Word came early Saturday morning that John Henson, son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, had died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 48. While death is always tragic, the fact that the name Henson is involved once again makes it even more poignant.
Of the five Henson children, John Henson was the most enigmatic and out of the spotlight. During a recent interview I conducted, Brian Jay Jones, author of “Jim Henson: The Biography,” described him as “The Quiet Beatle... (he is) this really beautiful, creative guy.”
This creativity obviously began under the tutelage of his father where John Henson specialized in puppeteering walk-around characters such as the dimwitted ogre Sweetums and the “Coca-Cola Polar Bear.” However, his real talents seemed to lie in architecture and sculpting. John even helped to build the famed diorama “The Great Hot Air Balloon Race” that hung for years in the Jim Henson Company’s New York headquarters. At the time of his death, he specialised in the construction, renovation, and design of houses that have been described as works of art themselves.
The Walt Disney Company issued a statement today that sums up the man’s life in a way that was so eloquent and to the point that I can’t help but include it here:
“John Henson, son of Muppet creator Jim Henson, passed away this week. Many of us who work with the Muppets knew John as a friend and a performer. His passing is a shock and a terrible loss. Like his father, John brought incredible optimism to everything he did. He pursued his dreams with great passion. Jim Henson once said, “It’s a good life. Enjoy it.” John enjoyed life—and we enjoyed life more because of him.
The Muppets Studios, The Walt Disney Company and all who strive every day to keep alive the magic of the Muppets offer our heartfelt sympathy to his wife and children and the entire Henson family.”