Walter Mencken 9:23 a.m., Oct. 10
Review: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
What should have been a mini-documentary bonus feature on a Sesame Street DVD instead becomes a Christmas release strictly for Muppet die-hards. Two bits of eternal knowledge gleaned: Kevin “Elmo” Clash is a blueblooded puppeteer in love with his calling and blessed with an ability to animate fleece with the mere twist of a knuckle; director Constance Marks knows how to competently capture talking puppet-heads.
Kevin Clash grew up watching The Wonderful World of Disney and Sesame Street. It was a behind-the-scenes interview with Jim Henson that first introduced the future cloth-rangler to the art of Muppetry. Clash quickly transformed his father’s overcoat into a puppet. Upon discovering the hole in his wardrobe closet, instead of a strap, the understanding dad hit the young boy with, “Next time, just ask.”
Clash makes a good living on his knees dexterously manipulating sticks and fabric, yet Marks documents his childhood home in a manner befitting Washington’s birthplace. Clash’s resourceful mother put in a call to Muppet design master, Kermit Love, who invited Kevin to visit him the next time the boy found himself in New York. His family could not afford the train ticket from Baltimore, so Kevin ditched a school trip to New York in order to meet the master puppet builder. Clash speaks of breaking from the group and how “nerve racking” it was.
What kind of school would set an unescorted teenager loose on his first visit to the big city? Clash’s fear and anxiety became an unintentional source of amusement when it was revealed that he was being followed by a camera-person. No wonder his parents couldn’t pony up the dough for an Amtrack ticket -- they blew the nest egg on equipment rental and a film crew to follow their kid around.
We’re told precious little about Clash’s private life other than that he’s a single-parent who spends more time on the road or fiddling in his sock drawer than he does with his daughter. Other than that, it’s five pounds of fist in a hundred-pound sock.
Reader Rating: One Star
[Photo credit: Howie Rosen]
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