Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Muppets take Chicago

The New York Times had an interesting article on Disney's attempt to revive the Muppet franchise (you can read it here).

Some of my favorite interviews of all time are the Q&As I've done with various Muppets. The highlight, of course, was my sit down interview with Miss Piggy. At the end of the interview she offered to put me in touch with Kermit. Sadly, Kermit remains the elusive "get" in my career. In 2010, I came close to finally sitting down with him for a book he was plugging. He ended up bowing out of the interview. He said he had a "frog" in his throat. I still don't believe him. Anyway, here's my chat with the divine Miss Piggy:
This riviting interview somehow lost the Pulitzer in 2009. Photo (C) 2009 by John J. Kim/Sun-Times. Used with permission.
This interview originally ran in the Chicago Sun-Times Aug. 21, 2009. Miss Piggy was a guest of honor at that year's Glamorama.

After 35 years in show business, you're bound to rack up a few dresses and develop a signature sense of style. Actress, singer and best-selling author Miss Piggy throws open her closets to give the rest of us just a glimpse of her glamor with a retrospective on display through Aug. 22, 2009 on the seventh floor of
Macy's on State Street.

She spoke to us Aug. 20, 2009, ahead of a rumored appearance at that night's Glamorama at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State.

Q. Was it hard to part with the outfits on display?

Miss Piggy: No. I'm getting them back. [Loudly, to a Macy's employee passing by.] I AM GETTING THEM BACK, right? This isn't a charity. Well, Glamorama is for a charity, but I'm not giving away my clothes. I'm just letting them air out a little bit.

Q. Can you talk about what you'll be wearing tonight?

MP: You mean who I'm wearing, right, dearie? Moi is wearing Marc Jacobs. Isn't he lucky?
The divine swine with designer Marc Jacobs and the dress he designed for her.
Q. What's the one item that every female should have in her closet?

MP. A Starbucks. It really perks you right up when you're stuck in there trying to decide what to wear. I have two.

Q. Given all the hysteria around the swine flu, are people treating you any differently?

MP. People look at moi as a fashion icon first. They see me as a woman first. Wait! How many firsts did I say? Regardless, they see me as a pig last. I am proud to be a pig. Not too many pigs have risen to the level of success I have. Babe the pig was a robot! Just as an aside.

Q. Lady Gaga recently turned heads with a coat fashioned out of stuffed animals that looked like your beloved Kermit. Reaction?

MP. That was faux frog. I have the real deal at home. I have no problem with what she wears. She has impeccable fashion sense. She has obviously been inspired by moi.


Q. What would you like to see Kermit wear?

MP. Um, I don't know ... PANTS, for starters. A shirt. If he's not
going to wear pants, how about a long shirt? A Snuggie? Something!
Q.Who has yet to design for you that you are dying to wear?

MP. Vera Wang. A wedding dress, perhaps. [Sighing, and throwing her head back.] One can dream. From my lips to Vera Wang's ears.

Q. Speaking of weddings: Will Kermit ever propose, or are you both OK with him being the Stedman to your Oprah?

MP. Ask Kermit why he's never proposed. Seriously! I'll give you his number. Ask him!

Not to be outdone, I spoke with Bert and Ernie by phone on June 16, 2002 while the pair were on a breaking from film "Sesame Street." On the heels of a rather nasty Q&A with Entertainment Weekly, their publicist (yes, Bert and Ernie have a publicist) warned me that any inappropriate questions would result in a termination of the call. So, I was on my best behavior. It turns out, they were good sports, though. It was seriously one of the funniest interviews I've ever done. It originally ran June 21, 2002 in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Long before Barney, Blue and Arthur, there were Bert and Ernie. For 33 seasons, the pair have been delighting the preschool set on "Sesame Street." The duo finally got their due earlier in June 2002 when Sony Wonder released "Bert & Ernie's Word Play" on VHS and DVD.

We sat down with the Muppet pals to talk about their "play" and life on Sesame Street.

Q. Just how old are you?

Ernie: It's the darndest thing. I've been on the show for 33 years, but don't look or feel a day over 6.

Bert:  I don't discuss my age. Next question.

Q. Do you have last names?

E: No. We're like Cher.

B: Or Madonna.

E: It's kind of a one-name thing.

Q. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

E: We can try. Practice.

B: Actually, Ernie, I think you take the R train.

