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The Big Bird Experience

Forgive me for boasting, but I was once the big star for an afternoon at a local television station. The day came to mind last week when WYES tv., Ch. 12 celebrated its 65th anniversary.

Memories were triggered from several years ago of an earlier anniversary celebration. For that occasion, the station invited the public to a picnic on its grounds. To sweeten the attraction, especially for the kids, two major national television celebrities made surprise local appearances, Big Bird and Cookie Monster, residents of “Sesame Street.”

Big Bird is a lovable though slightly goofy character who certainty stands out in a crowd. Middlebury University, which has chronicled such things, describes him as an “eight-foot two-inch tall bright yellow anthropomorphic canary.” Big Bird seldom speaks though there are You Tube clips of his addressing such critical biological topics as the importance of noses. (He is in favor of them, although he technically has a beak instead.) Cookie Monster is far more outspoken and is rather gruff especially in his insatiable appetite for cookies.

Legal notice: Technically the Big Bird and Cookie Monster at the event were not the same as seen on television. The writing on the costume box was careful to describe the contents as Big Yellow Bird adding a degree of separation from the TV character. Nevertheless, in this fanciful world such technicalities hardly matter. Star-gazers know what is real.

For my part, I was prevailed upon to play the Big Bird role. Sensing that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I agreed, Another volunteer, a guy named Nick, absorbed the life of Cookie Monster.

From the moment the two of us were escorted into the studio it was obvious that we were a hit. Without having done anything, the kids were groveling over us.

I wisely had watched the broadcast of “Sesame Street” that morning just to find out what The Bird was up to. That was a prudent decision. According to the segment, he was travelling that day – I forget to where or what for – but was running into various predicaments. The kids were well aware of his situation and I was peppered with questions about the trip. I really didn’t know the answers, but when you are a Big Bird you can get away with saying little.

After experiencing the initial hero worship, we were taken to a side area from which we were escorted, one at a time, to greet the others in the crowd. With the kids now dispersed, I just waited my turn while sitting alone – except for one young boy. He could not tolerate the thought of Big Bird being by himself, so he announced he would stay to keep me company. We would have one of those meaningful man and bird conversations. When it was my turn to be escorted through the studio he walked with the entourage. The kid had become my bodyguard and my friend.

That was the moment of the Big Bird experience that I will always remember. The boy is now a grown man. I hope that the sensitivity and compassion he showed that day would prepare him for later life. Unlike Big Bird, may his travels be trouble free. And may there be cookies along the way.


Have something to add to this story, or want to send a comment to Errol? Email him at errol@myneworleans.com.

SOMETHING NEW: Listen to Louisiana Insider a weekly podcast covering the people, places and culture of the state: LouisianaLife.com/LouisianaInsider or Apple Podcasts.

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.


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