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Monday, April 07, 2014

My Muppeteer Meetings by KingRichard76

MuppetsHenson friend, KingRichard76, recently submitted some great articles for you all to read. 
 
Read about his meeting with Frank Oz on September 15th, 2011, Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson back on January 27th, 2012, a few weeks after that meeting Eric again at the BAFTAS (British Academy of Film and Arts) and meeting Steve, Bill Barretta and Kermit back in June 2012.

Here are all of KingRichard76's articles.
 
A little background story, one of my earliest childhood memories would have been seeing the Muppet Show on television. Hence why its my greatest Fandom and the Muppets have always been part of my life. Its something that in its way cements an unbreakable bond I have with my Family. - KingRichard76
 

My Meeting with Frank Oz
September 15th, 2011

Frank Oz and KingRichard76
In life we are Fortunate if we meet at least one idol from our childhood, adoloscence, adulthood someone whos onscreen persona(s) has touched a multitude of Generations from all walks of life, a person whos face may not be instantly recognisable to "some" people but their voice, their vocal talent brings wiht it a multitude of memories of characters that are known globally.

For as far back as I can remember I've always been a Fan of the Muppets (I'm 35) and one of my earliest... childhood memories is seeing the Muppet Show on television as the years went on I saw glimpses of the funny men and women who had their hands controlling these lovely Animals/Creatures/Amphibians lol and this excited me even more, I'd watch in awe the making of fraggle rock, the Muppet Show, Inside the Labyrinth, Making of Dark Crystal and see this all put together - and as a Star Wars fan seeing the creatures from the Saga (including Yoda) brought to life.

It had always been an ambition (which I thought would only ever be like a pipe dream or like winning billions on the lottery) to meet a Muppet Performer but knew that wasnt going to be very likely, for example living in England? Etc.

A few months ago a Friend of mine informed me that a play that was starting in London was being Directed by... Not some hardly unknown Director cutting his/her teeth after graduating from film school, nor an obscure Director thats been responsible for Arthouse projects... BUT by *Cue Animal drum roll please* Frank Oz. I freaked out thinking that this ambition of meeting a Muppet Performer was going to happen... And not just "A" Muppet Performer but "THE" Muppet Performer.

So not quite sure what to expect I travelled up to London quite early and saw Frank on his way into the Theatre... My Heart skipped several beats and was "Oh my God" as I approached him he was happy to sign my Star Wars Blu Ray, Of Muppets and Men, and Season 2 and 3 DVD and of course personalised and then he posed for the all important Picture and one I will forever cherish
Frank Oz was a truly lovely and kind man and is one of those encounters that I will never forget.

Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson
January 27th, 2012

KingRichard76 and Eric Jacobson
Let me set the scene, the last few weeks have been nutty here financially, have had no internet access and was only able to access my emails on a cheap mobile, I'd gone to the local library and looked on here and found out that the Muppets would be on the Chris Moyles show, I thanked Yoda that I knew about this and thought, "How am I going to get to London." so managed to borrow £20 from a Friend and on Friday I went up to London.

The weather was nice and I held my excitement in good stead.

After an hour or so Eric turned up and I must say that he was rather surprised when I A. Recognised him and B. Asked for his Autograph. To be fair some people just do a quick ineligble signature thats reminiscent of Egyptian Hieroglyphs Mr. Jacobson asked my name and not just got a personalised Autograph but he put:

"Kissy Kissy, Miss Piggy"

Shortly after this Steve turned up in his transport and like Eric before him he was rather surprised when I A. Recognised him. He was really Lovely and wanted very much to oblige but was rapidly ushered in by his p.a.s and other Disney staff (some of which were pulling in interestingly large waterproof containers large oblong carrycases that to the untrained eye would make someone think that something... Or SOMEONE was inside it could have been the Axe that the late Jimi Hendrix last performed with due to the care it was shown, but this wasnt some guitar, it was obvious who was inside the three different cases) I'd got my little radio out so I could hear the occupants of aforementioned containers on the Radio and found myself smiling at Kermit and Fozzies cameraderie with Chris Moyles... And then, to save the best for last Miss Piggy chose to grace the airwaves in the only way she knows how.

I had the feeling that Steve had been doing Kermit quite a lot as his voice seemed in need of tlc.

