Puppeteer and “Sesame Street” performer, Caroll Spinney – the man behind Oscar the Grouch and inside Big Bird for decades – died. He was 85 years old.
The New York Times reports that Spinney, who had suffered from dystonia, a muscle disease, died Sunday at his home in Woodstock, Connecticut.
Born on December 26, 1933, Spinney was an artistic child and fascinated by puppetry, first performing professionally in 1955. Hired by the Children’s Television Workshop in 1969, he remained with his iconic characters until his retirement the last year.
As Big Bird, the 5’10” Spinney had to maneuver a suit over 8′, engaging in physically intense, full-body puppetry while speaking in the character’s typically boyish voice.
It was with this voice that Spinney as Big Bird sang “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at a 1990 memorial service for Jim Henson. He has occasionally performed as both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch at the many live shows he has committed to over the years, relying on a voice recording and an assistant.
Spinney and his alter egos were also hits on the big screen, appearing in “The Muppet Movie” (1979), “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981), “Big Bird in China” (1983), “Follow That Bird” (1985) and “Night at the Museum: The Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009).
Spinney is survived by his second wife, Debra Jean, three children and four grandchildren.