London honors Muppets creator Jim Henson with blue plaque
LONDON — Kermit the Frog. Miss Piggy. Animal. Statler and Waldorf. The Swedish Chef. The list goes on and on.
Everyone has their favorite Muppet. And everyone owes a debt of gratitude to one man for bringing them to life: Jim Henson.
The American creator of The Muppets was honored Tuesday in Britain with a blue plaque at his former home in north London, which he bought after ‘The Muppet Show’ was commissioned for British television — 50 Downshire Hill in Hampstead.
It’s a very simple message: “Jim Henson 1936-1990 creator of The Muppets lived here.”
Henson, who lived in London from 1979 until his death in 1990 at just 53, was also known for his work on “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” and as the director of the 1980s movies “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”
Dr. Rebecca Preston, blue plaques historian at English Heritage, which has been running the program since 1986, said Henson deserved his latest honor.
“His creations continue to influence popular culture globally,” she said. “The immense body of work that he created and awards that he won are even more impressive considering his untimely death.”
“The Muppet Show” was filmed at Elstree Studios, a few miles north of the British capital, and led to Henson making the U.K. a creative home for many of his subsequent projects. He even set up a workshop and office space on the same street as his home.
“My father moved to London to make “The Muppet Show,” and then chose to stay because he was so impressed by the UK’s many gifted artists and performers,” said Brian Henson, his son who is the chairman of The Jim Henson Company.
“It’s an honour to have Jim Henson’s British home recognised with a blue plaque, knowing that he so admired and respected the talent in London, and that this is the place he called home when creating some of his most memorable productions,” he added.
The renowned London blue plaque program began more than 150 years ago. The plaques commemorate people who achieved something worthwhile in their lives and who made London their home at some point. There are more than 900 official plaques in the capital.
The first plaque put up commemorated the poet Lord Byron at his birthplace, 24 Holles Street in Cavendish Square, in 1867. However, the house was demolished in 1889 so the oldest surviving plaque in London is the one commemorating France’s final emperor, Napoleon III, on King Street, Westminster, which was also erected in 1867.
Some of the homes that they resided in are grander than others, including one for the great Victorian novelist Charles Dickens in the city’s posh Bloomsbury neighborhood.
Others are in more surprising places. The early motion film horror actor, Boris Karloff, who was born William Henry Pratt, is honored above a fish and chips shop in southeast London.
In a playful tribute, Kermit the Frog told BBC radio that his “great friend” Jim Henson fully deserved to be the latest person commemorated.
“Jim was wonderful, and to tell you the truth I am not exactly sure what he did with us, but let me put it to you this way: he was always around to lend a helping hand,” Kermit said.
“He may not be here in person but his heart and his silly sense of humor is part of everything that The Muppets do,” he added.