Disclaimer: This article is not exactly about Muppets. Actually, it’s not about Muppets at all. But it is about Sesame Street, and it is very, very important.
If you’re a big fan of Sesame Street, like myself, or my fellow Tough Pigs, or President Barack Obama, you probably know that the human character Gordon has been played by three actors in the show’s history: Matt Robinson, who originated the role; Hal Miller, who only stuck around for two seasons; and Roscoe Orman, the best-known and most beloved Gordon. But what about this guy?
This is the actor who played Gordon in a 1969 test episode (available on the DVD release Sesame Street Old School Vol. 2), which was screened for kids before Sesame Street made its official TV debut so the producers could find out what worked and what didn’t. This guy, apparently, is what didn’t.
While his co-stars Loretta Long, Bob McGrath, and Will Lee were chosen for the privilege of saying the alphabet on television (in the roles of Susan, Bob, and Mr. Hooper, respectively), this guy didn’t make the cut. Maybe children didn’t like him, or maybe the producers didn’t like him, but either way, this Proto-Gordon was not destined to be part of the show. So before it had even started, his Sesame Street career was… what’s the word I’m looking for?
Done. Right. It was done. So who was that guy? Here’s the shocking truth: Nobody knows.Muppet Wiki, the most comprehensive source of Sesame Street facts in human history, describes him as “an unidentified actor.” When Michael Davis wrote the Sesame Street history Street Gang, he interviewed tons of people involved with the show and was given access to thousands of pages of documents… and he didn’t find out anything about the Proto-Gordon! In his book, Davis quotes Jon Stone as saying, “At the last moment we cast an actor with whom no one was completely happy…” Later, Davis describes him as “a person in the neighborhood that children would run away from, not to.” And that’s it for poor old Proto-Gordon.
Of course, if he had been credited, I wouldn’t be nearly so curious about him. If Street Gang had said something like, “Gordon was played in the pilot by Franklin P. Funkytonsils, a struggling New York actor who never did anything else of note,” I would be satisfied. But instead we have a mystery, and my inquiring mind will forever be churning until it’s solved. So I’d like to take this opportunity to shout a question out into the vast expanse of the internet: Does anyone know who this guy is?
Seriously – if you know anything about this guy (or if you ARE this guy) please post on the Tough Pigs forum or drop me an e-mail. Is he still among the living? Did he continue acting, or did the rejection drive him to abandon his show-business dreams forever? Was he always bitter about not getting the job, watching from the outside as Sesame Street became one of the most important TV programs in history? Does he still watch the show today, and if so, which episode of Elmo’s World is his favorite? Perhaps there are no answers to these questions. Perhaps the identity of the Proto-Gordon will never be known to man (or woman, or grouch or monster or bird or etc.). But if he’s out there, I just want to say this to him: Nice dance moves, man.
Click here to help us solve the mystery of the Proto-Gordon on the Tough Pigs forum! And my thanks to Muppet Wiki for the nifty images!