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The Daytime Emmy Craft Awards

Word of the Day: Survival

Marty was nominated for Best Performer in a Children’s Series this year. I was nominated for Best Song (part of a team including then head writer Belinda Ward and Russell Velasquez) and as part of our writing for Best Writing in a Children’s Series. They were being held in L.A. this year, and since Sesame Street was also being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the company flew out many of the performers to be part of the televised ceremony. Marty and I decided to make a little mini-break of it and go as a family, spending two days at the freebie hotel, then crash a friend’s house once it came to our dime (it’s a recession you know.)

So we flew out Saturday morning, knowing that we were going to have to be tuxed and gowned up that afternoon for the Craft Award ceremony. There was our first mistake! Why didn’t we fly out Friday??? We had babies!!!

There are always two ceremonies for the Emmy awards: the televised, and the “Earlier-This-Week” non-televised ceremony for all us schmoes who don’t rate being seen on national TV.   They are called The Craft Awards, which include almost all children’s TV categories except performer, and all the hard working directors, lighting designers, costume designers, make-up artists, camera operators, editors and writers on game shows, talk shows and educational shows. Soap operas merit most of the televised slots.

Marty as Telly and Luis (Emilio Delgado) were asked to present at the Crafts Award ceremony. Marty, being also up for a very important award and performing live for the Lifetime Achievement Award, was much more nervous than I suspected. I stupidly had us drive to JFK since we had so much baby stuff and babies. In hindsight, we could have fit it all in a car service sedan. This made him even tenser. Or, as he put it as we were driving into the airline departure area, which should be renamed chaotic disaster area, “I’m in Hell.” He didn’t think we should be taking the babies. But I wouldn’t go without the babies, so I would have missed my awards and the fun of being at the televised Emmys. So, he left babies and me at curbside while he parked the car.

And when did you have to check your bags an hour before flight time? Guess I’ve been just carrying on or flying international so I’m naturally there earlier. Suddenly, a security guard was telling us that we had three minutes to check our bags or we wouldn’t make our flight.    Marty had moved to a “well we just won’t go then” mood. I refused to be cowed. The security guard wheeled all our bags on one cart right up to the front of the line as I held up my two babies and said we needed help. The ticket agent at first wasn’t going to do it. But I was insistent, saying we have to make this flight, and we’ve got TWINS! Whatever clicked with her, she, along with the security guard, made it happen for us— thank you whoever you were. Perhaps she saw it as a way to take a break away from the desk, or like the Grinch, my girls made her heart grow. But she went from, “No possible way,” to getting all our bags of clothes, diapers and formula tagged, then walked us to the front of Security so we could start breaking down the stroller and taking off our shoes. She left us to walk our bags right through to the airplane. It worked; they were there on that carousel in L.A.

Next, we had to take a bus to the next terminal for the airplane. AHHHH! At this point, I was laughing. The babies were absolute angels. Only Marty was the Grim Reaper. We got onto the plane, walking past our seats so we had to push everybody back. Not pretty. But finally, I was seated with Lyra, and Marty was seated with Ripley. He was still stern the whole flight. I admittedly underestimated how nervous he was going to be about performing and the potential award. I did my best to keep going, changing all the poopy diapers in-flight. The girls just slept and had fun playing with all the knobs and textures of the seats. They even got their first glimpse of Sponge Bob.  

We were rescued in LAX when we got off and found that two other show mates—Fran Brill who plays Zoe and Matt Vogel who is the Big Bird back-up—were also on our flight. Marty could now go straight to the hotel and rehearsal with them. We had made arrangements to get a rental car. However, rehearsal was moved up and getting the car was now going to take too much time since our plane was late. I admit, I was happy to leave him in the care of the Sesame Emmy Machine with our luggage while I headed off with the girls to the rental car bus area. It was noon L.A. time and I didn’t need to be gowned-up until 4 p.m. With the help of a GPS, I found our hotel easily and had several hours with the girls to get some room service and relax.

Marty was in a MUCH, MUCH happier mood when he returned. Rehearsal was good. Also for the next two days, we were being shipped about by vans to and from the theatres so we were in essence “safe.” He was very apologetic for his earlier behavior and very happy now to show off his little girls to our dear Sesame Street mob. We got ready. I wore the same gown I wore to the last three Craft Awards, a black, short-sleeve number with a little glitter throughout and not too tight to show off my baby bulge. Marty was in his tux. We left the girls in the care of Marty’s cousin Andrew’s nanny, Iwona who was a science teacher in a past life and now lives in L.A.    

Not everyone was going to these awards—just the producers, presenters and myself. Most of the writing/directing/design team wasn’t there since it was too expensive to fly every single nominee out. It’s always “old home” week at the Craft Awards. People you’ve worked with on other projects are always there, up for new shows, particularly in Children’s Television.   It’s a small circle, and once you’ve broken in, you tend to work again and again with the same people.

