Spinney once told the New York Times that he modeled Oscar the Grouch on a cross between a “magnificently rude” restaurant waiter and a dazzling New York cabbie.
In 1973, a year after then-US President Richard Nixon made his dramatic trip to China, Spinney flew to Beijing for a show disguised as a Big Bird – he said he didn’t. paid only half the price of the plane ticket because the character “was only six years old.” old.”
Upon Henson’s death in 1990, Big Bird sang the softly melancholy melody of Kermit It’s Not Easy Being Green at a memorial service.
“Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its beginnings in 1969 through five decades,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
“His enormous talent and oversized heart were perfectly suited to play the larger-than-life yellow bird that has delighted generations of children and countless fans of all ages across the world, and his adorably cantankerous curmudgeon us gave everyone permission to be cranky once in a while. “
‘INFECTIOUS LOVE AND JOY’
Poignantly, Spinney’s death came as the show marked its 50th anniversary and was honored with one of America’s greatest cultural awards – the Kennedy Center Honors – at a gala Sunday in Washington.
Spinney himself has won several Daytime Emmys for his work, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. It also won a Grammy Award, for best children’s recording.
Upon retirement, he reportedly said his alter ego Big Bird had “opened my mind and nourished my soul.”
He’s handpicked his successors in both lead roles – having mentored them for more than two decades.
A shy child, Spinney embraced the puppet and is said to have owned 70 puppets by the age of 12. He met Henson at a puppeteer festival in 1962 and met him again in 1969; months later, he joined Sesame Street.
Spinney’s life was the subject of the 2014 documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.
Big Bird, the instantly recognizable giant yellow bird with a huge beak, stands over 2.5m tall.
Spinney, who was 5ft 10in tall, had to use his hands and sons to manipulate the towering puppet, guided by a costumed TV monitor.
In 2000, he was named Living Legend by the United States Library of Congress and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Henson’s family said in a statement that Spinney was able to “convey humor and heart perfectly into our father’s creations.” Big Bird was childish, without being childish. And Oscar the Grouch reflected the universal feelings we all share, regardless of our age.
“That he was able to do this job so brilliantly, responsibly, and with infectious love and joy is his gift to all of us,” the statement said.