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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Coming Out Of The Muppet Closet by Nicholas Napoli

Nicholas Napoli, Kermit & Pepe

Today, MuppetsHenson presents the first of many (hopefully) articles from a very good friend of mine and MuppetsHenson, Nicholas Napoli.

Nicholas, lives in Gibraltar, is an amazing writer and a life long Muppet Fan. Here he shares with us how he became such a BIG Muppet Fan and how they influenced him growing up. We also get to see his extensive collection of Muppet memorabilia.

This past year Nicholas lived every Muppet fans dream... he became friends with the Muppets. Nicholas was lucky enough to sing, dance, dine and even visit the Muppets on set as they filmed their latest adventure, "Muppets...Again!"

We look forward to reading his future article(s) on his experiences with the Muppets and their performers and his time on set of "Muppets...Again!".

Here is Nicholas' first article for us.
(Click images to enlarge)

Coming Out Of The Muppet Closet
by Nicholas Napoli

When I was four years old I remember walking into a toy store with my mother and for the first time in my life I was in the presence of Muppet merchandise. There were plush toys of a few characters including Baby Kermit, Baby Piggy, Baby Animal, Big Bird, Cookie Monster as well as Ernie and Bert hand puppets. I was ready to buy all of them but then I remembered I was only three years old, I had no job, no income, I didn’t even know how to count past ten so I turned and looked at mommy. What was about to happen next still affects me to this very day, my therapists fears I will never get over it, it was terrible…. I had to choose between the Muppet Babies or my pals from Sesame Street.

This war against my Mom was not going to end any time soon as I was determined to add Ernie, Bert, Big Bird and Cookie Monster to my collection too. At the same time I was the happiest kid on earth as I had my very own Kermit, Miss Piggy and Animal toys! I had recently been introduced to Muppet Babies when my Dad accidentally rented for me a Muppet Babies video mistaking Baby Kermit for one of the Ninja Turtles. My father has always regretted that mistake because the way he sees it I could have been a ninja instead I turned out a Muppet… and proud of it too!

From the above picture you might be relieved to realise that I did get my Sesame Street toys at the end… I won the war! It was my fifth birthday and as I was celebrating on the beach my aunty and uncle gave me four presents… not one, not two, not three but four! I quickly unwrapped all of them and there they were. I felt terrible having left them behind in the store a few weeks ago but now we were reunited and that was all that mattered. I wonder though how my aunty and uncle knew I wanted those particular toys? Those seven plush toys eventually grew into this… 

The Muppet Babies had led me to discover The Muppet Movie which at the time was weird on so many levels. First of all who are all these other grown up Muppet Babies? Secondly what are these puppets? And lastly where the hell is Skeeter? But as time went on I watched this movie again and again and again and soon I started buying this movie again and again and again and like most of you I’m waiting to add another one to my collection soon.

By the time I was six my Muppet obsession had begun but since I come from a small country with only one toy shop coming across Muppet merchandise was not going to be easy for me. The internet was still something we hadn’t even imagined could exist and until that time came I was trapped with a small Muppet collection consisting of PVC figurines, Dinosaurs and videos which soon turned into DVD’s.

Then came the internet which made shopping for Muppets much easier and thank goodness for that because soon a company you might all be familiar with called Palisades was about to bombard us with Muppet merchandise. It was not only the most Muppet merchandise we had seen in years but also the best merchandise we had ever seen and best yet they were including obscure characters!

When they announced the first series and mentioned the inclusion of Dr Teeth I could not believe I might own the entire Electric Mayhem in action figure form. Soon after they released Crazy Harry in series 2, Lew Zealand in series 3, the Pigs in Space crew in series 4, finally some sort of Pepe toy in series 5 and eventually Sweetums! I could not believe how incredibly cool that line was and how after all these years I can still remember in what series which character was released as I’m sure you all can too…. Johnny Fiama? Go! 5, 4, 3, 2, times up! Did you remember?

