“My dad was a workaholic,” Jim Henson‘s son Brian Henson exclusively told Closer Weekly without a hint of bitterness in the magazine’s latest issue, on newstands now. “I have four siblings, and for us to see our father, we would spend a lot of time hanging out in his studios and his workshop.”
The Sesame Street and Muppet Show mastermind wasn’t neglecting his children; he was providing them with a powerful role model. “He always had so many ideas he felt like he needed to do,” recalled Brian, 54. “My dad would always say, ‘If something is not inspiring, then do something that is.’ He was an inspiration to everyone.”
That includes Brian, who has taken up his father’s mantle as the chairman of the Jim Henson Company in Hollywood. It’s a childhood dream come true for Brian, who grew up playing with his dad’s Muppets. “The value of some of the puppets my brother, John, and I ruined in the sandbox when we were four or five years old is horrifying when I think back on it,” laughed Brian, the firstborn son of Jim and his wife, Jane Henson, who wed in 1959.
Soon Brian was creating his own characters, “I made the first Muppet penguin,” he said proudly. “All of the kids in my family would make Muppets for fun. Some were terrible, and some my dad would go, ‘Oh, we’ll use this one!’ When [Miss Piggy puppeteer] Frank Oz used my penguin in one of The Muppet Show’s musical numbers, I was so happy!”
Tragically, Jim died suddenly of toxic shock syndrome and pneumonia at 53 in 1990, when Brian was only 26. Still, “I had the unique comfort that the while world knew him and was sad with me,” Brian remembered. “When my mother died [in 2013 at 78 from cancer], it was much harder.”
Assuming control of his dad’s company at a young age, Brian found “for a few years, my life was so stressful, it was tricky,” he told Closer. “But I thought it was important, and I really wanted it to work.” Brian could always look to Jim’s example to guide him. “He inspired people to realize their weird and wonderful ideas,” Brian said. “He came up with an original idea and presented it to the world, who embraced it because it’s sweet and positive.”
While he died far too young, Jim achieved his life’s goal: “My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.” Concluded Brian, “That’s what he was doing every minute he was alive. And he had fun doing it.” As Jim’s alter ego Kermit the Frog once said, “That’s the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with.”
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