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Sesame Family Robinson – From making Muppets to Raising Moppets

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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.





Telly and Oscar Together Again.

Curriculum of the Day:   Collaboration

I got a funny idea (or at least I think it’s funny) for an insert with Oscar and Telly introducing the number of the day.

Marty loves doing scenes with Telly and Oscar because they both can drive each other crazy. In this bit, Telly is introducing the letter B right in front of Oscar’s trash can. Oscar pops up and is bothered. He says, “Beat it!” and, “Boy oh boy!” and, “Blech!” and, “Blah, blah, blah!” As you’ve probably guessed, Telly just keeps happily pointing out that Oscar is using “B” words. He finally drives Oscar back into his can.     

I tried a reverse of the structure for “N” where Oscar is quietly introducing the letter because it starts such great words like “no” “nothing” and “never.” Then, he’s driven back into his can by Telly using nice “N” words. Our head writer, Joey, felt it would be better to keep it in the similar style as the “B” insert. Over the phone, he read me a rewrite where Telly introduces the letter and Oscar pops up using “no” and “never.” Again, he is driven back into his can by Telly calling him a good “neighbor.” I added that Telly should be calling down into the can that Oscar is a good neighbor, which Marty loves doing. So, the script coordinator is writing it up and it will go into the pipeline. (We’re moving fast since we start shooting on September 28.) It’s a fine example of how our “3-year-old” curriculum can work in the adult world, too. Life involves collaboration, especially in television.

Summer is over, fall is here. We’re closing the pool tomorrow. The girls were feted at an end-of-summer party, and then we all caught colds. I hate it when that happens!

BABY SPORTS: The Sitting Up Game

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Season 40 Birthday Party

Telly looking at his likeness in the Sesame Street 40th Birthday cake.

While I unpack from Northern Ireland, here's another great photo of Telly at the Sesame Street Season 40 birthday party.

Turkey Time Once Again

Curriculum of the Day: Holidays

Thanksgiving for “Sesame Family Robinson” always has to revolve, well, around Sesame Street. While most families have that day off to prepare for their big feast, Marty has a standing gig at the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes, there are real puppeteers on that Sesame Street float, and one of them is Marty with Telly singing and waving to the crowds.

Marty really enjoys this job. Although it requires him to be at the float by 7 a.m., it’s always full of high energy and good spirits. (Even when it’s freezing cold and raining! One year, it was so cold that we had hot potatoes in our coat pockets.) Back when I still had my apartment in New York, we’d stay over on Wednesday night, often going to 80th Street with the crowds to watch the balloons being blown up.  I’ve gone several times with Marty in the early morning to wish everyone well and wave as the float heads off down Central Park West. One time, a big gaggle of high school cheerleaders jogged by the float and caught a glimpse of Bob practicing his dance steps.  

“BOB!!! IT’S BOB!!!” All these enthusiastic gals in short skirts and ponytails rushed the float to shake hands and take pictures with Bob. It was adorable.

Our cast and friends practicing their moves before the float starts its parade journey.
Our cast and friends practicing their moves before the float starts its parade journey.

Two years ago, they introduced the Abby Cadabby balloon. Leslie Carrara (Abby’s puppeteer) was over the moon with joy.

Leslie and Abby with the Abby balloon and handlers.
Leslie and Abby with the Abby balloon and handlers.

Marty always calls his mom while inside the float so she can watch the TV broadcast while listening to it live on Marty’s phone. He’s very sweet to his mommy.

Marty Robinson at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
That wild and crazy Thanksgiving guy.

Once the float starts down the long road to 34th Street and 6th Avenue and the Macy’s building, I usually go back to my apartment and watch the events unfold on TV. The last few years, we stayed at our friend’s house up on 147th Street, so I’d wait for Marty at a nice breakfast place closer to midtown. This year, with 9-month-old babies, I’m staying home and Marty will just have to get up very early to make his way to NYC by 7 a.m. This is the first year we’re going to host a Thanksgiving dinner on the actual day since we’ve been together. Usually, after the parade, we’d head to Long Island to have the big meal with my parents and brother. Now, with Dad living up here at his new assisted living facility (see June 27th post), everyone is coming to our place to celebrate.

The cook in this household is Marty, so the turkey will have to be ready to go before he leaves. I am capable of turning on the oven at the appropriate time. Most of the side dishes will be made on Wednesday. I’m in charge of dessert so, of course, I’ve ordered pies from the local bakery. As an ex-New Yorker, I’m great at ordering. My friend Catherine and her boyfriend MartyMath (He’s a math teacher, and we call him that so we don’t get the two Marty’s confused) are bringing several classic dishes as well. My brother and his wife are staying over and heading to Cape Cod the next day for Thanksgiving again. I don’t know what they’re bringing; it will be a surprise. Bryant Young, the back end of Mr. Snuffleupagus, is also going to be a guest. It’s a new paradigm with Dad up in here in CT and new babies in our midst. I’m looking forward to hosting Turkey Day with great thanks in my heart.
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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?

Sommer

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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?

Edward

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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.

Glenda

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