Muppet Fears Remembered

Today was a breakthrough. A very minor kind of breakthrough, of the sort where no real material change or progress or whatever is made but a small blockage in the place where quirky stuff you can’t quite remember properly is cleared away. When I was a little fella my mum and I would walk with my sister up the street to school and we would walk back again and while she was making the beds or changing them or doing something that mums do (which didn’t seem terribly important to a three year old) I would watch Sesame Street on the TV. There was a colour TV in the lounge room. It was the good TV. And there was a small but perfectly serviceable black and white TV in mum and dad’s bedroom. I was happy to watch the show in colour, on my own, learning and being amused in equal measure, like a brave little boy until, well, until the Count came on. Count von Count was my favourite Sesame Street character in some ways: I looked forward to him coming on, and I may even have enjoyed counting (it was a long time ago) with him, but I was scared. Not terrified, but I needed reassurance. I would go into mum and dad’s bedroom and watch the Count with mum. It seemed a safer option. A hazy memory exists of being told that it would be OK if I watched the Count on my own, that nothing would happen, nothing bad could happen, and I should just try it … and I didn’t last an entire segment before I had to find mum and drag her in, protesting, perhaps, that I wasn’t really scared, but needed some reassurance.

Here’s a picture of the Muppet I had such a strange, ambivalent relationship with (incidentally I can do a rather good impression of the Count):

Fast forward quite a few years. I am at school. I am old enough to know better. I am probably old enough to have started noticing women in that way (although I won’t speculate on exactly how old I was when this happened as it could make a mildly embarrassing memory quite shameful in some people’s eyes). The Muppet Show is on on Saturday evenings and I am watching it. I have watched the show since I was a little kid. Since the Count relationship or even earlier – the show is simply always on and everyone seems to like it. And then this character appears and it freaks me right out. The Phantom of the Muppet Show. Supposedly a phantom haunting the theatre where the Muppets work, literally appearing and scaring other characters, and the characters try to convince Kermit that there is a ghost, but he won’t believe them, until he finally encounters it and he knows it’s real, and it just scared me so much. Hairs stood up all the way along my neck. It was as if I had seen a ghost. Here’s the Phantom of the Muppet Show:

In latter years I have tried to describe this character to other people. The genuinely scary one, I’d say, he’s actually quite frightening, you must know what I mean. But they didn’t. None of them did. My insistence that the name of this character was something like The Phantom of the Opera didn’t help either – and of course when I Googled that term I drew a blank. But today I worked it out, and I found that I was recalling something real, which did indeed happen, and I wasn’t making it up and/or going mad. It turns out that this character is more commonly known as Uncle Deadly and now that I come to write this “new” name it doesn’t seem so frightening and I’m hardly scared at all looking at a picture of his glowing yellow eyes and dragon’s mouth.

So I can move on to thinking about other things now. Adult stuff, like whether Charlie Macartney or Warren Bardsley would have made a better Twenty20 cricketer if they had been born one hundred years later. My mind is, very slightly, as ease.

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