Close Encounters of The Bird Kind

(October 7th, 2012)

Well, Romney is threatening to lay off Big Bird—maybe he’ll outsource the bird to China—or have the big guy make black-bag cash runs to Switzerland. It was sad to see that Big Bird might get the sack because he’s a harmless creature of nature (with a person inside, but still). He’s also bi-partisan, and maybe he’s bi-sexual. Then again, why do I assume Big Bird is a he? Will this male bias never end!?

Below, a couple of personal encounters with Big Bird. One of my own and the other from an anonymous but trustworthy source.

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My story (based, as they say in the movies, on ACTUAL EVENTS):

Long time ago… I was walking with my daughter, age three, in Central Park and we came across a crew shooting a Big Bird segment for Sesame Street. They were getting ready for another take, adjusting lighting, camera position and the like– so Big Bird was taking it easy, getting his feathers fluffed, or whatever…
My daughter, bright, sharp and a not especially shy, walks up to BB, looks all the way up and says: “Are you a boy?” Big Bird looks down, “No.” My daughter looks puzzled: “Are you a girl?” Big Bird, somewhat tentative, says, “No.”
Now my daughter is irritated, she a scowl on her face, “Well then, what are you!?” Big Bird hesitates again, then says, “I’m a bird.” My daughter snorts, grabs my hand and pulls me away…
Sometimes you can’t sit on the fence and play it safe—you have to declare yourself one way or the other.

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The Following—also a true story—revealed here for the first time…

“Think of me as a source that was once deep inside children’s television. Call me Deep Beak

The year was 1986 and as was the case with many high profile clients, I was tapped to record Big Bird for Henson Associates.  The studio booked its biggest control room for the session, and the producer’s desk was crammed with suits.
All the producers arrived early, but the talent didn’t, in fact the talent didn’t arrive at the stroke of the hour when we were due to start, nor at quarter-past.  Lot’s of hubbub,  phone calls, “Where’s Carroll?  He’s not picking up at home, he must be on his way…” New York producers are quite gregarious, until someone wastes their time.  There was a lot of grumbling and by 30 minutes past, we almost had an open revolt. Then, the door cracked open and the first thing we saw was the front wheel of a very old Dunelt three-speed bicycle.  Carroll wheeled the bike in, and the only thing stranger than his appearance was his voice.  Even out of character, his voice had the helium/kazoo high-pitched whizz of Big Bird, just dialed back a bit. “Hi! I’m so sorry I’m late, but it’s such a beautiful Spring day, and I was riding through Central Park, and the trees were blooming and the flowers were blooming and I guess I just lost track of time!”

Carroll was a wispy 50-ish man, in black slacks and a black shirt. Over the shirt, he wore a petite Guatemalan embroidered vest with roses and flowering vines… the kind of vest some Earth Mama would wear over her peasant blouse at a Dead concert.  Carroll’s hair was a silver gray longish page-boy with laser-cut bangs and an inward curl  at the collarbone… and after a long bike ride, it looked lacquered in-place.  Cover-girl perfect.
I think Carroll could give a few hair tips to Jill Stein, since their hairdos are so similar, and who seems to have a little bit of a frizzy problem, even sans bike ride.  Of course, Jill is entitled to look a little frizzy, since she gets arrested for her beliefs, while Carroll still roams Central Park West on his three-speed with impunity.  Where’s the justice?”

(All these years later, though the Lehrer Commission investigating the lay-off and subsequent mysterious death of Big Bird has sealed all documents, the identity of “Big Beak” is revealed to be Ray Hopper, a former recording engineer and writer, now living in Gainesville Florida).

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