New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.82: The Muppets Drive to NJ!

There’s not much that can make you feel better when you’re sick…except maybe The Muppets.

I’ve been utilizing all of the traditional methods with the intentions of feeling better, including taking medicine, getting extra rest, and watching many therapeutic hours of Netflix and DVDs from my own collection. 
Aside from the other usual remedies like hot tea and chicken soup, I realized I’m on my own in my fight against whatever bug has invaded my body. In my case, my sinuses have been exploding through my face and I’ve had a cough that sounds like the bark of rabid dog. Not only have I felt really crappy, I’ve also been annoying the hell out of myself. At times I was too out of it to even get up off the couch. You know those types of days where you catch about 20 minutes of 6 different movies throughout the day because you’re in and out of consciousness and paying attention to a full movie is way too much work? 

When I finally rose from the couch, I was hungry, and I also felt in the mood to watch something starring The Muppets because I wasn’t able to get out and see Muppets Most Wanted this weekend.

I own all the Muppet films, some I recorded from TV when they originally aired, others were official purchases, so I had a bunch of stuff to choose from. My selection was offbeat and one that I’ve actually ignored since it first aired in 2005. Surprisingly, from the dusty innards of one of my DVD cases, I picked out Muppets Wizard of Oz. It was the original broadcast that I recorded when it aired on The Wonderful World of Disney. It even had an intro with Michael Eisner like he used to do in the ’80s. Not choosing one of the more popular Muppet offerings didn’t feel like my finest hour, but something was telling me it was the right choice. After watching it though, I may even rank it above one or two of the other Muppet endeavors. It’s not disappointing as some reviewers will lead you to believe. It’s pretty funny and it even stars Jeff Tambor!
That was the time Muppets traveled to OZ, but what about the time they travelled to New Jersey? YUUUP! They had a sweet gig live tweeting Super Bowl XLVIII, but the catch was that they had to get to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ to meet up with Kermit the Frog first. Luckily the Muppets had been starring in a series of Toyota commercials during that time, so they had easy access to a fleet of their latest cars. They all crammed into a Toyota Highlander and hauled ass to the big game. And I write big game because they can’t say Super Bowl in the commercial, but the Swedish Chef can, well, sort of. The Sferndy Boom!

The Muppet Babies: Bunsen in Menlo Park

Bunsen Honey Dew Muppet Babies
Muppet Baby Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory (scan courtesy of Muppet Wiki) as seen in the 1993 coloring book: The Muppet Babies Visit The 50 States. Thomas Edison is credited with creating the first industrial research lab in Menlo Park, NJ as well as gaining the patent for his advanced version of the light bulb in the U.S.

An animated TV show based on The Muppets sort of defeated the purpose. The magic of the Henson brand of puppetry was what made his characters come alive and leave such an impression on the world. Although they are pieces of felt and feathers, The Muppet characters always seemed to be more charismatic than other random puppets controlled by human hands. Each Muppet’s personality was defined by their voices, their little specific gestures, and subtle nuances. Did the Muppet Babies take that all away?

Sure there’s been famous ventriloquists and comedians, but The Muppets are in class of their own. Animating them into a 2-D children’s cartoon may not have seemed like the most grand idea for a bunch of puppets who previously had their own real-life variety show. Deciding to make them regress to Muppet Babies was an idea that was conceived in one of their live action films and remains way cooler looking ’til this day.

The comparison can be seen in the short sequence of The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) when we first see the Muppets when they were babies. Using actual puppetry and effects, I always find this part of the film the most fascinating, and much more vivd and surreal than the animated show turned out. I’m sure it was cheaper to make an animated show rather than having to use actual puppeteers. The live action Muppet Babies can also be seen in the holiday special, The Muppet Family Christmas.

Aside from their regression to toddler age and their transformation to 2-D animation, Muppet Babies was a huge success. It’s 8 season TV run is highlighted by winning four consecutive Daytime Emmy’s.

As a kid, I loved watching The Muppet Show and Muppet Babies when it hit the airwaves. But, by 1993, Muppet Babies wasn’t even a blip on my radar, but many kids around the world were discovering it for the first time. Although the show ended in 1991, two years later, merch featuring the characters was still being sold, which indicated that the property was still viable with children. During the ’90s the show enjoyed long syndication runs on channels like Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Toon Disney among others. Throughout the mega crazes of Batman and Ninja Turtles, Muppet Babies stuck around for a while. The Muppets Babies had McDonald’s tie-ins and comic books as well as a slew of other collectibles.

In 1993, a coloring book called The Muppet Babies Visit The 50 States was released. It depicted all the Muppet Babies – each in different states across America. You can read more about this coloring book via this link at the Muppet Wiki. By far the most awesome entry is Animal at the top top top top… of the Empire State Building in New York City. Which one was your favorite?