There were one or two other people outside with me but they didnt know what Steve or Eric looked like and actually expected Steve and Eric to walk in with Kermit and Miss Piggy on their arms - the only other person who seemed to be a big a Muppet Fan as I was the dj Chris Moyles himself, we had a little chat when he came out for breaks about "Whatnots" and said to the others that the Performers wouldnt come out with the Muppets due to how valuable they are and he looked at me and said "You know exactly what I mean."

The paparazzi had turned up and took their positions and they also had no idea who they were looking for, I couldnt help but think "Good grief."

And then Steve appeared and he recognised me instantly from before and asked what he would like me to Sign (I had Muppet Show Series 1 - NTSC Boxset so its the Kermit cover with his collar) Fraggle Rock complete boxset and Of Muppets and Men (Book) I chose to ask him to sign the first season, he then signed for a few other people and obliged without hesitation when someone said "Can you do Kermit?" and he said something as Kermit, after signing for the others he returned to me and signed Fraggle Rock boxset and then Of Muppets and Men at that point I took out my camera and he posed for a picture (even now this pangs me to say it you'll see why in a minute)

Around this time

By this time most of the paparazzi and the others had gone to Erics car to get Photos or Autographs.

I said "Bye" to Steve (a REALLY nice Guy) and we hugged, it wasnt just a guy/guy hug, no, it was something much more than that, it was a hug of gratitude, of admiration, of appreciation and of him doing a brilliant job at keeping Kermit alive and keeping the Spirit of Jim Henson alive (most would think I was a sentimental old fool if they heard me saying this but I meant it) we had one last hand shake.

On the way back to the station with my precious Treasures signed and Memories that will never leave me I took my iphone out to check what I'd taken that of Steve and I posing... And thats when it happened.... The file somehow got deleted - I cannot tell you how I felt and for the last few days I have beaten myself up over it.
When I got back home I put Kermit on my arm and spoke to him and how upset I was at losing this picture and found myself rather comforted talking to him.

I hope that I'll get the chance to meet Steve again as hes so Lovely.

Miss Piggy
2012 BAFTA's

I wasn't going to do the Baftas this year because of how cold its been over here at late and plummeting temperatures, snow and rain being forecast etc etc etc but it was last week I found out that Miss Piggy was going to be doing the Baftas and thats really what clinched it for me.

Went up with all my bits and sleeping bag and camped out overnight, Dermot O'Leary (a radio/tv presenter over here) along with Fearne (Cotton) came to chat to those of us who were nutty enough to get there when we did asked "Who are you mostly looking forward to seeing?" I responded with "Miss Piggy." he smiled and nodded in a way that anyone would do.

Hours of being snuggled up in an insulated sleeping bag in temperatures I dont even want to think about outside the sleeping bag overnight, I went to the local Internet Cafe to charge up my iphone and create this thread.

The night before we had already met Melissa *Wolf Whistles* George, John Hurt and Gary Oldman but I was really there for one person... Pig.

The next day (Sunday/Yesterday) we got into our spots and I asked a member of security where about Miss Piggy was going to be, we were told she'd be in her own box and was very nice when I asked if she could give something to Eric for him to sign? She could have said no but instead spoke to Erics manager who didnt see it as a problem!!!!!!!!!!! Yep, exactly, so I knew that at least I would have my DVD cover signed shortly later I saw the Manager a bit further down and down from where we were I saw a boom mic and heard some chanting my very first understanding was that they (Orange had got some people to chant and they)were chanting:

"PIGGY! PIGGY! PIGGY!"

It became very obvious they were, and the car that Miss Piggy arrived in was driven about three to four times and thats when my excitement hit the big time, shortly after a pr person walked up the Red Carpet (just to say by this time the barriers were jampacked and is how you'd expect to see any big event like this - an hour or a few from this people were yelling "BRAD (Pitt)!!!!!! DANIEL (Radcliffe)!!!!!! GEORGE (Clooney)!!!!!!!!!") with a very interesting wrapped package... I knew exactly who it was the Star of the Show herself and following Miss Piggy was.... Eric, this post will now continue in...

"Meeting Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson."

As I mentioned in "Miss Piggy will be on the Red Carpet for the Baftas today." people would be yelling out the names of those strutting the Red Carpet in all their majestic Hollywood glory hoping to get hallowed Autographs, Photos etc and I knew that Miss Piggy was going to be on the Red Carpet interviewing which is why I braved the almost below zero temperatures to camp out overnight.

Miss Piggy had already been Filmed arriving on the Red Carpet and shortly afterwards she was carried (covered up) by a pr up the Red Carpet closely followed by Eric...

