Given that Dave Goelz continues to perform Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and other characters forty years after first joining Jim in his New York workshop (most recently on the set of the upcoming movie, Muppets Most Wanted,) ten years doesn’t seem like much time. But in that decade, Goelz had gone from an untested puppet builder to a star performer, integral to The Muppet Show cast and central to the success of Fraggle Rock. Jim liked excuses to give meaningful gifts and bestowing a gold watch on the unassuming Goelz, who no doubt deeply appreciated the gesture, would have given Jim much satisfaction.
From the beginning, Jim was aware of the relentless passing of time and made it a central theme to various projects. Usually frustration and a representation of the pressures created by time constraints were central, but Jim always included a humorous element to let audiences know not to take it too seriously. Around 1960, he made a 45rpm novelty record featuring, on Side A, a spoken word song he wrote called “Tick-Tock Sick.” It presents one man’s enjoyment of the syncopation of clocks that turns into annoyance as the clock sounds become overbearing. The desperate persona Jim portrays in the recording finds a typically comical solution, tossing his alarm clock out the window and relying on a sundial. His 1964 film, Time Piece, focuses on the race with the clock that we all face throughout our lives, but it ends with a wink, again relieving the viewer from a potentially sad finish. Jim did several projects based on Cinderella which is, of course, a classic time-related tale, and his film Labyrinth features a 13-hour clock that gave time parameters to the action. Some of The Storyteller episodes feature protagonists in a race with time, and Jim’s work and travel schedule for almost four decades illustrated his ongoing efforts to fit twenty-five hours into each day.