Great Geek Gorge #1

Geeks need their gratification. Just as the wise men brought baby Jesus gifts, and ancient peeps sacrificed stuff up to the Gods, in the case of geeks the world over, they also need to be indulged or they get a little cranky. Here’s a little rundown of stuff that has satisfied my voracious geek appetite. In this first installment you’ll read about things I’ve added to my collection lately, things I’d like to add to my collection, things I’ve recently received as gifts, food I’ve chowed down on, and events I’m planning to attend.


1. My 2nd favorite film of the Marvel franchise is Thor. My future mom-in-law got me this awesome Thor Pez dispenser! I have a small collection of Pez dispensers and this one fits in nicely beside Captain Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, and The Incredible Hulk.

2. For my birthday my Dad got me the entire collection of The Muppet Show on DVD! Watching these shows is going to bring back so many memories!


3. Who doesn’t like stuffing their face once in a while? The absolute BEST place to do that in New Jersey is at Harrah’s Resort Waterfront buffet in Atlantic City. That is where you will find The Absolute Greatest Brownies of All Time (among other delicious offerings.)

4. This might fall into the “why the hell did you buy that” category, but I’ve actually been following the production of The Witches of Oz for a long time. I tried watching it and it really isn’t that good, but as a fan of Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz, I thought I might like this. Until the upcoming 3-D production of Dorothy of Oz comes out in a few years, I’ll take what I can get. Clearly it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same paragraph as those previous films since it’s on the level of The Asylum productions, but alas, I took a chance on it anyway. If you’re thinking of checking this out, take into consideration that I saw Wicked on Broadway and didn’t enjoy that either.

5. The Batman Files. When this ultimate book of Batman first came out it was priced at upwards of $100 dollars at some book stores. I’ve splurged more cash on sillier things, but for some reason I was hesitant on picking this book up. It was wise to wait because, as always, there was a pretty hefty price drop on the book. I got the book at less than half price. If you’re interested – type it into Google shopping. Well worth it for hardcore Batman fans.


6. You know how people say “There’s no such thing as bad pizza?” Well, I feel the same way about Doritos. Even the lamest gimmick Doritos, like the mystery flavor a few years back, were fine by me. I can’t really get behind Doritos Jacked though. The whole idea behind them negates what Doritos are all about. They made these chips harder to create more of a crunch, but I’d rather not break my teeth, thank you. And even though they amped up the amount of Dorito dust on these suckers, the actual chip is twice the size of a normal Dorito chip. They are more like the size of a restaurant style Tortilla chip. You need to take a few bites of one chip rather than stuff a whole chip in your mouth. Bah. Whatever. If you’re going to try them, I suggest the Smoky Chipotle BBQ flavor if you’re into that type of thing.

7. Mighty Man and Yukk. One of my favorite cartoons of my childhood. The concept is completely insane. This dudes dog is so ugly that the dog has to wear a doghouse on his head and the the dude shrinks down to a super tiny size and becomes a superhero. Totally ridiculous, but I love it and have been looking for it literally forever. Found a collection of every episode on DVD taped off of Boomerang. I’ll take what I can get considering there hasn’t been an official release.

8. Finally my friends in one of my favorite bands The Dirty Pearls are celebrating the release of their debut full length album at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City on May 5th! The Dirty Pearls will be performing along with Star Killer and other special guests! If you don’t have plans for Cinco De Mayo or you are tired of the typically mobbed parties at the local Jose Tejas. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE:

NJ T-Shirt Tuesday 95: Kermit Springsteen

Kermit The Frog Born In The U.S.A T-Shirt

It’s not 1984, but Bruce Springsteen AND The Muppets are having a pretty damn great year! Bruce’s latest album, Wrecking Ball, (not with the Electric Mayhem, but with the E-Street Band) debuted at #1 on the charts last month and his concerts are selling out like crazy. According to Billboard, this album marks Bruce’s TENTH number one album, which ties him with Elvis for third most number ones in history, behind only The Beatles and Jay-Z.

Also enjoying continued success are The Muppets. For many of us, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzy, and Animal have never left our lives, while others were delighted to see their resurgence. Their 2011 comeback film, The Muppets, was the most lucrative film in the Muppet franchise, even nabbing an Academy Award for best song.

The t-shirt pictured above is a Muppet styled parody of Bruce Springsteen’s most successful album ever, Born In The U.S.A. Forget about the “Rainbow Connection,” there’s definitely a Bruce/Kermit connection that needs to be discussed. In both Bruce songs, “Rosalita,” and “Wrecking Ball” he references “…the swamps of Jersey.” A long time ago, Kermit the Frog was born a little tadpole in the swamp so it’s very possible our little green felt friend may have been born here in Jersey rocking out to BRUCE with his banjo!