This was and still is my most cherished Muppet collection alongside everything else I have but the stories behind these figures are the ones I’ll remember most. These figures came out the year I became a teenager so until now buying Muppet merchandise and displaying it in my room was easy but now everything was about to change. At this point in my life I was getting ridiculed by my friends for having Muppet toys displayed in my room, I’ve always considered them a collection but to my friends it was just a mess of toys scattered around my room.

The worse part of it was that no matter how much I tried to hide it I couldn’t… I was a Muppet Fan and I could not keep it a secret. Even though I was still in school meaning I had no job and therefor no money I still managed to collect the entire Muppet Action Figure Collection… TWICE! Including all the repaints and exclusives. How did I manage to do this? Did I rob a bank? Am I actually Walter? Nope I simply have a really cool Mom. My Mom knew how much of a Muppet fan I was and as any Mom did not always buy me what I asked for but when it came to the Muppets she knew she couldn’t let this pass me by.

Even though I was the happiest fan on earth every time a new series came out my parents and their bank account were getting angrier with me. Long story short when I finally finished school and got a job the first thing I had to do was pay my parents the $3000 I had spent throughout the four years plus a little extra on Megas and Minis… shipping to my country is expensive.

Just before my Muppet Action Figure addiction would begin a German company called Igel decided to release Muppet plush toys which included Rizzo, The Swedish Chef and my most prized Muppet possessions alongside with everything else tiny Statler and Waldorf replicas. I speak English, Spanish, French and Italian so I was a little unhappy that the Germans had released this as I could not understand that mess of a website but eventually I got though it and it was worth the hassle.

When I was around fourteen I had a bigger Muppet Collection than I ever dreamt I would have and one that I could not hide from my friends. They thought it was fun throwing my Mini Muppets around and hiding my action figures and honestly it did get me angry which was the whole point of this game… when they have children let’s see if they like it if I hide them. I needed my Muppets protected and so along with my Dad we built the secret Muppet Display Closet. This closet consisted of a sliding door which was painted blue like my room and had a poster displayed over it. To anyone coming into my room that was simply a dead end but to me it was the door which separated me from my Happy Place… which is now five times bigger!

Eventually my Muppet collection was getting too big for my closet, soon there was just no room to place anything new and I was not about to bring out old merchandise to make way for more… it all had to stay together. First I had to convince my parents to close the door in my “side bed-room” and reopen it where it used to be which at the moment was my Muppet Closet. Soon my new door was built and I was able to come out of the Muppet closet… I was now exposed to the world.

This new bigger display room was incredible the only down side was that my Muppets were now not hidden behind my secret sliding door instead they were out in the open for everyone to see. I was never really embarrassed of my freakishly large Muppet collection but at this time I was also beginning to find interest somewhere else yet they were not as easy to play with as my Muppets. I was discovering girls and soon realised I was actually ashamed to bring them over because to me what was a childhood collection to them seemed like a little kids toy room. I remember the first girl I ever brought over, we were both really into each other but as soon as I exposed my Muppet Room to her she suddenly remembered she had a dentist appointment for her dog. It’s such a random lie that sometime I wonder if it was true or not then I realise I’m just trying to make myself feel better.

Recently I got the chance to meet all the Muppeteers and I still can’t believe that happened and because of this trip I now have three very important items in my collection

Kermit face notepad with all the Muppeteers signatures inside

Signed picture from Walter himself and some guy called Peter Linz

An old sock I stole from Dave Goelz dressing room

I promise to tell you all about My Great Muppet Caper real soon but first I wanted to give all of you an idea of how big a Muppet fan I am so that when I tell my story you can relate to my weirdness, awkwardness and all out Muppet Fandom!

Anyway in short I’m proud of my large Muppet collection and if anyone is wondering yes I am still single and I have no idea why?

Don’t keep your passion locked away, just like what you like… easy

-Nicholas Napoli

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