Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Muppet Performers Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire at the Atlanta History Center November 16th, 2008

Wow, an opportunity like this doesn’t come along too often, especially for Muppet fans!

On the weekend of November 15 and 16th at the Atlanta History Center, Muppeteers Dave Goelz, best known for performing Gonzo and Steve Whitmire, performer of Rizzo the Rat and the current performer of Kermit appeared at an intimate (and I do mean intimate) screening of rare Muppet clips, Muppet Show sketches, and a screening of “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth”. It was billed as "Muppets, Music, & Magic: Jim Henson's Legacy".

Muppeteers Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz at the Atlanta History Center.

We were able to go on Sunday the 16th. My Wife’s friend and her sister came down from Nashville the night before and the four of us headed downtown Sunday morning. The screening started at 12:30 pm with the Harry Belafonte episode of the Muppet Show. This was followed by the “Visual Thinking” skit from Sam and Friends, Jim Henson’s first TV show. Then a portion of an appearance by Jim, Frank Oz, and Don Sahlin
on “The Dick Cavett Show” where they demonstrated how a “Whatnot” puppet works. This was followed by an episode of “The Storyteller” called “The Heartless Giant”. Then the lights go up and up to the stage walk Dave and Steve for a casual Q and A session with the audience. It was so special and amazing!

Dave Goelz sits with The Great Gonzo!

Steve Whitmire and Kermit! THE REAL KERMIT!

They answered questions for a good long time. Then Steve went backstage and returned with a big trunk. I was holding my breath. They sit down and Steve reaches into the chest and pulls out Kermit. Holy Mackeral! The ACTUAL KERMIT was right there 10 feet from me! Dave reaches down and pulls out Gonzo. This was an absolute first for me. This was the first time I had ever seen these Muppet superstars in person performing live! They continued to chat and perform for a while, and then Steve packs Kermit away and pulls out Rizzo the Rat. Three Muppet Superstars!! Woohoo!

Dave and Steve take questions from the audience.

They sat and talked and performed and continued to take questions. Then they stood up and demonstrated how they have to hold the puppets over their heads while they perform, how since Steve is a few inches taller than Dave, he has to crouch down while Rizzo and Gonzo are working together.

Gonzo gives Rizzo a hand with his hand.

Steve demonstrating his height compared to Dave's.

Steve explaining the subtle nuances of Rizzo.

All of this was a good 2 plus hours, and then it was time for the screening of “Labyrinth”. We actually took this opportunity to sneak away and take in the Smithsonian Jim Henson exhibit currently at the History Center entitled “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World”. This exhibit is fantastic! It includes many drawings and sketches, storyboards and hand-written scripts, actual Muppets on display, videos of commercials and short films, and clips from Muppet TV shows. And… worth the price of admission alone are life-size recreations of Wilkins and Wontkins from the Wilkin’s Coffee commercials that Jim produced in the 50’s. They are GORGEOUS and I wanted them! Damn… no photos allowed in the exhibit! I couldn’t even take pictures! AAAH!

But, photos were allowed with Dave and Steve at their presentation. And I took a few videos as well!

VIDEO: Dave and Steve hamming it up with Gonzo and Kermit.

VIDEO: Dave and Steve discuss their favorite characters to perform.

VIDEO: Dave and Steve discuss performing problems.

So, we returned to the theater where “Labyrinth” was finishing up. We caught the last 15 minutes or so of the film and afterwards, Dave and Steve came back on stage for another round of questions and answers. This time they sat down right on the edge of the stage for the chat. We didn’t want it to end but apparently THEY wanted to see the Henson exhibit, too! Hehe! They signed autographs and posed for pictures. It was truly amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime thing!

This appearance wasn’t advertised very well and I would say only about 25 people were there on Sunday. I don't know about Saturday. This was fine with me. We had them practically to ourselves for the entire afternoon!

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