NJ T-Shirt Tuesday 74: Take Sesame Street To The Jersey Shore

jersey shore sesame street 2

Mash-ups in pop culture are inevitable no matter how blasphemous. If you grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, then there’s a damn good chance you are furious over the mere idea of the Sesame Street gang getting mixed up with the cast of Jersey Shore. It’s like the apostles banding together to create one righteously badass boy band, it’s just something that’s never supposed to happen. But when t-shirt sales are involved, all bets are off!

For some reason I can see Bert and Ernie going tanning and doing laundry, but I doubt I’d catch them at the gym since they seem pretty doughy. Maybe The Situation and Pauly D. have inspired them to tone up for beach season or bathtub season in their case? Oscar seems to fit right in. He’s chillin’ in a trash can that has an “I Heart Jersey” sign on it, and I’m sure he’ll be quite happy since we’ve got a helluva lot of trash here in Jersey. They really should’ve got the Muppets in on this and asked Miss Piggy if she wanted to be Snooki.

jersey shore sesame street 1

In the t-shirt pictured above, It looks like Cookie Monster turned red from too much tanning and had a sex change. I always thought Cookie Monster was male but seeing him as Snooki Monster has me worried. I hope Cookie Monster didn’t go and have any weird Muppet operation. I realize it’s only a play on words but who knows, right? Do you have a direct line into Cookie Monster’s personal affairs? Does he tell you his innermost feelings? Maybe he was never comfortable as himself and he engorges himself with COOOOOOKIES to help alleviate his misery. Until you truly know Cookie Monster then don’t make any assumptions! If he wants to have an operation to become a pudgy, tanned guidette who eats pickles instead of cookies, then so be it. We love you either way Cookie Monster.

SNL Gets Cookie Monster, Sexy Armpit Gets Johnny Fiama

Thanks to Muppet Wikia‘s vast amount of Muppet minutia, we now know that Johnny Fiama hails from Camden, New Jersey, a fact he revealed during his appearance on an episode of Family Feud. Now that we know he’s a Jersey guy, it’s not surprising that his last name is actually an anagram for Mafia!

Johnny Fiama 01
Heeeeere’s Johnny…Fiama that is!

In 2002’s It’s a Very Merry Muppets Christmas Movie, Johnny Fiama sings a hilarious “Jingle Bells” accompanied by Rowlf on piano. Soon he gets interrupted by his loyal monkey sidekick, Sal Minella, who has a Christmas gift for him.

Johnny Fiama 02
“I sold my moped to buy you this solid gold record player!”

The Muppet character Johnny Fiama didn’t show up to the party until the short lived prime time TV show Muppets Tonight, but he’s been a welcome addition the gang ever since. Johnny seems to be stereotypically Italian, and inspired by the great crooners such as Tony Bennet, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. He even hosted “The Johnny Fiama Show” on Muppets Tonight.

Johnny Fiama 03
“It looks like somebody’s been drinking a little too much egg nog!”

Debbie Harry is September’s Garden State Playmate!


When a sultry blonde female begs you to “Call Me,” One Way or Another I would hope that you do it. I’ll feel bad if she leaves you Hanging on the Telephone, but that only proves that she has a Heart of Glass. You’d probably feel better if you met up with her In The Flesh and Ripped Her to Shreds but you couldn’t bring yourself to do it because she’s still your Sunday Girl. You should probably just make up and bring her to the Jersey Shore when the Tide is High.


In the slim chance that you are completely brain dead, you may not have noticed that the previous paragraph is speckled with references to songs made famous by Blondie. And yes, Blondie is a band, but their name is also synonymous with their iconic lead singer Debbie Harry. September’s Garden State Playmate was born in Miami, Florida but grew up in Hawthorne, NJ where she graduated high school. Harry holds a degree from Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ and later became a dancer in Union City, NJ. Her sexy and smart attitude and NJ roots make her an obvious selection for GSP.

Harry, a former Playboy Bunny, was best known for her music but she has starred in a long list of movies as well. Some of her well known performances include Union City (filmed in Jersey), Roadie, Rock and Rule, Videodrome, and Tales from the Darkside; The Movie. In addition to films, Harry has made many TV guest appearances on The Muppet Show, and Pete and Pete (a beloved NJ show) among others.


Music stars from Madonna to Gwen Stefani can all owe a debt of gratitude to Debbie Harry for paving the way for modern female pop-rock singers. Believe it or not, she and her bandmates are often cited as early pioneers of hip-hop music on MTV. Her band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she’s had her own Barbie doll, and in 1983, Harry starred in Teaneck Tanzi, The Venus Flytrap, a wrestling themed Broadway play. Even with the star power of the inter-gender wrestling champion, the mighty Andy Kaufman, and with a township in Bergen County, NJ as it’s namesake, it closed after only one performance. Harry has stated in an interview with The Gothamist that one of the reasons she took the role was because she was a big fan of pro wrestling at the time! Blondie is presently on tour and will join The Pretenders for several shows in Australia in November.

