Caroll Spinney – the guy who kept Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on “Sesame Street” for almost half a century – has passed away.
Spinney died in his Connecticut home on Sunday after living with dystonia for a time, according to Sesame Workshop … the non-profit organization behind the hit children’s television show. Dystonia is a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably.
Incredibly, the longtime puppeteer worked on the show for 49 yearsâ¦ and retired from âSesameâ last year. He had been a part of the show since its debut in 1969. In addition to being the man behind Big Bird, Spinney also managed and voiced Oscar the Grouch.
The legendary Jim Henson brought Spinney on board, and by most accountsâ¦ he struggled to bring Big Bird to life at first and make it resonate with audiences. Ultimately, Spinney said he turned BB into a “big kid” character – and the rest was history.
He’s starred in thousands of episodes of âSesame Streetâ – more than any other cast member – and it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park controlling the 8-foot bird costume. Spinney said he should hold the 5-pound head with his right hand and work the mouth and eyebrows at that endâ¦ while controlling both arms with his left.
There was a fishing line connecting the two ends inside the suit, and Spinney would operate on both using only his left side. Oscar, without a doubt, was much easier to work with.
He is survived by his wife Debra and their three children. Spinney was 85 years old.