Jim Henson: The Biography

Jim Henson: The Biography

by Brian Jay Jones

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Overview

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For the first time ever—a comprehensive biography of one of the twentieth century’s most innovative creative artists: the incomparable, irreplaceable Jim Henson
 
He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story.
 
This extraordinary biography—written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family—covers the full arc of Henson’s all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in America, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Henson's family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives, Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson’s contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly ten-year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson’s non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth—as well as fascinating misfires like Henson’s dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub.
 
An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose dealmaking prowess won him a reputation as “the new Walt Disney,” and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life—a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.
 
An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture—and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGE
 
Jim Henson vibrantly delves into the magnificent man and his Muppet methods: It’s an absolute must-read!”—Neil Patrick Harris
 
“An exhaustive work that is never exhausting, a credit both to Jones’s brisk style and to Henson’s exceptional life.”The New York Times
 
“[A] sweeping portrait that is a mix of humor, mirth and poignancy.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

“A meticulously researched tome chock-full of gems about the Muppets and the most thorough portrait of their creator ever crafted.”—Associated Press

“Jim 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. I thank Brian for giving Jim life again. This book has captured the spirit of Jim Henson.”—Frank Oz

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345526120
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/10/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 198,696
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Brian Jay Jones is an award-winning biographer and vice president of Biographers International Organization. Jones is a devoted member of the Jim Henson generation, having been two years old when Sesame Street premiered in 1969 and nine when The Muppet Show debuted in 1976. A former policy analyst and advisor in the U.S. Senate, Jones abandoned politics for the pen in 2008, with the publication of his award-winning biography, Washington Irving. He lives with his wife and dog in Virginia. His favorite Muppet is Rowlf (thanks for asking).

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Chapter One
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Excerpted from "Jim Henson"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Brian Jay Jones.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue Blue Sky 1973 xi

Chapter 1 The Delta 1936-1949 3

Chapter 2 A Means to an End 1949-1955 23

Chapter 3 Sam and Friends 1955-1957 45

Chapter 4 Muppets, Inc. 1957-1962 67

Chapter 5 A Crazy Little Band 1962-1969 95

Chapter 6 Sesame Street 1969-1970 137

Chapter 7 Big Ideas 1970-1973 173

Chapter 8 The Mucking Puppets 1973-1975 203

Chapter 9 Muppetmania 1975-1977 231

Chapter 10 Life's Like A Movie 1977-1979 271

Chapter 11 The World in His Head 1979-1982 303

Chapter 12 Twists and Turns 1982-1986 350

Chapter 13 Storyteller 1986-1987 392

Chapter 14 A Kind of Craziness1987-1989 412

Chapter 15 So Much on a Handshake 1989-1990 432

Chapter 16 Just One Person 1990 462

Epilogue Legacy 485

Acknowledgments 491

Notes 497

Selected Bibliography 555

Index 559

Interviews

Brian Jay Jones on

Jim Henson: The Biography

Biographers have the unique responsibility—and privilege—of living with their subjects for the years they're doing their research and writing. Frankly, I couldn't have asked for better company over the last five years. Jim Henson has been part of my life—and probably part of yours—for nearly as long as I can remember. I was two when Sesame Street premiered in 1969, and nine when The Muppet Show debuted in 1976. That practically makes me Muppets Generation 1.0. Why would I choose to write about Jim Henson, then? Heck, why wouldn't I?

For the most part, the bulk of the research for this biography was conducted the old-fashioned way: sitting in an archive—in this case, The Jim Henson Company archives in Long Island City, New York—and turning over documents one at a time. I read through Jim's private diaries, examined handwritten notes—sometimes just scraps of paper with ideas for a character name or a slapdash drawing of a new Muppet—pored through business papers and receipts, and poked through innumerable TV scripts and film proposals, many of which never made it any further than Jim's carefully typed notes. For the first time, you'll read about many of these projects, and learn how hard Jim worked to bring programs like The Muppet Show to television.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing all five Henson children and his widow, Jane—who passed away earlier this year—as well as countless colleagues, friends, and collaborators. We spoke in living rooms in London, workshops in New York, and film studios in Burbank. We talked over breakfast in hotels and brunches in diners. And when we couldn't meet in person, we talked on telephones and Skype, or wrote each other e-mails. Almost to a person, everyone was open, honest, and thoughtful about Jim and his work—and, as you can probably imagine, many were also very, very funny.

Finally, of course, there was the pure enjoyment of going back through Jim's work, watching Muppets and Fraggles and Skeksis and Storytellers with a keener appreciation of how Jim wove his life into his art, and his art through his life. Any time you can watch episodes of The Muppet Show, or old footage of Jim blowing up his Muppets on The Ed Sullivan Show and call it work, you know you've officially got one of the best jobs anywhere.