It was too dark to take pictures. And the ceremony gets VERY long. Presenters were asked to not even read out loud nominees. We could read them on the large screens or in our programs. Telly and Luis were very funny. Many people came up to us after exclaiming how fascinating it was to actually see how the Muppets are performed—the same performer doing the puppetry and the live voice. Puppets like Telly or Cookie Monster can have a second person doing just the right hand, since the puppeteers two hands are in the mouth and left hand.

I didn’t win anything. Oh, well. Sesame won for best directing, costumes and new media.  

After dealing with long lines for food, wine that gave me a headache, we made it back to the hotel to our sleeping babies, happy to be alive in L.A.

Chris Knowing and Marty at rehearsal.   Both nominated for Best Performer in a Children’s Series.

Everyone getting into their places at rehearsal right before curtain up!

Big Bird and his pregnant wrangler Michelle Hickey.

Luis (Emilio Delgado) meets the babies along with Pam Arciero, Marty’s long-time right hand of Telly.

Televised Daytime Emmys!

Curriculum of the Day:  Emotions:  Nervous!

Marty Robinson, Telly Monster, Pam Arciero and Annie Evans

We awoke to happy babies at 4 a.m. It’s time to get up in Connecticut!

Marty was so emotionally wiped out. Being the kind wife I am, I took the babies out of the room. First, we ventured up to the hotel roof. We witnessed a glorious sunrise, and then the clouds of smoke rising from the fires out to the east. It looked like someone had set off an atomic bomb in San Bernardino. We had a lovely time—the girls in the stroller, and me with my feet in the hot tub. It was one of those precious moments you hopefully will always remember. Then, we took a walk up to the Disney Concert Hall that’s designed by Frank Gehry. Quite a wonder to behold with its huge waves of steel.

Finally, we had to have some breakfast back in the room. Final rehearsal for the show was this morning. The girls were previewed by the last of our Sesame friends who were here. We crammed into the van, the driver being great about squeezing in the double stroller in the front seat. We were walked through the backstage of The Orpheum Theatre and led down to the basement green room. It was a bit chaotic with dozens of crewmembers in headsets escorting presenters upstairs when they were on deck. The babies and I stayed downstairs when the Sesame gang was called up. Lyra and Ripley had their first glimpse of the characters that pay our bills on the large TV feed. They seemed fairly interested. They were also interested in the feel of the leather couch. The girls got to wave hello to Susan Lucci and Vanessa Williams (Mommy puppeteered).

After the rehearsal, we piled back into the van and returned to the hotel to get fancy. Iwona arrived and took the girls off in the stroller to enjoy downtown Los Angeles. Marty put on the same tux, different shirt. My gown for the night I bought at a Redding estate sale for $25.00. (I believe I’ve mentioned there’s a recession?) The woman at the house was quite a clotheshorse and had closets of items with the labels still attached. This gown had a simple, dark blue velvet top with a drop hemline, dark blue silky skirt. No one seemed to stop and stare, so I think I got away with my second hand purchase.  

We gathered at the lobby of the hotel.

Can you pick out all the cast?

Marty and Telly in their tuxes.

Carroll Spinney who plays Oscar and Big Bird.

Leslie Carrara who plays Abby Cadabby.

Fran Brill who plays Zoe.

Video Producer Melissa Dino and Sonia Manzano (Maria).

Kevin Clash and Elmo.

David Rudman who plays Cookie Monster. The original Cookie Monster is Frank Oz who is busy with his directing career, but once in a while comes to the studio to do some Cookie or Bert skits, which is always a huge thrill for everyone.

Happy monsters and their puppeteers with Sonia.

Smiling on the red carpet.

Telly and Marty the Hipsters.

Something must have cracked up Fran.

After all the dazzle and paparazzi, we made it to our seats, which were very good since Marty was a nominee. Vanessa Williams did an incredible job hosting the show, with a fabulously funny opening number where she was put into situations with various Soap Stars and TV hosts.

There’s no denying it was a tense moment for Marty when his award was being announced.   He was nominated along side three other Sesame performers—Leslie Carrara as Abby, Kevin Clash as Elmo, and Chris Knowing as Chris. The only non-Sesame performer nominated was Bindi Irwin. Very cute, talented girl but I wanted my husband to win, or at least someone from Sesame Street. Leslie was seated directly in front of us and Kevin to the side. There was a camera poised to pick-up one of them if they won. The envelope was opened, and it was—Kevin Clash as Elmo

We were all happy for Kevin. I was disappointed for Marty. He’s been on the show for 28 years doing incredible work as Snuffy and Telly, not to mention Slimey, Buster the Horse, Irvine and countless other AM characters.  (AM stands for Anything Muppet, which refers to all the different humanoids, sheep, cows, penguins, etc. that are used on the show.)

