to finally see Mr. Hooper once more
December 8, 2019 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Carrol Spinney, who performed as Big Bird for over fifty years, has passed at 85. Spinney retired from the role last year after his struggles with dystonia prevented him from performing any longer. Spinney on the blue previously: [1], [2], [3].
posted by mightygodking (109 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Frayed Knot at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by skycrashesdown at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2019


*slams trash can lid*

This one hurts.

He’s up there with Jesus, Bach, Jim Henson, and those guys.

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posted by Melismata at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2019 [10 favorites]


Oh, god dammit. And I was just watching this earlier this week.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:06 AM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


🐥

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posted by Fizz at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


He helped a lot of people with his entertainment. RIP.
posted by ardgedee at 10:10 AM on December 8, 2019


I hadn't realized he was still birding it up until so recently—I'd assumed there were kids and maybe even adults who'd grown up with a different Big Bird. What a giant.

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posted by babelfish at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2019 [9 favorites]


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posted by /\/\/\/ at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2019


💔
posted by pxe2000 at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2019


It took seeing this x-ray image in my 30s to realize that on some level I’d always believed Big Bird was real — that the performer was simply wearing a suit but was basically actually Big Bird, his mouth where Big Bird's mouth was, his eyes where Big Bird's eyes are. I've been talking about this on Twitter today and someone sent me Spinney's performance from Henson's memorial and even watching it in the context of this conversation it's hard not to immediately become confused about how the puppet works. I find that I have to continually return to the non-moving arm to demystify it or I fall back into seeing Big Bird as being actually alive again. It's a hell of a thing.
posted by gerryblog at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2019 [17 favorites]


We watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street every year when the boy was young, lots of Sesame Street, in general. Carrol Spinney put the heart in Big Bird. What a great achievement.
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posted by theora55 at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


A literal giant of television.

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posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by lalochezia at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2019




Man, 2019 bites.
posted by WCityMike at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


Oh goodness. Oh oh oh! Suddenly crying. Oh goodness!

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posted by hippybear at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by badbobbycase at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Countess Elena at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Etrigan at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2019


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I feel like i’ve lost a friend.
posted by mogget at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


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posted by DingoMutt at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by praemunire at 10:38 AM on December 8, 2019


I just put on a new HBO Sesame Street yesterday because it was on and I wanted to see if it was completely fucked up at this point and the new Big Bird's voice is so masculine and I was very sad about it. I always thought it was so sweet that Big Bird was a little boy and sounded like a little boy and back then there was way less pressure on kids to pick a gender and perform the hell out of it as much as possible. Yet another thing we're losing. And now this. R. I. P.
posted by bleep at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


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posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Smart Dalek at 10:44 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by elsilnora at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2019


No, nonono. This is just too awful. 85 years is a good long time, but...just no. Big Bird can't be gone. 💔

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posted by freelanceastro at 10:58 AM on December 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


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Thanks for everything
posted by sallybrown at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


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Off to rewatch Follow that Bird and sob during the bluebird of happiness song.
posted by the primroses were over at 11:05 AM on December 8, 2019 [5 favorites]


(Especial thanks for playing Oscar the Grouch, who was my favorite - he was just like my grandpa.)
posted by sallybrown at 11:15 AM on December 8, 2019 [10 favorites]


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posted by stevil at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2019


Oh, this one really, really hurts. He made the world a better place. Five years ago, I was able to see his documentary, I Am Big Bird, and he was there for a talkback. Partway through, he brought out Oscar and started answering interview questions in his voice; he completely transformed immediately, and I could see everyone in the audience honestly believing that the Muppet had come alive. Everyone was looking directly at Oscar, rather than the man behind him. I then semi-stalked him down to his waiting car, unable to actually tell him what his characters had meant to me as a child.

One of my most traumatic childhood memories was having the tape of Follow That Bird, on my very first viewing, accidentally cut off when Big Bird was still imprisoned and alone at the circus; the thought of this kind, loving character being sad and without his friends was too much for child me to bear. Still is. My parents found me in tears, and I don’t think anyone has ever run to a video rental place faster.

I still use a scene from the episode with Mr. Hooper’s death in one of my classes, so I guess I’ll just say, at least we can still remember him, and remember him, and remember him.
posted by ilana at 11:17 AM on December 8, 2019 [19 favorites]


Guess Spinney's a star now. If anyone's heart is lighter than a feather...

Don't Eat The Pictures: The
Weighing Of Sahu's Heart

posted by zamboni at 11:17 AM on December 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


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posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:17 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by pangolin party at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by notsnot at 11:26 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by filtergik at 11:28 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by ugf at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2019


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posted by luckynerd at 11:41 AM on December 8, 2019


My childhood TV watching included a lot of Sesame Street, and I have such fond memories of it. Thank you Mr. Spinney for your Big Bird; you influenced many millions of children in a really positive way.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:41 AM on December 8, 2019


I also met Caroll Spinney at a screening of I Am Big Bird. I asked if I could hug Oscar the Grouch. I handed my phone to a complete stranger to capture the moment, knowing that if there was any place I could trust a stranger with my phone, it was there.

