2/15/1985 – ‘Bowie’s deal is set. Muppet Show on tour opens at Felt Forum – Madison Square Garden.’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

From the start of Labyrinth development in 1983, Jim knew he wanted to collaborate with a major artist and entertainer to create the music and play the role of Jareth. He certainly knew David Bowie’s work and public persona and appreciated his tremendous talent. Jim’s son John was a huge fan which bolstered Jim’s familiarity with Bowie, and he recognized that Bowie’s other-worldliness and energy would be a good match for the fantastic creatures and settings planned for the film. Bowie remembered that, “Jim Henson set up a meeting with me and he outlined his basic concept for Labyrinth and showed me some of Brian Froud’s artwork. That impressed me for openers, but he also gave me a tape of The Dark Crystal, which really excited me. I could see the potential of adding humans to his world of creatures. I’d always wanted to be involved in the music writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to everyone and I must say that Jim gave me a completely free hand with it. The script itself was fun and it also had a lot of heart. So I was pretty well hooked from the beginning.” That meeting took place on June 18, 1984, and the two met again in Gstaad, Switzerland on February 11, 1985 to work out the details. Within a few days, the deal was set. By all accounts, working with Bowie was a joy and the resulting film has become a classic. Late in the shoot, Jim wrote to his staff, “David Bowie has virtually finished filming, except for one day in the middle of August. He has been wonderful to work with, and has added a truly magical spark as Jareth.”

Meanwhile, the arena show version of The Muppet Show was touring and opened that same day at Madison Square Garden. Beginning in 1974, oversized versions of Jim’s characters appeared in large arenas with the Sesame Street Holiday on Ice-Ice Follies shows. Each year, the characters strapped on their skates and spun around ice rinks across the county. In 1980, the first Sesame Street Live Show (without ice) started touring. The costumes and puppets for these and later shows were made by the Henson workshop so fidelity to the originals was insured. Jim and his team consulted on and prerecorded the scripts and songs but were happy to sit in the audience as other performers did the entertaining. It was a delight to see all the ways the characters could be transformed – from tiny bendable toys to the pages of board books to the dancing members of the live show cast. The Muppet Show on Tour started in 1984, and The Muppet Babies Live began two years later. While those shows ended after a few years, the Vee Corporation is still a partner with Sesame Workshop and Sesame Street Live continues to thrill squealing fans in Madison Square Garden and arenas throughout the country.

David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth.

Program for The Muppet Show On Tour, 1984.

Publicity photos from The Muppet Show on Tour, 1984.

Publicity photos from The Muppet Show on Tour, 1984.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

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