Author and former TV Guide reporter Michael Davis knew he had the interest necessary to write “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street” (Viking, $27.95) after he put two years into researching the book.
“To be honest, I was obsessed,” Davis told Buzz Saturday. “By the time I approached ["Sesame Street" co-founder] Joan Ganz Cooney they were already familiar with me. I’ve always loved the show but I forged an emotional connection watching it with my daughters in the early 1980s.”
Three generations of viewers who share that connection will no doubt be on hand tonight when Davis meets local “Sesame Street” fans during a book-signing at 6:30 at the Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library downtown.
Davis translates those years of research into a fascinating page-turner chock-full of juicy revelations.
For example, it’s a minor miracle that, given its early financial hurdles, the ground-breaking educational children’s program ever made it onto the airwaves to begin with.
And the late Muppet creator Jim Henson’s sizable contributions are examined at length. Davis also digs into the extensive origins of all the “Sesame Street” creations. A certain current pop culture icon was given an eternal promotion from Muppet extra to franchise star after a hungover puppeteer threw a cute red puppet across the room at future Elmo creator Kevin Clash (the Elmo character alone has generated countless millions for the Children’s Television Workshop since the Tickle Me plush variety first began flying off store shelves in 1996).
And if left up to Henson and crew, Oscar the Grouch’s living room would have been a bit more damp and disturbing. The trash can, you see, was a compromise. Henson originally wanted Oscar to be a sewer dweller who would pop up through a manhole cover.
And there’s a reason the “I Love Trash” warbler serves as the cover boy for “Street Gang.”
Explains Davis: “Oscar is the character you come to appreciate the most as an adult. By watching Oscar on ‘Sesame Street,’ you’re ready for that difficult boss at work. He helps prepare you for life as an adult!
Details: The signing and discussion is co-sponsored by Public Broadcasting Atlanta, its Atlanta Forum Network and A Cappella Books at the Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library, 1st Floor Commons, One Margaret Mitchell Square downtown. Seating is available on a first come, first serve basis. Parking will be free for attendees between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Lanier Parking garage at 150 Carnegie Way directly behind the library. Parking tickets will be validated inside the library.
“Ugly Betty” Dad in Atlanta
Actor Tony Plana, who plays the dad of America Ferrera on the ABC TV show “Ugly Betty,” delivered an irreverent, humorous speech before the Latin American Association’s 20th annual Companeros Award Luncheon at the Georgia Aquarium last week. Plana, 57, is Cuban-American and recounted his arrival as a refugee in the United States in 1960, as well as the help his family received from charities similar to the Latin American Association. He recalled eating Spam and called it a symbol of his exile. He winked at representatives of Coca-Cola and talked about how he used to drink Coca-Cola and sweetened condensed milk for his school snack back in Cuba.
Plana told the audience that Hispanics are not one race and not one culture. Hispanics are united by one thing — the Spanish language, he said. How is it that Hispanics are multi-cultural and multi-racial, Plana asked. “We are equal opportunity lovers. We do not discriminate,” he said to chuckles from the audience. Plana says Hispanics have few roles to choose from in Hollywood. “I’ve played all Latino stereotypes except the pregnant teenager,” Plana said. He added that he would play that role too if it would get him a job.
NBA legend and TV basketball commentator Charles Barkley enjoying a Cosmopolitan at The Bar at Trois in Midtown.
Actor Jack Klugman is 87. Announcer Casey Kasem is 77. Singer Cuba Gooding of the Main Ingredient is 65. Singer Ann Peebles is 62. Singer Kate Pierson of The B-52’s is 61. Guitarist Ace Frehley (Kiss) is 58. Actress Ari Graynor (”Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) is 26. Singer-guitarist Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy is 25. Actor William Moseley (”The Chronicles of Narnia”) is 22.
Contributing: Mary Lou Pickel and news services.
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