It took five years to get here—and now, at last, it's your turn to live with Jim Henson. I think you'll find he's pretty much exactly as you want him to be: genuinely kind, dazzlingly inspirational, immensely talented and—as Frank Oz said—"delightfully imperfect." Not bad for a kid from the swamps of Mississippi.

"It's a good life," Jim once wrote. "Enjoy it." And I hope you'll enjoy Jim Henson.

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Jim Henson: The Biography 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
TreSpitson More than 1 year ago
Jim Henson: The Biography is a stunning look into the life of the creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street. Jim Henson was a creative genius and author Brian Jay Jones treats his story with the respect he is due. But this is more than just praise for the genius of Jim Henson, Jones dives into the life of the man. He gives an intimate portrait of the man. I couldn’t put it down.
Laurel_Rose_Lundberg More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Jim Henson: The Biography is a wonderfully touching biography. It paints the picture of a well-rounded person. It is well researched and very well written. It is a fascinating book and well worth reading. Kudos to Brian Jay Jones on writing a stellar book!
sewolf0310 More than 1 year ago
Jim Henson created the Muppets, but he did so much more, and Brian Jay Jones has done an excellent job in letting everyone see Jim Henson for the man he was. Beginning with his childhood, Jim knew that once he saw what television was, he knew that was where he would be when he got older, but he never dreamed or intended it to be as a puppeteer, Muppets or not.  He was such a creative and talented man, every new piece of technology was like a toy, and his vision was usually before his time. While others may describe him as a “workaholic”, Jim never saw it as work, it was just playing to him.  He worked long days and traveled extensively to try to create as many projects as his mind could envision. He left us far too soon, but his opinion is something you need to read for yourself.  Brian has done such a wonderful job, and those who helped him should be thanked for allowing the public to be able to view his private life as well as his public life. For anyone who grew up with Sesame Street, The Muppets or any of Jim’s other creations, you will not want to put this book down. While I consider it an honor and a privilege to be lucky for have an Advanced Reader’s copy of a book, I am saddened by the fact that my copy does not have the photo on the cover, or any of the photos inside.  I grew up watching Jim Henson’s Muppets and have loved them all my life, having my kids grow up with them as well.  I was deeply saddened and shocked by the untimely death of Jim Henson, but I will treasure this book always.
coreyblissford More than 1 year ago
A phenomenal account of the life of Jim Henson. What a genius! This book does his much to short life justice.
JiffyPopYumYum More than 1 year ago
An absolutely brilliant account of the life and career of Jim Henson!
norway_girl 11 months ago
This is a long love letter to Jim Henson. As a fan, I have always been interested in how everything started. In that measure, this book covered all the bases. But if you are not a fan of anything Henson (really, can there be anyone out there who is not) then you might find this book boring and redundant. Creative, free spirited, loving, kind, generous and devoted to his family as well as his colleagues; This description is repeated over and over again with plenty of details to include who, what, when, how and how much in dollar amounts. This book is written with generous contributions from his family, friends and colleagues so to edit their memories would have been difficult. I did appreciate the glimpses into his planner\diary. Sometimes only one word would describe his feelings, but that affirmed my impression of him as a man who "does things" instead of a man who "talks about things". I did find myself Googling some of the early Muppet things to refresh my memory, and crying like a baby at the end that I had known all along was coming. The book was written with love. If you don't love the Muppets, you won't like the book. Simple. Just like Jim Henson. No worries, he would not be offended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Biographer Jones did a wonderf job capturing creative force and genuis of Mr. Henson. It was a story i was a ware but a man i knew little of and whose story didnt disappoint. Highly recommend for anyone who loved his work growing up. I To learn more doesn't disappoint, and further grows my admiration for his work ethic and love of family.
Fan4SFGiants More than 1 year ago
Jim Henson The Biography is a great biography of Jim Henson,along with great memoirs of shows such as The Jim Henson Hour,The Muppet Show,and many others. This is  a great book for any Muppet and Jim Henson enthusiast.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brian Jay Jones writes so very detailed about the man of Jim Henson. Jim's growing up, his family, his schooling and how he became the "muppets". The pictures included in this book are iconic. It is a must read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From sony pictures warner bros pictures and the great genius of David young looney tunes critter workshop comes an all new movie based on the canadian T.v. series Grossology has come to life in this live action/ cgi animated movie.coming soon in october 2015.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i was at a store,i saw this exact book.it was a Lot of pages.Although I want to read it so badly,(no offense) i thought it was too long.im a big fan of Jim Henson,im looking for basic infromation.