I got the hug. I got the photo. I got my phone back.

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posted by Faint of Butt at 11:43 AM on December 8, 2019 [15 favorites]


Oscar. Fuck me, I'll miss him.

This greeted me every time I turned on the light in my room growing up, I never changed it even when I was high school aged and far too cool for Sesame Steet. He was important to me. That room is now taken over by a hoarder's hoard, that I saw/felt coming as I went through primary school, and I'll likely never see it or the room again, well maybe once, one sad, lacrimose day in the future. I don't know what all that means or why I'm typing it but I hope the person that gave me those feelings growing up is at peace and knows how amazing his work was.

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posted by RolandOfEld at 11:45 AM on December 8, 2019 [10 favorites]


Thank you, Mr. Spinney. Thank you.
posted by drivingmenuts at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


He’s up there with Jesus, Bach, Jim Henson, and those guys.

Also Mssrs. Roger and Hooper.

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posted by TedW at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


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posted by Gray Duck at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2019


His interview segments on the TV Academy website will require many tissues but will warm the heart. The Mr. Hooper moments most of all.

https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/interviews/caroll-spinney#interview-clips
posted by Freedomboy at 12:05 PM on December 8, 2019


I got to visit the Sesame Street set when I was young, in the 70s, and got to meet Mssrs Spinney and Henson and others. It was the happiest day of my childhood. These people shaped a generation, and taught us it was ok to be yourself, to ignore critics, and to trust in your own inner dialogue. I loved them so much, and am so grateful for everything they did.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:07 PM on December 8, 2019 [17 favorites]


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posted by detachd at 12:08 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Mitheral at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2019


Until today I always thought Carrol Spinney was a woman.
posted by great_radio at 12:14 PM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


Courtesy of a muppet fan group I'm a member of, Full playlist of I Am Big Bird soundtrack

I'm changing all my thumbnails to this for a bit... I wish I could make it into an emoji/period sized thing
posted by DigDoug at 12:25 PM on December 8, 2019 [5 favorites]



posted by droplet at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2019


It took seeing this x-ray image in my 30s to realize that on some level I’d always believed Big Bird was real — that the performer was simply wearing a suit but was basically actually Big Bird, his mouth where Big Bird's mouth was, his eyes where Big Bird's eyes are. I've been talking about this on Twitter today and someone sent me Spinney's performance from Henson's memorial and even watching it in the context of this conversation it's hard not to immediately become confused about how the puppet works. I find that I have to continually return to the non-moving arm to demystify it or I fall back into seeing Big Bird as being actually alive again. It's a hell of a thing.

This puts me in mind of the time that Big Bird met Mr. Rogers, and the contrasting philosophies of Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Here's Spinney discussing it in an AMA:
Well, see - other people make arguments in favor of us being totally honest, that does not fit with my feeling of the joy of being a little child. I've seen a child discover me - we thought we were alone in a park, filming a scene outdoors on some great stretches of rock, we had to do a shot for a China film - and a little boy came along, and he saw me take Big Bird off! And he screamed, and cried, and I said "Quick!" - he looked so funny with his little legs, running away, crying and crying - and I chased after him, with the costume back on- and I said "Little boy, I'm okay" and he said "I thought that man was hurting you, Big Bird."

When children see that Big Bird - Mr. Rogers wanted me to lift the puppet which is so big I have to get inside, off - it's a series of hoops that create the shape of Big Bird, and then there's netting and feathers, they're all real feathers so he looks nice and real - we found out that children would NOT have liked seeing Big Bird take it off on Mr. Rogers. I said "I'm sorry, I can't do that!" Jim Henson didn't want me to do it either.

So we made a compromise with Mr. Rogers.

And that was that I would just go to the Make-Believe Land, and say "OK, this is Make-Believe" and have some other puppeteers - a good friend of mine, Bob Brown, would show how HIS puppets worked - little marionettes on strings - they don't look so real anyway, like Big Bird did to little kids.

We're not trying to fool them, we're just trying to entertain them, and let them know that their friend Big Bird is not just a man in a giant suit.
posted by zamboni at 12:36 PM on December 8, 2019 [14 favorites]


I am just old enough to remember Carroll Spinney before Big Bird, when he was the sketch artist on the Boston version of the Bozo Show (starring the late, great Frank Avruch). The bit was that he would write a child's name on a big piece of drawing paper, then turn the name into a drawing, all on live TV. Bozo was sometimes scary to me as a little kid, but oh how I wanted my name turned into a drawing.

