Sunday, May 16, 2010

On the 20th anniversary of a great man, Jim Henson!

"My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here": Jim Henson
Jim Henson: I truly admire your work in creating the Muppets, remembering you after 20 years today, may you rest in peace!

Jim Henson died May 16, 1990 at age 53 of streptococcus pneumonia and a heart attack in New York, NY. This is a special and commerative issue for the remembrance of this great man!

Remembering a great genius after 20 years ago:

James Maury "Jim" Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990) was one of the most widely known puppeteers in American history and was the creator of The Muppets. He was the leading source behind their long run in the television series Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and films such as The Muppet Movie (1979) and creator of advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. He was also an Oscar-nominated film director, Emmy Award-winning television producer, and the founder of The Jim Henson Company, the Jim Henson Foundation, and Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

While busy with these later projects, Henson began to experience flu-like symptoms. On May 4, 1990, Henson made an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. At the time, he mentioned to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but felt that it would go away.
On May 12, 1990, Henson traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina, with his daughter Cheryl to visit his father and stepmother. The next day, feeling tired and sick, he consulted a physician in North Carolina, who could find no evidence of pneumonia by physical examination and prescribed no treatment except aspirin. Henson returned to New York on an earlier flight and canceled a Muppet recording session scheduled for May 14.

Henson's wife Jane, from whom he was separated, came to visit and sat with him talking throughout the evening. By 2 a.m. on May 15, 1990 he was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to Jane that he might be dying, but did not want to bother going to the hospital. She later told People Magazine that it was likely due to his desire not to be a bother to people.

At 4 a.m., he finally agreed to go to New York Hospital. By the time he was admitted at 4:58 a.m., he could no longer breathe on his own and had abscesses in his lungs. He was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe, but his condition deteriorated rapidly into septic shock despite aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. At 1:21 a.m. on May 16, 1990, 20 hours and 23 minutes after he was admitted, Henson died from organ failure at the age of 53 at New York Hospital.

The cause of death was first reported as streptococcus pneumonia, a bacterial infection. Bacterial pneumonia is usually caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, an alpha-hemolytic species of Streptococcus. Henson, however, died of organ failure due to infection by Streptococcus pyogenes, a severe Group A streptococcal infection. S. pyogenes is the bacterial species that causes strep throat, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. It can also cause other infections.

Two separate memorial services were held for Henson, one in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and one in London, England, at St. Paul's Cathedral. As per Henson's wishes, no one in attendance wore black, and a Dixieland jazz band finished the service by performing "When The Saints Go Marching In." Harry Belafonte sang "Turn the World Around," a song he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the audience waved, with a puppeteer's rod, an individual, brightly-colored foam butterfly. Later, Big Bird (performed by Caroll Spinney) walked out onto the stage and sang Kermit the Frog's signature song, "Bein' Green."

In the final minutes of the two-and-a-half hour service, six of the core Muppet performers sang, in their characters' voices, a medley of Jim Henson's favorite songs, culminating in a performance of "Just One Person" that began with Richard Hunt singing alone, as Scooter. "As each verse progressed," Henson employee Chris Barry recalled, "each Muppeteer joined in with their own Muppets until the stage was filled with all the Muppet performers and their beloved characters."

The funeral was later described by LIFE as "an epic and almost unbearably moving event."

The image of a growing number of performers singing "Just One Person" was recreated for the 1990 television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson and inspired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who attended the London service, to write the growing-orchestra wedding scene of his 2003 film Love Actually.
Henson was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery. His ashes were scattered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at his ranch.

Henson's sudden death resulted in an outpouring of public and professional affection. There have since been numerous tributes and dedications in his memory. Henson’s companies, which are now run by his children, continue to produce films and television shows.
On September 26, 1992, Henson was posthumously awarded the Courage of Conscience Award for being a "Humanitarian, muppeteer, producer and director of films for children that encourage tolerance, interracial values, equality and fair play.

The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, has acquired more than 700 puppets created by Henson and his studio, including some of the earliest Muppets. Many of these are displayed in the museum exhibit Jim Henson: Puppeteer. In September 2008, the Center opened Jim Henson: Wonders From His Workshop, highlighting creations from Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, and other later works.

Henson is honored both as himself and as Kermit the Frog on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only other person to receive this honor is Mel Blanc, the voice actor of Bugs Bunny.

The classes of 1994, 1998, and 1999 at the University of Maryland, College Park, Henson's alma mater, commissioned a life-size statue of Henson and Kermit the Frog, which was dedicated on September 24, 2003, Henson's 67th birthday. The statue cost $217,000, and is displayed outside Maryland's student union.

In 2006, Maryland introduced 50 statues of their school mascot, Testudo the Terrapin, with various designs chosen by different sponsoring groups. Among them was Kertle, a statue by Washington DC artist Elizabeth Baldwin designed to look like Kermit the Frog.
The theater at his alma mater, Northwestern High School, in Hyattsville, MD, is named in his honor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and The Muppet Christmas Carol are both dedicated to him.

The television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson allowed the Muppets themselves to pay tribute to Henson. The special featured interviews with Steven Spielberg and others.

A museum was built in memory of Henson in Leland, Mississippi. Official certificates from the Mississippi Legislature honoring Jim Henson and Muppets paraphernalia are on display.
Tom Smith's Henson tribute song, "A Boy and His Frog," won the Pegasus Award for Best Filk Song in 1991.

Stephen Lynch produced a song titled "Jim Henson's Dead," in which he pays homage to many of the characters from The Muppet Show and Sesame Street.

J. G. Thirlwell (under the alias Foetus In Excelsis Corruptus) performed a reworked version of Elton John's "Rocket Man" titled "Puppet Dude," with the lyrics altered to refer to Jim Henson. This can be found on the Male live album.

Apple Computer's "Think Different" advertising campaign featured Henson.
Oury Atlan, Thibaut Berland, and Damien Ferri wrote, directed, and animated a 3D tribute to Henson entitled Over Time that was shown as part of the 2005 Electronic Theater at SIGGRAPH.
Henson was featured in the Boyz II Men video, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."
Henson featured in The American Adventure in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Episode 2880 of Sesame Street (which aired on November 15, 1991) was dedicated in his memory, with a memorial card following the closing credits.

Vintage footage of Henson was featured in an American Express credit card commercial in 2008.
Philip Roth often quotes Jim Henson in his Sabbath's Theater as the "great regret" for Mickey Sabbath.
On the evening of October 25, 2000, Comedy Central had a banner sign that said: Jim Henson [1936-1990].
May 16, 2010 marked the 20th Anniversary of his death.

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