BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- I grew up loving the Muppets. Their creator, Jim Henson, made learning fun, dazzled with colorful characters or clever creatures, and invited children of all ages to a world where "chickens could sing, bears could tell jokes, and pigs could be stars." It was Jim Henson that made me want to work in television. I have read many books over the years about his work in an all too short life. Jim died at the age of 53 in 1990 from a bacterial infection.
To complete my Television Production degree from Western Kentucky University in the spring semester of 2001, I did my internship at The Jim Henson Company. It was there I met puppeteers, writers, and directors that worked with Jim...I even met Jim's widow, Jane Henson (who passed away this past year at age 78). Jim's influence lead me and my coworkers to create commercials featuring puppets. This even lead to us getting an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy in 2012. I had learned a lot about the creative process and how to treat my coworkers from Jim. Yet I didn't know much about Jim Henson, the person.
There have been biographies written about Jim for the young reader and many amazing books on Jim's work, but never an in depth look at his life...until now. Author, Brian Jay Jones, with the help of the people that knew Jim best, exposes the man behind the Muppets (or, at times, underneath).
Brian's book, Jim Henson The Biography, was released on September 24th, 2013 (on what would have been Jim's 77th birthday). It has already been given Goodreads Choice Award for Best Biography of 2013. Jim's longtime friend and collaborator, Frank Oz (performer of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Grover, Bert, Cookie Monster, Yoda and many more) said this about the book: "I worked with Jim for over thirty years. He was one of my closest friends. And yet I found out things about him in Jim Henson that were new to me. Brian Jay Jones has captured the layers of Jim’s genius and humanity as well as the flaws that made Jim, like all of us, so delightfully imperfect. Jim needed this book to be written. I thank Brian for giving Jim life again. This book has captured the spirit of Jim Henson."
I recommend Jim Henson The Biography to adults (due to adult topics and some language) that grew up with the Muppets, like Brian and myself, or to those interested in an underdog story (All 3 major networks said "No" to The Muppet Show before it went on to be the number one show in the world, besides being a HUGE money maker in merchandising). This makes a great Christmas gift for anyone that loves a good story. Especially one that involves a frog turned Hollywood leading man.
The video below is a phone interview I had with Brian Jay Jones discussing the incredible, complex life of Jim Henson.