When Erik Sharkey and I first met with Cheryl Henson, our meeting didn’t quite go as planned. There was an embarrassing snafu: while I stated I wanted to interview Ms. Henson about Richard Amsel’s work, the Henson team didn’t realize I had intended to film the interview on camera.
My heart sank, and I had no one but myself to blame. I didn’t realize certain permissions had to be obtained in advance of my setting up my camera, lights, and tripod. I sheepishly put down my bags of equipment and apologized, repeatedly, to everyone for the misunderstanding. I think I blushed more brightly than I did when I first asked a cute girl to my high school prom. I felt bad for Ms. Henson. I felt bad for Erik. I felt bad for just about everyone and everything.
Yet in many ways that first meeting exceeded my expectations – and ultimately proved to be an invaluable introduction for the interview that would take place, on camera, several months later.
We were told Ms. Henson could spare up to an hour to talk. She and her team ended up giving us over 90 minutes – in a discussion that was, by turns, thoughtful, insightful, heartfelt, and wondrous. Like the muppets themselves, I thought. Erik and I were floored.
We got a sneak peek at a copy of THE DARK CRYSTAL: The Ultimate Visual History, which had just been printed. (It’s now available on Amazon, and I highly recommend it.) There were also some candid things Ms. Henson shared about her late father, and her memories of his passing. I won’t divulge them here, other than to say that I had never really grasped just how great a loss Jim Henson’s death was to the world until hearing his daughter speak of him.
He was only 53 -- less than a decade older than I am now. The man didn’t just create worlds with his imagination; he made the world we lived in a better place. We should be forever grateful.
The time passed quickly, and soon enough, Erik and I got ready to say our goodbyes. Cheryl Henson then gave me a hug, and again expressed her condolences over my dad’s recent death.
Suddenly, I began to lose it. I choked back tears, trying to keep myself together. Erik patted me on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly.
“It’s ok,” Ms. Henson said. “I know what it is to lose a father.”
The Henson team generously gave Erik and me free tickets to the Jim Henson Exhibition at The Museum of the Moving Image a few blocks away. Erik and I spent hours there, roaming, remembering, and talking movies and art over coffee and calories in the museum café. During a particularly dark time in my life, that day offered a very welcome bright spot.
The magic of the Henson legacy is not just an aesthetic one. There’s great craftsmanship and imagination, to be sure. But there is also great heart and emotion. However fanciful the creatures and elaborate the fantasy, they’ve endured so long and so well because of the very human hearts behind them.
That first meeting also gave me the very special opportunity to discuss my project with Ms. Henson, and “pitch” it, so to speak -- something that I found to be extremely helpful in the long run. For when we were all reunited in late June, 2018, Ms. Henson not only remembered all our talking points…she remembered them better than I had.