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Spinney cycle

A look at the muppeteer who plays Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch

Name: Caroll Spinney

Age: 72

Occupation: Muppeteer who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on PBS’ “Sesame Street”

Notable: Spinney is one of three Muppeteers who worked the skein’s first episode, which aired Nov. 10, 1969, and are still with the show today. (The other two are Jerry Nelson and Frank Oz.)

Kudos: Spinney has won four Emmy Awards, the last one coming after the 1982-83 season. He also has two Grammys. In 2000, the Library of Congress declared Spinney, as Big Bird, a “living legend.”

For the ages: Big Bird has been 6 years old almost since his inception, and Oscar is stuck at 43. “I remember when Oscar was older than me,” Spinney says. “In 1978, a new writer on the show did a flashback, and Big Bird was pushing a baby Oscar in a baby carriage. I said, ‘I’m sorry but you can’t ruin the history because Big Bird is a kid and Oscar doesn’t act like a child in any way. He’s 43, OK?’ That made him older than me at the time, and now I wish I was as young as Oscar — still 43. I don’t want him to become a cantankerous old coot, just a cantankerous grouch.”

Little-known fact: Spinney was approached by NASA to fly on the space shuttle. “They wanted the children of America to be more interested in NASA,” he says. “They thought Big Bird could go up in it and we would do an actual production. I said yes … but then they found out there was absolutely no place to store (the) Big Bird (costume), so I couldn’t go. They selected Christa McAuliffe to go instead, and now you know the rest of the story. What a tragedy.”

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