Rest well, Carroll Spinney, and thank you for sharing your gifts with us all.
posted by briank at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2019 [11 favorites]


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posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2019


A tip of the garbage can lid-hat to Oscar for a grouch well done.

As for Big Bird, well, we're plucked.

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posted by zaixfeep at 1:06 PM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by XMLicious at 1:08 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:16 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by leslies at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:23 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by oneswellfoop at 1:28 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by andraste at 1:32 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by grimjeer at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by jzb at 1:40 PM on December 8, 2019


Also Mssrs. Roger and Hooper.

Don't forget the good Captain Kangaroo! All those great people, who is there to replace them?
posted by JHarris at 1:56 PM on December 8, 2019 [5 favorites]


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posted by camyram at 1:59 PM on December 8, 2019


So sad about all the gentle, loving children's TV stars who have passed on. I loved Sesame St. as much as my kids did, Big Bird and Oscar especially.
posted by mermayd at 2:15 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Halloween Jack at 2:29 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by fredosan at 2:43 PM on December 8, 2019


I grew up on Sesame Street, and was just commiserating with a friend who got to interview Spinney three different times over the years, including interviewing him in character as Oscar. She said he was everything in person you'd hope he would be.

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posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:46 PM on December 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


I met him at NYC Comicon years ago, I think when his book came out. He had a little booth right by the entrance, by the time I found it, I had spent all my Comicon money. He was completely understanding that I wasn't going to get his book and I got a hug and a photo. I wish I'd found that booth earlier or had more cash on hand. In a very short period of time, he was gentle and wonderful and it made my day better to discover that the man behind Big Bird was exactly the man he should be.

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posted by Hactar at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


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posted by mikelieman at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by dannyboybell at 3:35 PM on December 8, 2019


May his giblets never freeze in Heaven.
posted by delfin at 3:45 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by evilDoug at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by ZeusHumms at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by zengargoyle at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by kinnakeet at 4:21 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by hap_hazard at 4:23 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Start with Dessert at 4:37 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by valkane at 4:39 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by treepour at 5:17 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:45 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by LobsterMitten at 6:25 PM on December 8, 2019


Caroll, some afterlife advice: if you run into Gahan Wilson and he asks you for the wishbone, beware - he's not referring jokingly to your character. You're welcome. Stay safe up there.
posted by zaixfeep at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


Life is just a very brief cameo.
posted by tyro urge at 6:28 PM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


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posted by bryon at 6:49 PM on December 8, 2019


He made this a few years ago: 'Big Birdman'.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:09 PM on December 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


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posted by killy willy at 7:13 PM on December 8, 2019




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posted by kalimac at 7:25 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by tdismukes at 7:41 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by SoberHighland at 8:05 PM on December 8, 2019


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And one for Jim, too.

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posted by anastasiav at 8:25 PM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


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posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:38 PM on December 8, 2019


I grew up with Big Bird and Oscar... I made efforts to be sure that my children knew them too. One child is grown, one is not...

I feel lost.

Godspeed dear friend. Thank you for everything.
posted by pearlybob at 10:04 PM on December 8, 2019


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posted by Sphinx at 12:14 AM on December 9, 2019


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TIL, jarringly and unexpectedly, that Big Bird almost died on the Challenger:
Such was the appeal of Big Bird that NASA asked Mr. Spinney to fly into orbit in costume, to interest young people in space exploration. Mr. Spinney agreed to go, but it was ultimately determined that the space shuttle was too small to accommodate the Big Bird suit. A New Hampshire teacher, Christa McAuliffe, went in his stead...
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:30 AM on December 9, 2019 [6 favorites]


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posted by hal9k at 4:38 AM on December 9, 2019


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posted by ceejaytee at 6:17 AM on December 9, 2019


He made it to New York City and broke into public television.

RIP and thank you for all the lessons as both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
posted by Gelatin at 7:05 AM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


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posted by kathrynm at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2019


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posted by GoblinHoney at 8:15 AM on December 9, 2019


It is staggering to think of the gift he gave to the world. Thank you Mr. Spinney, safe travels.
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posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:26 AM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


dammit. this one hurts.
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posted by coppertop at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2019


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posted by cabin fever at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2019


I was able to see Carol Spinney at a showing of I am Big Bird. He was very kind and the whole experience filled me with glee, much like Big Bird and Oscar do & did for years. Thank you, Mr. Spinney.

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posted by wiskunde at 5:17 PM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


Awwww. I grew up down the road from Spinney's brother Don. His niece and I went to elementary school together and, at the time, she was the one with the famous uncle. I never met him but would occasionally hear little stories about him (he was, by all accounts, a great guy) and the one that always stuck with me was that he had a disco ball in his bedroom. It was the 70s, after all. Whenever those little "Who is the most famous person who went to your high school?" Twitter questions zipped around, my answer was always "Big Bird!" RIP.
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


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posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2019


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