Under Influence


You know, I have always had a hard time deciphering the difference between influential people and inspirational people. I guess it was only recently that I figured out inspirational people make you want to do something and the influential just make you the way you are; good or bad. So that has me thinking. Who is to blame for me? I’ll tell you who…

lindablair_wideweb__470x3300Linda Blair. I know what you are thinking but she has had a big influence on my life. This lady set a new standard for things that go bump in the night. I’ll never forget sleeping in a sleeping bag in the parents bedroom at age 12 because I was sure Reagan was hiding in my closet giving me that creepy grin. You know the grin.

So thanks, Linda. Because of you I will always jump to the conclusion that I am possessed if I hear strange noises at night. Even as a 31 year old.

joe-strummerJoe Strummer. It’s weird to realize your influences so much later in life. When Joe died of congested heart failure in 2002 I had been a Clash fan going on 12 years. I was saddened but like many other people I figured a rock star life was one that circles the drain anyway and it was only a matter of time. The other day when I was thinking about this post it really hit me that Joe set the standard for my musical taste and messages the artists bring to the table. Was he the greatest singer? Compared to many, no. Was he the greatest guitarist with the cleanest live performance? No way. But when you read the lyrics and see the raw artistic talent, it will make you involuntarily sit down. The Clash set te bar high for me and Joe’s death really affected me more than I thought.

peter_benchleyPeter Benchley. I guess it would be easy to put the blame on Steven Spielberg but I am going right to the source. I saw the movie, Jaws when I was younger, and it’s true that after seeing that I was deathly afraid of the ocean, harbors, ponds, lakes, pools, bathtubs, toilets and anything else that held water, the life-force  of great whites. But I feel that blaming Steve is like shooting the messenger. no, I think the mastermind of Jaws deserves a bit of the blame for my inability to tread water in a lake without visions of teeth and dorsal fins.

I read Peter Benchley’s book, Jaws, one summer in high school. It kind of hit me that this guy is the real reason that it’s never going to be safe to go back in the water. I held the same resentment for Peter that I held for my grandfather when he would make me walk down the center of the aisle because he was positive that I would poke out my eye on the hanging hooks. To this day I walk dead center in the aisle for fear of loosing an eye on a sock hook. But I have to let go and forgive them. Besides, they’re both dead and wouldn’t care anyway.

b1946178-4bd0-47a3-b7d4-50c23e57c925widec

You know, I have been accused many times of being emotionally disconnected or cold when it comes to sad situations and even thought to have never shed a tear. But those who claim such a fact never asked me about Jim Henson. Then I may just ball like an eight year old girl.

I can’t under state how this guy with his socks, strings and foam shaped my childhood and gave me so many precious memories. Memories like renting Muppets Take Manhattan for the fifth time and watching it on the couch with my Dad. Spending the summer in Elk Grove, California with my then 19 year old Uncle as a young child and how he skipped a party to take me to see The Labyrinth. I even remember the countless summer days watching Sesame Street, never quite sure what was going on with Bert, Ernie and the Yellow Ducky but certain that Grover was the greatest character to ever bless the Public Broadcasting Station. But I’ll never forget on May 16, 1990 when my Dad told me Jim passed away and said in a shaky voice, “Jim Henson died today. He’s been your buddy since you were a baby.” I think many children of the 70’s and 80’s sat alone for a while that day.

I don’t think you can pull off a life like Jim Henson had without being destined to do so.  I guess what really got to me was the thought that all the characters I grew up with passed with him. He really did put a soul into what ever he touched. Thanks Jim. Your influence shaped me to be a reflective adult. I hope when I have kids they can have memories like the ones you gave me.

See? I can’t even hear this song without tearing up.

So, that’s just a few of the influences I am under. Maybe they are just puzzle pieces to why I am like this? Who knows? I guess inside I’m just a possessed, punk rock, muppet shark.

8 Comments

  1. Jim Henson died on my birthday. It was the worst birthday I have ever had. I still cry when I think of his memorial service: Kermit sitting with a sign reading “I lost my voice.”

    I know!!! I lost it when he referred to Jim Henson as his Dad. Sheesh! I’m really painting myself to be a wuss. Can’t believe he died on your birthday. I’m sorry. 😦

  2. Being somewhat your junior, my generational Linda Blair has become that freaky as fuck little bitch from the Ring. Goddamn thing looks like my sister! Do you know what it’s like to be afraid of your little sister for six months??? And sharks. I can’t even stand pictures of sharks. That one was alright, but any type of action shot sends chills down my spine to the point where I have to tuck my feet under my butt and try not to hurl for a minute.

