Monday, May 11, 2009

Muppets and Drag Acts

Here's something from my personal history - I dug it out of my old writings when I was talking about the Muppets with one of my colleagues.

With theatrical parents (in more ways that one), I was brought up in a very open atmosphere - where more 'artistic' views, exaggerated personalities and attitudes were acceptable. I met many fascinating people - I only regret that being so young, I did not fully appreciate how lucky I was to meet them.

Certain instances remain fairly clear in my memory, such as watching a production of the Muppet Show and seeing not only how it was done technically, but just how much the puppeteers 'lived' the characters. Even though from the studio floor you could see the operators, the characters of the puppets were such that you watched them and followed their dialogue, almost ignoring the puppeteers 'below'. The show was staged on two levels - the studio floor being where all the human muppets moved, and a secondary level from which the show was filmed, and from where the lives of the puppets themselves were all that could be seen.

The episode I watched being filmed featured Racquel Welch. I remember her laughing most of the time - you couldn't help it with the crew and the 'cast'. The pure fun of such television magic made the whole experience magical, even though the 'technical magic' was revealed.

(I found part of the show on Youtube:

Perhaps being brought up in the theatre had disadvantages too - my mother tells me that when I went to see 'Peter Pan' on stage I loudly cried that I could 'see the wires'. Peter wasn't flying at all! The wires aren't so easy to see these days (on screen they can be edited out and cgi is a wonderful thing), but I know they are there. I wasn't much good at the suspension of disbelief I guess. Perhaps that's why I liked reading so much?

For one production my mother worked on, I can't remember which (probably something at the London Palladium), I was down in the dressing rooms with her whilst she fitted head dresses. Danny La Rue entered in full ball gown, wig and makeup. He was very funny, even just chatting to his companions, and he loved to say in a sudden, deep, butch aside "I'm a fella really". All the men I met were charming and tolerant of a young girl, and I think the strong affinity between theatrical people stems from comradeship and a history of tolerance that has been around longer in their profession than in perhaps any other (save the oldest, I imagine).

Muppet picture from Wikia Entertainment website, Danny La Rue from BBC website. Unknown origins, no copyright claimed, original owners' rights asserted.
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