Henson Perspective: Guest-starring Ben Vereen!

Broadway dancer and actor Ben Vereen is the Muppet Show’s guest this week, and so Pete and (a totally different) Ben delve into Vereen’s show-biz controversies. They also discuss how they are quick to anger about flag etiquette, that they are confused about the appropriateness of the phrase, “hep to the jive”, and that there might be a benefit to leaving in the noises of a squeaky chair.

Sources and References:

Ben and Pete independently became interested in aspects of the Flag Code and flag ceremonies, the rules for which can be found here, amongst other places. The final codicil, §10, is particularly interesting if one pays attention to all the rules enumerated and then thinks about the recent past of the United States.

This is the version of “The Hut Sut Song” that really got Ben to understand how it might have had the wide popular appeal that Wikipedia seems to indicate it did have. However, one might also want to check out the Spike Jones and Bing Crosby versions for very different takes on it’s seriousness in presentation and tone.

The Poetry Foundation’s collection of underwhelming Alfred Guest poems can be found here.

Ben Vereen’s 1972 profile in the New York Times provides good insight into the kind of vibe he must have when hired by the Muppets. The story about his possible accidental bigamy and how it ultimately turned out to be a scam was also reported in the times, as was the fact that he was removed from the touring company Broadway San Francisco after accusations that came to light in the larger “Time’s Up” movement.

Listeners interested in comparing Ten-Speed and Brownshoe to I, Spy can watch the former via Shout!Factory. Commentary on his Inauguration performance where he channels Bert Williams is written up in The New Yorker, while a sample of contemporary commentary about how audiences reacted can be found in this letters page of Ebony magazine. Mention of his participation in the 200th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is on the Black History in America profile of Vereen, while commentary about Chicken Georges protest of President Bush Sr. is, once again, in the Times.

Using the Connect The Stars website to connect Ben Vereen to Jim Henson via his top four films on IMDB might look something like this:

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