    I was so sad when Jim Henson died, Sesame Street was my childhood joy. But what a great way to keep going on, those puppets are going to live on forever! Labyrinth is still one of my favouritest movies ever.

    The Ring took me by surprise. I was expecting a teen shock-dumdum movie. Nope! The closet scene messed me up real bad.

  3. Anyone who can’t appreciate what Jim Henson did for this world is an idiot. Plain and simple. The man was genius.

    I am both fascinated and stone-cold terrified of great whites. I don’t have any many phobias, but that’s one of my biggies. I can’t think of anything more horrifying than the idea of being trapped in the middle of the ocean, with a great white baring down on you, mouth open wide. It think it has something to do with why as a child I decided I was switching from baths to showers. Haven’t taken a shower since.

    I’m right there with you, pal. On both counts. Tub sharks are no joke, man.

  4. I freak out at the thought of spiders and snakes. Not sharks because seeing a spider walk across the floor is more realistic then stumbling upon a shark. I am also terrified of worm tumors now. I saw a video a little over a month ago someone emailed me of this lady that had a white worm crawling around making holes in her brain. Flashes of the video footage of the doctor pulling it out slowly pop into my head at random times. There it is again.

    When someone is going through a hard time like a death or bad health problems of a close friend, spouse or family member I have to force myself to give condolences. I don’t feel sympathy that much and I feel bad about it when I see everyone else give condolences. OTOH if I am going through a hard time I get upset when people don’t shower me with attention. It’s one of my awful personality traits. Little things I feel bad about more then the big things it seems. Like when someone can’t get a certain snack food in their area and they complain. I feel horribly guilty about that compared to a real thing like a death.

    I think one of my greatest media influences is the Simpsons. I can’t describe how obsessed I was with that show and all the little factoids that are general knowledge I learned as a kid from that show. Like when you are crossing the border up into Canada they ask if you have any fruit or vegetables in your car. I have been known to answer a question and then saying after wards you know how I know that? The Simpsons. I can think of other influences but I think this comment is long enough.

    I’m with you on the Simpsons. But the last few season have really rang empty. I prefer the older ones. The dialog, creativity and less of a political agenda made it the greatest show. I am still a sucker for the Halloween episodes. Even if they are in November.

  5. Did you know Karen Carpenter did a cover of “Rainbow Connection”? It’s got some of those laaaame flourishes so popular in the 70’s, but her beautiful voice singing that sweet song is really an experience.

    Not that I think it’s better than Kermit singing it with his banjo. That would be impossible. Makes me cry too.

    Karen Carpenter does have a beautiful voice. The funny thing about Rainbow Connection is that so many people like Jason Mraz and Willie Nelson do it well, but nothing beats Kermit. Call me sentimental.

  6. I have been known, when bored or doing a kind of “is this guy/gal for real” test when someone just seems too cool to be on the level, blurted out “heeeeeeere Fishy Fishy Fishy” just to see what happens. (If you know what I’m talking about then you know it also ties in the shark theme of your post…)

    I wore black for a week (VERY dramatic teenager) after Henson died and until Steve Whitmire started to do Kermit’s voice I couldn’t even listen to him. Steve Whitmire was actually called Kermit in High School and had a dream that Henson came to him after he started to do Kermit’s voice for real and he immediately said, ‘Jim, sorry – here take him.” And Jim said, “No, it’s okay.” (A&E biography of Sesame Street, so worth seeing) He started to sound right again. Never like it was, but right nonetheless…

    Labyrinth is amazing and one cannot forget The Dark Crystal…

    Wow. I may actually be an even bigger Muppet/Henson geek than I thought…..

    (Oh, and I once helped to break a floor at a camp dance to Should I Stay or Should I Go… It’s the way it should be I think…) Really fun post Will.

  7. I love Kerrmy. No one did that song like him. Great post!

  8. Jim Henson; I think for so many people our age you either get it 110% or you don’t get it at all. I love the quote from your dad, it’s so sweet and so true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to write a tribute, only to find myself watching clips on youtube and bawling my eyes out for hours.


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