Being Elmo is Love and Inspiration

Update March 31, 2012 – You can now see this wonderful film on PBS’s Independent Lens! Check your local listings for air time on April 5th and April 8th. Spread the love xoxo

I’m always amazed at how things in life connect. I went to the movies by myself for the first time in my life when I was a junior in college to see a movie called Labyrinth, a Muppet kids’ movie, as David Bowie , with whom I was obsessed, was the star. Even though many in my crew thought Bowie was hot, he wasn’t hot enough to get them to see the show with me. I enjoyed going alone so much, I preferred to see movies solo thereafter. I also can vaguely recall crowds losing their minds over a tickle-able Elmo doll as I watched the old Rosie O’Donnell show, and that’s the first time I remember being cognizant that Elmo existed. I just started my interior design career in New Orleans, and as adorable and clever as I found him I was on to other things that really didn’t involve kid stuff and little red monsters.

Flash to 2011, which finds me at the PBS Press Tour where I meet Kevin Clash and Constance Marks. They are there to promote Constance’s new documentary Being Elmo, which is all about Kevin, who is the creator of Elmo – that fuzzy little guy that didn’t interest me too much back in the nineties. By now I’m a mom and and designer/artist/writer. I am inspired by both of them – Connie for the labor of love that pushed her along a seven year journey to create Being Elmo, and Kevin for the amazing talent he has fostered over his entire life, simply because he loves making people happy. Kevin made the video for me you see above so that I could play it for the Critter any time we liked – something that we will always cherish. After seeing clips of the movie, I told Connie and Kevin that I wanted everyone to know how wonderful I thought the film was going to be. I was so thrilled when I she wrote to me that she and her CoDirector Philip Shane would be in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend. I delightedly accepted her invitation to screen the film, and in turn asked her to brunch at Scarpetta and to please bring along Philip so I could get to know the people behind the movie about the man behind the monster.

I took a couple of friends who are in the business of making movies to the screening and we all loved it. There was a Q and A after, and the question that was burning for me was “How was it that Kevin’s parents were so secure that they took his vocation seriously from the very beginning?” I think about my childhood in the 70s and I can’t imagine that most people would have encouraged their child to make and work puppets. In fact, I was certain when I saw in the film that Kevin cut up his mother’s coat (without her permission, I might add) to make a puppet that some terrible punishment would befall him. That is a very interesting aspect of the film, which takes us down Kevin’s road from making puppets and performing for children in his mother’s home day care to present day as an Emmy award-winning Senior Puppet Coordinator and Muppet Captain at Sesame Street as well as Sesame Workshop’s Senior Creative Consultant – I was so prepared for a story that would have sadness and strife, but what I found was – love and happiness.

I connect with Being Elmo on so many levels. As a creative person and a parent, I marvel at Clash’s fantastic parents – how they somehow knew that he was very special and even though they had no entertainment savvy, seemed to know just how to encourage him from the very beginning. There were people all along the way who knew that Clash was special, and these terrific stories are told through archival footage of his first job at the local affiliate, to his work on Captain Kangaroo, to tales from such solid entertainment legends as narrator Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others you will definitely recognize. As a native Mississippian, I was already proud of Jim Henson for his amazing contribution to the world with Sesame Street, but I love him even more for seeing the same special something in Kevin and mentoring his early career. Sesame Street clearly had an impact on Kevin upon its debut, and Henson saw that he had a home with the Muppets. Kevin has paid forward every kindness and bit of encouragement, as one ca plainly see, by mentoring an aspiring young puppeteer in addition to his taking Elmo to children who are ill who just want to love on the monster.

Remember that movie I went to by myself? As it turns out, Labyrinth was Clash’s first piece as master puppeteer, and after watching it with my four year old again twenty five years later – it still holds up beautifully. The Critter was still and quiet and wondrous for the entire movie – a power not something just any movie can claim. I also love Connie Marks for her fortitude to complete this jewel of a film, and for recognizing that spreading happiness and love is very important for all of us. And I love Philip Shane for his fantastic arrangement of her images and direction that leaves one feeling, well, really…GOOD!

Being Elmo is a testament to creativity, constant honing of one’s craft, parenting and mentoring. I recommend it so much that I really MUST point out that the Los Angeles theatrical release is on November 4th and nationwide after that. Click here to purchase tickets for the film for the Los Angeles release. I strongly encourage everyone to see it and be inspired. Elmo loves you!

12 Responses to “Being Elmo is Love and Inspiration”

  1. lizzie Says:

    Visit lizzie

    I can not wait to see it!

  2. Thanks for the Blender, Ellen! Says:

    Visit Thanks for the Blender, Ellen!

    […] Alexandra recently invited me to a taping of “The Ellen Show!” […]

  3. Sabrina Says:

    Visit Sabrina

    "Elmo loves you!" What a wonder with words you are. Now I must see it, and I don't even have children yet, however, I will always a be a Peter Pan at heart.

    It was lovely to meet you last night. I was dying over your fishnets.



  4. Kim Says:

    Visit Kim

    Now I want to see both movies. Thank you for the suggestions – I am always looking for good films to watch with my kids.

  5. Julie (Ginger) Says:

    Visit Julie (Ginger)

    OMG! I love Labyrinth!!! I was wearing my Labyrinth shirt yesterday! #truestory I saw a documentary on Kevin and was so inspired by his story. I'd love to see "Being Elmo". (even though I admittedly tossed out our own tickle-me-elmo when the kids were sleeping because it kept going off when no one was around.) I think I accidentally bought Elmo's evil twin.

  6. @Eva_Smith Says:

    Visit @Eva_Smith

    Thank you so much! I have it scheduled to record on DVR.

  7. Jenn Willey Says:

    Visit Jenn Willey

    After reading this, I so wanna see it. And I really enjoyed the movie Labyrinth too! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Caryn B Says:

    Visit Caryn B

    So excited! Thanks for the update! I wonder if my son would enjoy it or if he's too young?

  9. Catalina Says:

    Visit Catalina

    Labyrinth is one of DH's all time favorite movies. I keep hearing a lot about Being Elmo — I definitely want to watch it too!

  10. vanessa Says:

    Visit vanessa

    I loveeeed being elmo.

  11. Shelby Barone Says:

    Visit Shelby Barone

    I puffy heart Elmo!!

  12. Akon Says:

    Visit Akon

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