There wasn’t time to be sad because suddenly all the Sesame performers were being whisked off by a stage manager to get set for their moment on stage. I was left alone with Leslie Carrara’s husband, Paul Rudolph, who also happens to be the Sesame Music Coordinator. A strange, young man in a tux came and sat in Marty’s seat, which was very weird. When the camera pans the audience, they don’t want to see any empty seats, so they have hired seat sitters who jump around filling empty seats when anyone wins, goes backstage to present or perform.

Sandra Oh had been asked to introduce the Sesame Street Lifetime Achievement Award.   She was so enthusiastic, it brought tears to my eyes. She had been a guest star playing a Fairy Cookie Person recently and just gushed about how moving it was to meet Carroll Spinney, see the set and be a part of the show. After they showed a video of show clips from 1969-2008, the curtain rose. There was everyone, including Oscar’s can starting to sing an Emmy-ized version of “Sunny Days.” The crowd leapt to their feet, and stayed standing the whole performance.

There were more awards for some very pretty people, a farewell to “Guiding Light” and the ceremony was over. The entire audience was invited to walk down the street to a post-ceremony party and dinner. We stayed for a little while, but it wasn’t as entertaining as the night before since we aren’t familiar with most of the soap crowd. As I mentioned in yesterday’s September 4th entry, the Craft Awards are much more “old home week.” We did get some time chatting with Buzz Aldrin about a manned mission to Mars.  

Eventually, we all headed back to the hotel where there was a more intimate dinner waiting for us. However, Mommy had gotten up at 4 a.m., so I was barely able to keep my head out of the salad at this point. I said goodnight and went upstairs to relieve Iwona. The babies were sound asleep in their crib. Our Emmy adventure was over.

Our Mini-Break Holiday

Curriculum of the Day: Rest

The next morning, we were in a fabulous mood despite the fact I had an 8 a.m. conference call for the Indonesian Sesame Street. Marty was in a great place since all the Emmy pressure was off. He was already dreaming up ideas for HandyMan on an adventure in Hollywood. He took care of the babies while I did the call and typed up all the script review notes. Then, we packed up our clothes, our babies and checked out of downtown LA.

First stop on our tiny holiday was the Jim Henson Company Studio. About a decade ago, the Jim Henson Company purchased the original Charlie Chaplin studio in Hollywood. They renovated it, putting back some of the charm that had been lost over the years, even ripping out blacktop and putting in cobblestones. Of course, a large Kermit the Frog now graced the front gate and other Muppet memorabilia was spread out around the facility. We were given a tour, Marty got to play with some of the cool, digital puppetry equipment, and we even put our feet into the concrete footsteps of Charlie Chaplin. The girls were just wonderful, never getting fussy despite the Hollywood September heat. A healthy salad at the commissary made it the perfect visit.

We headed west to the other side of the 405 and my friend Greg Germann’s house. We were going to spend our last two days here, enjoying the 20 degree cooler weather and visiting with friends. For dinner that night, we brought the girls to the Santa Monica Promenade. We strolled them up and down the blocks, with no agenda whatsoever, settling on a Japanese restaurant for our meal. Lyra decided it was finally time to kick up a fuss, so I walked her back and forth in front of our outdoor table, picking up a piece of sushi every time I passed by.

The next morning, the girls and I played on the floor of the playroom while Greg’s son, Asa and his friend played some car chasing video game while Marty kibitzed. The girls had their first balls to play with and got very excited by the potential of round things that roll. We all headed to the Santa Monica beach and the girls and HandyMan got to dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean. Dolphins were swimming in the distance. The girls tried to see what sand tastes like. Thanks to our SPF 50 sun block, the afternoon was burn-free and quite idyllic.  

We did some quick shopping for food since we were having some old friends from my theatre days over for dinner. Max Mayer, Leslie Urdang, and Mark Linn-Baker started New York Stage and Film Company back in the late 1980s. I was their only employee at the time and I stayed for a decade becoming their literary manager for the last several years. It was my working graduate program where I got to meet fabulous actors and learn what makes good writing. The theatre is still going strong, although I had to move on and into children’s television land to earn a living.

Leslie, Max and his daughter Jude, Terry Urdang and her family, Jayne Atkinson and her son all hung out in Greg’s playroom catching up and meeting the twins. We ended the evening with a friendly game of poker with the kids. It was so good to see Greg after almost a year and a half. I love being able to just pick up where you left off with people, despite time and distance.

The next day, HandyMan took a little visit to Hollywood Boulevard, and then we were off to the airport. This time, we gave ourselves PLENTY of time. The airline wasn’t nearly the disaster it was in LAX. It even had a security line for people with strollers and kids. The rest of the trip was uneventful, even getting everyone into the car at JFK was rather painless.

