Henson Perspective: Guest-starring Rita Moreno!

From the third leg of the unstable milking stool that is The Perspective umbrella of podcasts comes an analysis of the first season of The Muppet Show on this, the occasion of its 45th anniversary. (We were too impatient to wait another five years!) Join Ben and his new co-host Pete for an analysis of the first U.S. syndicated broadcast.

Sources and References:

Much of Ben’s research for this — and every — episode came from the combined forces of Brian Jay Jones’ biography Jim Henson (2016) and Christopher Finch’s Of Muppets and Men (1982). Additional research, especially the anecdote about telling the Electric Company producer about her role in Carnal Knowledge came from Rita Moreno’s memoir (2014).

Moreno gave a number of interviews recently with the advent of the documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It (2020), including a number with The New Yorker. These will need a subscription to be read, but are well worth it: first, video excerpts from a conversation about the documentary (which was the basis for the question about her early cross-ethnic casting), and then a lengthy, traditional New Yorker interview about the same ground that the doc covered — the scope of her career and her current third act.

But if you have to pick just one, we would obviously recommend this 2018 interview that’s entirely focused on her duet with Animal. But Ray Steele might proudly point out that he got there before The New Yorker did, having started off his 2013 interview with Moreno by talking to her about her Muppet appearance.

Prior to Ben quizzing Peter on Moreno’s four “Most Known For” films on IMDB and their possible connection to Jim Henson, Ben tests himself (albeit not with a sixty-second time limit) on the website Connect The Stars, where he has to try and figure out the shortest combination on his own. (Knowing that Coburn was in The Muppet Movie, you’ll notice that Ben frequently tries first to connect stars to the movie Charade…) Here’s the map, complete with false starts and dead-ends, that he came up with:

Rita Moreno was in West Side Story with Yul Brenner, who was in The Magnificent Seven with James Coburn, who was in The Muppet Movie with Jim Henson.

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