters will each be played by different puppeteers moving forward.
And how about those fifty years? It’s an increasingly rare thing for anyone to remain dedicated to the same kind of work for half a centuryor more, no matter what the job. I suppose it might be more common in the arts than in other pursuits. Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and Betty White come to mind, but the number is small. Just as with those performers, Caroll Spinney’s work will certainly endure for years to come as well.
Spinney isn’t moving away from Sesame Street entirely. He plans to continue serving as an ambassador for the Sesame Workshop organization. After all, when the Library of Congress names you a “Living Legend,” you might as well go on being legendary. Below is a wonderful tribute to Caroll Spinney and his iconic characters. It just might take you back to your childhood home, too.