Monday, November 9, 2009

There are monsters, and there are monsters...

...and then there's Cookie.

Forty years ago tonight, I was at home, sick with some illness of some kind, and my mom had already decided that I was not going to school the next day. Now, a day home from school meant a day spent catching up with game shows (three years later I could also lay claim to seeing the first installments of The Joker's Wild, The New Price Is Right and Gambit on CBS because I, uh, also happened to be sick on that day...funny how often that worked out, and how Mom was a willing accomplice). But this day was going to be a bit different. The TV Guide was promoting a brand new children's show on PBS called Sesame Street, and hyping the fact that the Muppets would be major players in the series. In 1969 Muppet fans were created primarily through their appearances on the institution that was The Ed Sullivan Show, and nothing brought out the excitement in me that learning they would be a part in that evening's telecast.

After all, Jim Henson's stock in trade was mostly monsters - fuzzy felt creations that were usually fangless, yes, but monsters nonetheless. And by this time, my monster allegiance was set for life. But a daily show featuring Jim Henson's creations? Sign me up.

The next morning at 9am I sat on the sofa next to a family friend who was visiting from Seattle for the week. We watched the opening installment together, and I still recall his observation that it was "very different." Even though I was a little old to be taking something away of educational value, the Muppets had me ensorceled, and none more so than Cookie Monster, who also premiered on a Sullivan sketch. With a glance from those googly eyes, or shoving mass quantities of cookies into that gaping blue maw (I remember when he actually had a throat, and the food disappeared into the puppet), or especially when he would throw in a phrase straight from the lips of a Brooklyn cabbie, he could have me giggling with laughter. This sketch from the series' earliest days may well be the first catchphrase I incorporated into my daily conversation. I think you'll figure out what it is (and I could've sworn Cookie entered the frame one more time at the end to repeat it).

Jim Henson, as always, RIP. And Happy Birthday, Sesame Street...from a monstrous fan.

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