It was a fast and furious five days. Despite Marty and my three nominations, we didn’t have any Emmys to stash in the overhead compartments on the way home, but we’d certainly be happy to try winning again next year, even in Los Angeles.

The First Day of Shooting

Curriculum of the Day: Beginnings

2 p.m.

Today is the first day of shooting for Season 41. And I’m not there. Marty is. It’s a show with a lot of Telly Monster.

Writers are definitely welcome on the set. Unlike many television shows, we are asked to come to the studio when our shows are shooting to keep an extra eye on what’s happening. Sesame Street shoots very fast with three cameras. The directors are very busy just keeping up with the camera cuts and action, so sometimes small moments can be missed. The producers keep watch as well, but it’s good to have the writers there, too. Several times over the years, I’ve had to do rewrites or cuts if we’re behind, or some moment just isn’t working. One time, I did a bit with Grover and Prairie Dawn talking about “surprise” in 30 seconds. Frank Oz was actually on set doing Grover. The bit was playing longer than 30 seconds so we had to cut it down. I went through the script line by line with Frank to get it perfect.   I was SO honored!

My first show doesn’t shoot until October 8, so until then I’ll hear about the day’s events from Marty. There are many Telly shows this season (yah!), so he’s going to be busy.  

10 p.m.:

Marty came home at 9:30, gave me a kiss, looked at the sleeping babies and went right to bed without saying a word. His voice was absolutely shot from doing Telly all day. He needs to rest it until the moment he gets back to the studio tomorrow to do another big Telly show. He did take some video of our executive producer, Carol-Lynn Parente, giving some opening greetings to everyone. A first day pep talk. HandyMan also made an appearance so keep an eye out for behind-the-scenes video in the next few weeks. 

Marty and Telly back together again.
Marty and Telly back together again.

Kevin Clash (Elmo), Carmen Osbahr (Rosita) and Marty/Telly rehearsing a scene.
Kevin Clash (Elmo), Carmen Osbahr (Rosita) and Marty/Telly rehearsing a scene.

Meanwhile, Annie and the girls are at home we definitely needing a visit from the fashion police.
Meanwhile, Annie and the girls are at home we definitely needing a visit from the fashion police.

My SESAME STREET Mad Men Spoof Hits The Web

Curriculum of the Day: Self Esteem (a.k.a. Shameless Self-Promotion)

I was just informed that the parody I wrote last season with headwriter Joey Mazzarino already has more than a quarter of a million hits on YouTube.

It’s also been written up on several major blog sites such as the Huffington Post.

I have to say, it’s pretty amazing to know that many people have seen it already—and probably very few of them are children since Season 40 doesn’t start airing until November 10. Crazy!

We always shoot several of these TV parodies every season. In fact, I wanted to do one on “The Closer” this year, but another writer was smart enough to pitch the idea before me. Basically, once we writers have our main shows of the season written, we work on inserts, which include our famous parodies. Last season, I knew Mad Men was a natural for the curriculum of emotions. I pitched the idea to Joey and wrote a first draft that was focused more on the characters themselves being mad, sad and glad. He suggested we add in an advertising angle with a “Honey Bear” campaign. I wrote a second draft, which Joey approved and sent into the long pipeline of production. I couldn’t go to the studio to watch it shoot because I was eight months pregnant and on bed rest. I only recently viewed the finished product myself. Now, I really wish I had been there to witness the fabulous puppetry by Frank Oz playing Mr. Draper and Joey Mazzarino and Tyler Bunch as the two ad men.   

Sesame Street is very good at teaching about emotions and making it funny. Today, I am proud.  

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Like your family we have twins, boy/girl, that turned three last month. I saw your blog entry for January and it looks like we have something in common, potty training twins. Like one of your girls, my son WILL NOT pee in the potty but his sister was doing well until she caught on to "Bubbie" not trying. I was just letting things run their course but our local pre-schools/mommy day out programs require the children to be potty trained and this mommy needs a day out. Bribery isn't working. Have you had any success?


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How often is the telly puppet renewed or replaced?

Katherine Sydney, Australia

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I read in 40 Years of Life on the Street about an incident involving Snuffy's puppet where a sombrero caused the wood frame to collapse on you and Bryant Young. Did they rebuild the puppet after that or did they just make a new one?


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I just wanted to say thanks for the blog. My daughter Kylie (who just turned two yesterday) loves to ask if we are going to see "the babies." Thank you so much to you and Marty for bringing the joy of Sesame Street into our lives every day.

Kendal and Kylie Montreal, Canada

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I've noticed that there are fewer Muppets and people in an episode now than there were twenty years ago. Does everyone show up on the set for filming days or only certain ones? Who decides who gets to play the Anything Muppets? There are some voices I hear more than others.


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