*Blondie’s next album Panic of Girls is slated to be released very soon. Check out the official Blondie website for the latest news.

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.41: Muppets Take Passaic?

Kermit’s doctor played by Linda Lavin (TV’s Alice) diagnoses him with Amnesia

from Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
KERMIT’S DOCTOR: “No doubt about it, you have amnesia. Now, the problem is, you were found with no identification and oddly enough, wearing no clothing, so I did some research into the major nudist colonies in the area and I think I’ve come up with something…”
KERMIT: “…oh?”
KERMIT’S DOCTOR: “You are Mr. Enrico Tortellini of Passaic, New Jersey”
KERMIT: “well…I really don’t feel Italian.”
KERMIT’S DOCTOR: “…it was just a long shot anyway”


Jane Krakowski is March’s Garden State Playmate

New Jersey,30 Rock

In my world, before her success as Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock, Jane Krakowski’s most notable role was in National Lampoon’s Vacation. The amount of times myself or someone I was speaking to has quoted Cousin Vicki’s notorious line has reached infinity by now. Say it with me:

COUSIN VICKI: “I’m going steady…and I french kiss…”
AUDREY: “So, everybody does that…”
COUSIN VICKI: “Yeah, but daddy says I’m the best at it…”

Match that little sliver of dialogue with Jane Krakowski’s superb white trash delivery and it solidified her as one of the most talented comedic actresses. Sure, her list of films since Vacation in 1983 has not been spectacular, but she has done steady work, especially in television. Her roles in shows like Ally McBeal and 30 Rock have gained her Golden Globes, SAG awards, and Primetime Emmys.

New Jersey,30 Rock

Presently, Krakowski’s star status is credible and has made mostly everyone forget about how she had to play Betty O’Shale in the prequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. And, if you are a horror buff like me, IMDB lets us in on the tidbit that Krakowski was originally cast in the original Sleepaway Camp as Judy, but dropped out because she felt her death scene was too violent. I don’t think that role would have swayed the direction of her career either way, but if she had been offered the role of Angela, now that decision would have made an impact. Some of Krakowski’s other film roles include Fatal Attraction, Go, Ice Age, Surf’s Up, The Rocker, and Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.

In addition to her TV and film credits, Krakowski is a singer and has appeared in several Broadway productions such as Grand Hotel, Once Upon a Mattress, and won a Tony Award for her performance in Nine. She also appeared in the 2005 version of Guys and Dolls in London starring Ewan McGregor.

New Jersey,30 Rock

The Parsippany, New Jersey born actress receives extra points for starring in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, which is one of the better Muppets TV movies, as well as an episode of…The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles!

Sesame Street’s Linda the Librarian

sesame street,google,big bird

Sesame Street turns 40 this year and The Sexy Armpit is joining the celebration! Sesame Street’s stake as “must see TV” for young children can be attributed to its fun, furry, and colorful Henson creations, but educational value, continuous innovation and a cast spanning all races has ascended the show to the highest level of quality children’s programming. I’m almost certain that YOU, yes I’m referring to YOU, watched Sesame Street as a child. Some kids were too scared of Muppets like Snuffleupagus or Oscar the Grouch, while others aspired to one day be Super Grover. I guess I was on a lower level of intellect since my sister and I were always more amused by the Yip Yip Martians than anything else on the show. Sesame Street’s educational clips featuring math problems and numbers were actually entertaining to me, but I can’t affirm their effectiveness since I’m miserable at Algebra and anything involving fractions.

Linda Bove and The Fonz
from the Happy Days episode “Allison,” aired in 1980

Sure, we have to praise the Muppets that live on Sesame Street, but we can’t forget the actors who have starred on the show. Thanks to her Wikipedia entry and The Muppet Wiki, I learned more about Linda Bove who played Linda the Librarian. Bove has been one of the most recognized personalities who has brought national attention to the hearing impaired. Linda’s role as the Librarian is the longest recurring deaf character in the history of TV, appearing from 1972-2003. What’s even better is the fact that her Jersey roots are strong, she was born in Garfield, NJ and attended The Marie Katenbach School for the Deaf in Trenton, NJ. In a quote from Muppet Wiki, Linda mentioned that she tried to incorporate other facets of how a deaf person acts into her character instead of the mundane behaviors that the writers were concentrating on. The Sexy Armpit commends Bove for advancing the country’s often stereotypical perception of a deaf person.