“Welcome back to the blog. I completely understand taking a break from social media and sincerely hope your cat is okay soon. I seem to have lost track of my notifications and just caught up on the recent posts. I hope that as the controversy subsides, you receive less abusive comments here.“…comment by John V on 09/06/17 at 5:25pm
“Steve, forgive me if this has been brought up in the past here, but I sincerely hope that there is no bad blood between you and the Henson family.“…comment by Fred on 09/06/17 at 2:33am
“Oh, Stevie, Stevie, Stevie. Stop being such a whiny, spoiled brat.
You’re just like every other emotionally unstable (intentionally deleted) on the internet. No wonder Disney, Henson and Sesame Workshop fired you.“…comment by ANONYMOUS on 09/02/17 at 7:28PM
A few things to talk about. First, I want to say once again how much I enjoy your thoughts and questions. Please know that I am reading your comments as time permits and can’t respond to everyone, but I did want to cover all of the above topics in this one post since these have been mentioned by several people.
Second, my cat Streek is up and moving around with new determination after a full round of steroids and continuing fluids. She’s old and this will be temporary as she is in a definite decline, but presently she is doing very well. We will do our best to keep her comfortable until it is time for her to leave us…stevewhitmire-felinepundit. Thank-you all for sharing your own stories of love and loss of these special beings who have graced our lives.
Third, many have expressed concern about not receiving notification of the last post I entitled “Pest ConTroll”. Totally my fault as I did not send them. I saw that post as a sort of ‘utility’ post that was off topic to a degree, and chose not to invade everyones email inbox over it. I figured you’d all find it as soon as I sent out notification on this one. My apologies for causing that confusion.
Fourth, guess what? “ANONYMOUS”(a/k/a kcountrybearfan@xxxxx) static IP places them squarely in Orlando through a provider called “Smart City Telecom“. Check’em out…BTW, this person is now blocked from this blog.
Finally for the record, I have never been fired by “Henson”, and prior to the media storm in July of this year I wasn’t even aware of any lingering differences with the family. The Henson Company put me under an annually renewable ‘first call’ agreement for my puppeteering services in October 1991 and that agreement was repeatedly extended until the company sold the Muppets to Disney in 2004.
This agreement transferred with the sale and continued into the first year with Disney. Production schedules being what they are, I was in essence exclusive to the Henson Company who provided my services to Sesame Workshop, the producers of the various films, and others as I couldn’t accept any other work without first clearing the time with the company holding my first call agreement.
The last time I was around any of the Henson family was at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Jim Henson Collection at The Center for Puppetry Arts Museum in Atlanta on November 14, 2015 during the unexpected hiatus from the ABC series when they changed showrunners. It felt like a family reunion as the guest list included many colleagues and friends I had not seen in years who were there to honor Jim’s legacy at this amazing new facility. It was all seemingly love, laughs, and smiles, and there was no indication of any tension between us at all. In fact, I was told by the representatives of the Center that Cheryl wanted Kermit to appear at the ribbon cutting. What happened between November 2015 and July 2017 is still a head-scratcher for me…
As to Sesame Workshop, I chose not to say anything about Ernie, and most assumed I was ‘too busy’ with my Disney work. That was never the case. So lets get this one sorted out once and for all.
In April of 2014, two Sesame Workshop producers flew to Atlanta to have lunch with me. It turned out that they were going to “recast Ernie”. The reason given was major restructuring at the corporate level due to financial issues, and I was told by the executive that recasting was “not (their) recommended course of action”. Many longtime staples of the series with far more involvement than me, including cast, crew, and production people were subsequently gone as well during 2014-2016.
The possibility of my returning to the series was also mentioned in that conversation. I have always hoped to be asked back, especially since Ernie has practically disappeared from the show altogether. That’s why I never said anything about the change because he was not being used that much anyway.
By the way, unlike virtually every other performer with a lead character on the show, I was always a day player on Sesame Street, never a series regular with a season deal. My fees and the terms of my contracts were set from day one by The Jim Henson Company who supplied both the puppets and the puppeteers for the show.
However, when the characters were sold to Sesame Workshop offers began to decrease. By the end of my time on the show, I had voluntarily cut my fees between 50% and 90%, began staying in a local budget Queens hotel, and worked closely with production to schedule banking the Ernie and Bert segments when I was already in New York on Disney trips, meaning Disney covered the airfares and ground transportations. Short of flying myself to New York, paying for my own hotel and travel expenses, and working for less than scale (all violations of SAG-AFTRA rules) there was nothing else I could do to accommodate the production’s financial woes.
I loved working on the show and always made myself available to meet any request; that is, I was never unavailable for Sesame Street. I often said that I felt Sesame was the last vessel of Jim’s pure vision, the show that made me want to work with puppets from the time I was ten years old.
It has been tough to see it lose its neighborhood feel, the relationships of all who seemed to literally live and reside on the street, the feeling that if you were to walk over and knock on Oscar’s trash can, even after an episode was over, he’d still be in there. I understand the ever changing market pressures, but much has been lost over the last three years. Ernie was a beloved part of my life for 24 years.