This Day in History/Take Five: Underrated Sesame Street Muppets

Today is an unprecedented combination Day in History/Take Five post! This is fitting, considering the special occasion it marks. On November 10, 1969, Sesame Street made its debut. For forty-five years and counting (AH HA HA!), the show has delighted and influenced children and adults alike…especially yours truly. While I can’t resist the appeal of longtime favorites such as Grover and Elmo, not to mention newer Muppets such as Abby Cadabby, many Muppets have fallen off the collective radar during the show’s lengthy run. I will now attempt to correct this injustice somewhat by introducing you to five of my unsung favorites below.

CHRISSY OF CHRISSY AND THE ALPHABEATS

Sesame Street has produced some memorable music in its day. While I love Joe Raposo’s Tin Pan Alley-style tunes, the surprisingly gritty rock songs penned by Christopher Cerf have always been my favorites. Since 1973, Cerf has been the voice of Chrissy, lead singer of the Alphabeats. (I’m surprised to see him billed as Little Chrissy on YouTube and Muppet Wiki, since all my Sesame Street albums refer to him as plain old Chrissy. Perhaps they are confusing him with Little Jerry of the Monotones, another classic Sesame Street garage band.) In the 2005 anthology Lost In The Grooves, I raved about the Alphabeats’ presence on the 1983 Born To Add album. Below, thrill to the Alphabeats’ “You’re Alive!” (not to mention Chrissy’s awe-inspiring hair):

FERLINGHETTI DONIZETTI

How could you not love a Beat-inspired Muppet? This character from the mid-1980s always spoke in rhyme. (I still remember when he ordered a sirloin steak and one corn flake from a very bemused David at Mr. Hooper’s Store.) Below is his shining moment, “Rappin’ Alphabet,” boosted by fantastic b-boy moves from Grover:

THE GONK:

While this skit was before my time, I remember being fascinated by the reruns when I was little. I’ve always had a soft spot for the forlorn little Gonk, but I admit that I can’t pass a fruit stand to this day without hollering “Have a nectarine, Gonk!” a la the Geefle:

THE JACKET:

This is one of Sesame Street‘s missed opportunities. I really believed that this talking pink jacket was going to be the show’s next breakout character. Fueled by Stephanie D’Abruzzo’s endearing performance, she charmed me in an “Elmo’s World” segment in the early 2000s (excerpted in the following YouTube clip):

The character became Zoe’s jacket in two subsequent episodes, and was nothing short of adorable. Her delivery of the phrase “I’d stake my reversible lining on it!” always slays me. So, why did the jacket fade into obscurity? My guess is because NO ONE BOTHERED TO GIVE HER A NAME. For heaven’s sake, they could have called her Jackie if they were that desperate! I shake my head at what could have been.

LOLA FROM PLAZA SESAMO

Purists will consider this cheating, since Lola is a mainstay of Plaza Sesamo, the Mexican equivalent of Sesame Street. I do wonder why the US show hasn’t had any crossover episodes with the Mexican show yet, since there have been joint projects with foreign productions in the past. With her Seussian hair tufts and boundless enthusiasm, Lola would be a great visitor to the US street. (I still regret not buying a Lola stuffed toy when I saw one in a Long’s Drugs toy bin in Mountain View fifteen or so years ago.) Behold Lola below (potential earworm alert):

I could go on like this all day, but instead I’ll open the floor to you. In the meantime, happy anniversary to Sesame Street, and here’s to another 45 years!

 

 

 

 

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