12/1-5/1965 – ‘Tape 2 Dean shows in Hollywood with Jerry Nelson’

By late 1965, Jim knew that his performing partner, Frank Oz, was on the verge of being drafted and looked around for additional talent to fill in for Frank. At the time, Jim’s high school friend Bob Payne was working with Bil Baird’s troupe and suggested to his fellow puppeteer Jerry Nelson that he contact Jim about opportunities with the Muppets. An actor, singer and an immensely talented puppeteer, Jerry was a native Oklahoman but, like Jim, had spent his formative years in Washington, DC. During college, both men worked at WRC-TV for a brief overlapping period but did not meet at that time.

One of the earliest projects Jerry did with Jim was in October 1965, performing on Jim’s television pilot Cinderella. Frank was still around, but Jim tried Jerry out with Rowlf, having him perform the right hand for a couple Jimmy Dean Shows taped in Hollywood. Frank did the next California trip later in the month, but Jim seemed happy with Jerry’s work and hired him. Frank’s induction date was scheduled for February, but to his good fortune, he ended up not having to serve. He decided to take a break from the Muppets anyway and headed to Europe for six months, leaving the spot open for Jerry Nelson.

Jerry performed as Rowlf’s right hand for the remainder of The Jimmy Dean Show’s television run. The last show was taped on March 25th, 1966, and then Dean and Rowlf (with Jim and Jerry in tow) went on tour. Performances were held at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, in San Carlos, and in Salt Lake City. Jerry and Jim took a trip through Bryce Canyon National Park and rejoined Dean for shows in Anaheim. Later in the summer, Dean and Rowlf appeared in Lake Tahoe, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Asbury Park, and Baltimore. In between, Jim, Jerry Nelson and Jerry Juhl did other television appearances, including a full week on The Mike Douglas Show, shot commercials, and performed at an IBM event in the Bahamas. Frank Oz rejoined the group that September, but Jerry Nelson continued to work with The Muppets when needed, eventually becoming a permanent and essential part of the team. Audiences today know Jerry as Count von Count on Sesame Street, Robin the Frog and Floyd from The Muppet Show, Scred from Saturday Night Live, Emmet Otter, and Gobo Fraggle.

Jerry Nelson with Don Sahlin, Frank Oz, and Jim on set for the FHA, mid-1960s.

Jim and Jerry Nelson performing Rowlf for IBM, late 1960s.

Jerry Nelson with The Count. Photo by Richard Termine.

Topics: 12-December '65, 1965, Appearances | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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12/2/1981 – ‘Press Conference – Toronto – Fraggle’

The world of Fraggle Rock was first imagined in March of 1981 during creative brainstorming meetings at the Hyde Park Hotel in London. Jim, Jocelyn Stevenson and Jerry Juhl discussed possibilities for the show and Michael Frith doodled an array of beings to populate the world. Within a couple of weeks, Jim had written a treatment he called The Woozle World, and the team began to hammer out the details of the show. By November, Jim went up to Toronto, where the series would be shot, lining up the production and business deals, and he came back to New York to cast the characters. All was in place for the December 2nd press conference. The show began taping on March 6, 1982 and premiered on HBO and the CBC in Canada in January 1983.

See Jim with Gobo discussing the announcement of Fraggle Rock..

First page of Jim’s Woozle World treatment, 1981.

Brochure page created in 1981 to promote Fraggle Rock.

Jim with Fraggles and Doozers, 1982.

Topics: 12-December '81, 1981, Fraggle Rock | Tagged , , , ,
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12/1/1986 – ‘Royal Premier Labyrinth – UK – Party at Elephant on River – then to Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, Copenhagen’

While the Muppet team were no strangers to royalty, having performed for the Queen of England at the Royal Variety Show in 1977, a royal premiere is always exciting. Launching its European release, Labyrinth screened for the royal family on December 1, 1986. The attendance of Princess Diana added glitter to the event and got the media’s attention – her picture with Ludo appeared in newspapers across the UK.

See more information about the Muppets and the Royal Family.

See footage of the Royal Premiere.

Ludo greets Princess Diana at the Labyrinth royal premiere with a delighted Jim looking on.

Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, and Jerry Nelson meet Queen Elizabeth during the Royal Variety performance of The Muppets, 1977.

Topics: 12-December '85, 1986, Appearances, Labyrinth | Tagged , ,
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11/30/1984 – ‘CBS deal for Computer Special’

Topics: 11-November '84, 1984 | Tagged
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11/29/1980 – ‘Lisa and I and Jon Stone go to Brussels- see Maurice Sendak opera. Talk about “Miles”’

Topics: 11-November '80, 1980, Family | Tagged , ,
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