Spinney, Sesame Street big-bird puppeteer, dies at 85


Sunday 08 December 2019
GoLocalPDX Lifestyle Team

First Lady Barbara Bush records “Sesame Street” in 1989. Photo: Bush 41 Library

Caroll Spinney, longtime Big Bird puppeteer – who also led Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street – has died.

TMZ reports:

Spinney died Sunday at his home in Connecticut after living with Dystonia for a time, according to Sesame Workshop … the nonprofit organization behind the hit children’s TV show. Dystonia is a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles twitch uncontrollably.

Incredibly, the longtime puppeteer worked on the show for 49 years… and retired from “Sesame” last year. He had been on the show since its debut in 1969. In addition to being the man behind Big Bird, Spinney also managed and voiced Oscar the Grouch.

The legendary Jim Henson brought Spinney on board, and by most accounts…he struggled to bring Big Bird to life at first and make it resonate with audiences. Eventually, Spinney said he turned BB into a “big kid” character – and the rest was history.

Retirement — and salary

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Spinney was earning $300,000 a year, before retiring in 2018:

Marisa Guthrie wrote of Sesame Street:

“It’s a sprawling, expensive operation that employs around 400 people, including several highly skilled puppeteers (Caroll Spinney, the top puppeteer who played Big Bird, earned around $300,000 a year before retiring in 2018 )

Photo: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum



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