When searching around and find that remarkable 15-minute video from Jim Henson's 1990 memorial in New York City, I came across something that was was bowl-you-over wonderful. It's not a video, but from Frank Oz's eulogy that he gave at the London memorial that followed the one in New York.
I had an occasion to meet both Jim Henson and Frank Oz, when I was working at Universal Studios years ago in 1982, and we released their movie, The Dark Crystal, that they co-directed. Before an event was to take place later that evening, I was assigned as the kid in the department to walk them over to a screening room where the film was playing for critics. (An assignment I was thrilled to take on.) They wanted to see how things were going and just peak it. When we opened the door a crack, it was during the long expository sequence, and Frank Oz forever endeared himself to me by saying, "Oh. Okay, this is the boring part."
I'll just stop writing now and let his words about Jim Henson speak for itself --
"... After the service in New York...I wandered around for days and weeks like many of us did. And, while I worked, and while I was with my family, I thought about Jim. I couldn't help but think about Jim.I thought of course about what an insane, profound loss it was. And then of course so many images and memories of Jim came back to me. So many images. But one image kept coming back to me—just a fleeting moment. And it was not of Jim performing or directing. It was not of Jim with his family. It was not of Jim with his colleagues. And it was not Jim working so hard, and it was not even of the great, stupid, silly fun that we all had with Jim—that I had with Jim.
But this one image kept coming back to me...Just of Jim, standing, with his arms folded, just having a very warm smile—looking. And, it wouldn't go away. It just kept on coming back. I realized it was Jim, appreciating. I know where I got that image from, I think. It was from the Muppet Show here at ATV or The Dark Crystal, the movie, or wherever we were shooting when we would look back at the playbacks. The television monitor would be right there. We would shoot the movie or shoot the performance, as many of you know. And then we would play it back and judge it. Often we would judge it and say, “Oh, that was terrible. Let's do it again.” But so many times I would see Jim—just appreciating it.
Many people see Jim as an extraordinary creator. I realize that I see Jim first as an appreciator. He appreciated so much. He loved London. He loved walking on the Heath. He loved...Parliament Hill, flying kites. He appreciated it so much. He appreciated his family and his colleagues and his Muppet family. And he appreciated the performances and design of a puppet. He appreciated the art objects that he might buy. He appreciated the detail in a Persian rug. He appreciated...just beauty.
Many times we would have meetings. I've known Jim for twenty-seven years now and this would always happen. And I'm sure some of you will remember. We would have a meeting and if it was a pretty day outside, he'd say, "Gee, couldn't we go outside? Couldn't we? It's nice out there. Couldn't we just go outside? Why sit in here?"
And he appreciated the day. He didn't realize why...why sit in a stuffy room when you could appreciate beauty out there? And I remember when we had meetings he would...often say, "Gee, can't we eat? Why don't we—I mean—isn't it time to eat? Can't we eat while we meet?"
And it wasn't because he was hungry. He just...it was a time to appreciate eating and it was a time to appreciate working. And even when he ate, I remember, he would always take dessert. He loved dessert. And he would...I just have this image of him...when you brought the tray over, I remember him saying, “What—what's that thingy—there?” He was always wiggling his finger and saying, “What's that little dessert thing?” I don't know why, but he couldn't order dessert without wiggling his finger. I'm not quite sure why that is but then he'd say, “I'll, I'll take that, that thingy there.” And he would have it. And then he would eat it. And when be was eating it, you'd hear these little “Mmm's” from him, as he ate the dessert. “Mmmm. Mmmm.”
And it wasn't just that it tasted good, which it did. But it was the time at that moment to appreciate it. To appreciate where he was at that moment—eating that dessert. And I think life was just this dessert for him. I really don't believe that Jim could have been such an extraordinary creator if he hadn't been such an extraordinary appreciator.."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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