Its obvious that as a Muppet Fan I knew exactly who Eric was because out of EVERYONE behind the barriers containing upwards of two thousand people only I yelled out:

"Eric!"

He came over and we had a really good nice chat (normally meeting someone is about five seconds an Autograph, a Photo (if lucky) and then off to the next person, with Eric we had around a three minute chat, he remembered me from when we first met as mentioned in the first post in this thread, I asked how Steve was and graciously signed "Its a very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie." I'd told him about how I'd posted on here about meeting him and Steve, he also mentioned how he'd seen this thread so it is true - the Muppeteers actually do check out Muppet Central!!!!!!!!!!!

Also I mentioned how great the "The Muppets" was, I saw it when it was released here on Friday, and said how it made me smile, laugh and (when Kermit and Miss Piggy sing Rainbow Connection) cry also said how I found the scenes showing nods to Jim very lovely indeed - to be honest it was nice seeing Jim Henson on screen

I asked him if he would kindly say something in character as Miss Piggy but it was understandable he didnt want me to film him doing it (because he wasn't performing Miss Piggy at the time) he was lovely for stopping and chatting but I kid you not its no exaggeration that I was the only person who as a Muppet Fan knew what Eric looked like.

Eric. Thank you for stopping and spending the time you spent with myself and my Friends - as I've mentioned the real reason I did the Baftas this year (subjecting myself to utter uk coldness was to see Miss Piggy on the Red Carpet) thank you again, it was the highlight of this years Baftas

Meeting Kermit, Pepe, Steve Whitmire and Bill Barretta
June, 2012

Pepe, Kermit and KingRichard76
I'd got to London around 10am wearing my Kermit sock, Kermit T-Shirt, and small Kermit hanging on to my rucksack. Went into HMV and saw everything set up.

It was in January of 2012 that I first met Steve (Whitmire)... Lets just say he doesn't forget a face :0) I was sooo over the moon that he recognised me, smiled, came over and shook my hand, I would have liked a Photo with him he did say that he'd do it later but he was setting up the whole display which was hidden from us with large cardboard cutouts - but whenever he appeared into view he smiled at me

Shortly I was joined by Chris (Kermieuk) and we got chatting, went off to get our Guest passes and joined the Guest line, photos were taken of us, there was a lady making balloon animals and my Kermit Muppet was photo'd a few times.

A lady who was making Balloon Muppets (very good ones as well) came around us, and it was around this point I brought out my Kermit Muppet and put him on and there was quite a bit of appreciation for that, people wanting to take Photos of us etc.

The soundtrack to the movie was played and shortly Bill made an appearance at around 12:45 or so they were doing sound tests and we heard Pepe say how they'd be joining us soon - the excitement arose, press flooded the front of the stage and then... The display was removed.

And Kermit the Frog and Pepe greeted their adoring Fans we cheered, we whooped, we whistled, we clapped and when it was my time to go up on Stage, something just weird happened, because there in front of me was Kermit... Kermit!!! KERMIT!!! What on earth is anyone supposed to feel? (Admittedly there were many people GROWN adults who were quite overcome with Emotion when they went to meet them) but to have Kermit just be - well Kermit, talking and moving and addressing you... Also, Kermit said to me

"Very good to see you, see you again actually."

So it was nice that Steve made that cute reference

I tried not to break down and think to myself:

"I AM SPEAKING TO KERMIT THE FROG!"

I was given the microphone, and read out something that had come to my mind last night, I knew that I DEFINITELY wanted to mention Jim up there but couldn't find the right words.. In the end I said:

"All my life you have touched me.
And this is because in your Heart you have Jim Henson.
And because you have him in your Heart.
Jim Henson touches us all."


Kermit showed his appreciation to this and it just felt so right to hug and Kiss him, whilst Pepe (in an uncharacteristic sweet moment said "Thats beautiful.")

We all stayed to watch the rest of the show, and see how it all went, but the way that Kermit and Pepe just without lines, just totally adlibbed, coming up with jokes, *Snaps fingers* just like that was just incredible.

There were a few "potty breaks" at the request of Pepe and to be fair they were at it for over an hour, but the humour and the substance never tired, there was one moment that was kind of close to the bone when Pepe enquired about one couples "Sex life." a few times to which Kermit interjected very quickly with "Time for a photo."

A lot more people turned up to this than there was supposed to be originally, and at one point I did meet Bill (who posed for a Photo) and was lovely with it.

KingRichard76 and Bill Barretta
 

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