In almost 45 years in the radio business, the answer to the most famous person I ever met has always been the first famous person I ever met.
He lived nearby in Woodstock, Conn., and agreed to come into my little radio station for an interview in 1977.
He was Big Bird.
Carroll Spinney was the real deal. After sitting for an interview, he walked around the tiny station, and talked to a few little kids whose parents brought them to the station knowing who was coming that day. He’d stick his head in a wastebasket and be his other character, Oscar the Grouch.
“Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life,” Caroll Spinney tells the New York Times today. Pretty much the same thing he said 41 years ago.
And he’s done. He’s retiring this week.
The physical demands of playing the characters has gotten to be too much. Spinney is now — you’ll want to sit down for this — 84.
He said it was lonely “in there” playing Big Bird.
“I was separated from everybody,” he said.
“I’ve been playing a 6-year-old for 50 years,” Spinney said. “And the children bought it.”
Because Spinney was the real deal.