E: That's right. We're somewhere in Queens. You should visit us if you're ever in New York.

Q. Who are the people in your neighborhood?

E: Gordon, Susan, Bob, Maria, Luis, Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Grover. It's kind of stayed the same.

B: And the people who have moved there tend to stay there.

Q. Why is that?

E: I think it's the asphalt.

Q. Who keeps their side of the room the cleanest?

B: You have to ask that? I do, of course. I keep Ernie's side clean, too. He doesn't pick anything up.

E: That's the best thing about a roommate like Bert. He picks up for me.

Q. You both wear stripes. Any thought about plaids or solids?

E: Bert has a pair of plaid pants he wears with his striped shirt.

B: I tried wearing stripes on stripes. It didn't work. I'm a fashion-oriented guy here. The stripes on plaid just seem to go.

E: I'm more of a blue jean guy.

Q. So, Bert, how's your pet pigeon, Bernice?

B: She's great. She told me to say "Hi" and she reads the Sun-Times every day.

Q. And Ernie, how about Rubber Ducky?

E: He's terrific. He's not really here right now. He's actually traveling with Bernice at the moment.

Q. Really? Where'd they go?

E: Paris, Rome. It's a package tour through Europe by bus.

B: I just got a postcard from Bernice. She's loving all the statues she's perched on. There are a lot of statues in Europe, I guess.

Q. Elmo has put on a lot of shows. This is your first. What took so long?

E: Gee, I don't know.

B: It was getting the money together. We didn't want to do just anyshow. We wanted to go all-out.

E: Yeah, I even put 49 cents in this. That was my lunch money, which means I didn't eat lunch that day.

B: Nothing but the best production values for us.

Q. Whose idea was it?

E: It was mutual.

B: But the name was my idea.

E: That's right.

B: "Bert & Ernie's Word Play." It's a play on words, get it? [Bert laughs]

Q. Was it difficult to get your friends to perform in your play?

B: No, not really.

E: They were happy to do it.

B: They'll do anything for free food.

Q. You had a craft services table of free food?

E: Yep. Cookie Monster actually had a dual role on the project. He also did craft services.

Q. That must have been difficult. Didn't he eat everything?

B: You aren't kidding. I usually gain 10 pounds on a shoot. I actually lost weight on this set.

Q. Do you worry about weight gain?

E: Bert is a fit guy. He works out regularly. I'm more of a round guy, myself.

Q. So, what's your exercise regiment, Bert?

B. I don't want to give out the secrets now. I've got a book coming out. If I tell you, people won't buy the book.

E: You should see his workout video, though.


E: Come on, Bert. I'm just trying to give him an exclusive.

Q. So, why wasn't Big Bird in your "Word Play"?

E: He was too tall.

B: And he didn't really fit on the stage.

E: He had his head up in rafters and we were worried about those hot stage lights.

Q. Kermit has made a few movies. Is that something that interests you when you grow up?

E: We've already done a few. "Follow That Bird" and "Elmo in Grouchland." We narrated that.

B: I really see my role behind the scenes. What I really want to do is direct. TV and movies first, of course, but eventually I'd like to direct community theater.

Q. Any show in particular?

B: Yes! "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"... but as a one-man show.

Q. You've been friends a long time. What's the secret to your lasting friendship?

B: We try not to kill each other.

E: Well, there's that, sure. We certainly have our differences. Cooperation. I think it's cooperation. That's a great big word on Sesame Street.

B: It certainly is, Ernie. It certainly is.

Q. What do each of you like about the other?

E: Bert's arms are floppy. He's got that one eye brow that can go up or down and that little tuft of hair on his head. Oh, and he's a nice color. All those things.

B: I like how honest Ernie is ... but you don't have to be honest all the time ...

E: Like when?

B: Like now. Could you say something more flattering, Ernie?

E: I like your ears, Bert. They remind me of potato chips. Mmmm. I love potato chips.

B: I know, Ernie. [Sighs.] I know.

Q. So, what's next for you two?

E: Well, a bus ride back to Sesame Street and then lunch, I guess.

B: I think he means in our careers, Ernie.

E: Oh. We're going to hang out on Sesame Street for a while. It's home.

Tomorrow: My Q&A with Grover.

1 comment:

  1. As a mega Muppet fan (Miss Piggy in particular), I am insanely jealous of you right now. :)