Before I get into my immersive, detailed, and probably incoherent description of hanging out with Steve Whitmire at Omaha Comic Con, I want to talk specifically about the interactions I observed between him and the fans. I was at Steve’s booth most of the day, and so I got to witness the interactions firsthand.
I’m going to start at the end and work backwards. By the end of the day, Steve remarked that he was tired; not in a complaining way, but just as a statement of fact. You would never know it by the way he greeted the fans, however. He greeted each one warmly and with enthusiasm, usually asking them where they were from or something about themselves. He engaged them in conversation and seemed genuinely interested in what they had to say.
As a matter of fact, he jokingly complained to his management team, who were also at the booth, that the day before had been too busy with people wanting autographs and pictures, and he hadn’t had time to chat with them as a result.
He was also really patient with repetitive questions. Several people asked him if he had been in Muppet Treasure Island and/or Muppet Christmas Carol. I mentally rolled my eyes every time, and if I had been answering the questions, I would said, “Yeah, duh!” or something similarly sarcastic. But Steve always reacted as though it were the first time he’d heard the question, and if the redundancy got tedious for him, he didn’t let on.
Most people understandably wanted autographs and/or pictures from him, but several just came up to say hi, to shake his hand, to ask him a question, or tell him how much his work meant to them.
A few of them stick out in my memory. There was the woman who wanted a picture of Beaker and Bunsen for her science classroom, whom I think was the only person more excited to meet Steve than I was. There was the woman who was part of her church puppet troupe who brought a puppet for him to sign and who had been thinking about just dropping off the kids at OCon until she saw that Steve was going to be there. There was a budding young puppeteer named Ethan who had questions for Steve about puppet performance. He became the star of the Q&A, but that’s a story for another day. And there was the man who made a point of apologizing to Steve for not being impressed with his initial Kermit performance.
It wasn’t just the attendees who were excited to meet Steve. There were several artists/vendors there who made gifts of their work to him and told him how much he and his characters had inspired them. Steve was very appreciative and responded in kind by giving them autographed pictures in return. One of them asked him to make out the picture to his son, an eight- or nine-year-old (I’m guessing) who was present but not very talkative. Apparently, he didn’t have a very clear idea of who Steve was, because his father came back later and reported that he was excited to have received an autograph from “the long-haired guy.”
I feel privileged to have witnessed these beautiful interactions. It brought home to me the fact that, in the words of Marjorie the Trash Heap, “You cannot leave the magic!”
6 thoughts on “Observed Interactions Between Steve Whitmire and Fans at OCon”
I feel as if this is a fine gift to us, lovingly documented by you, from Steve Whitmire, who has graciously allowed you to spend the day witnessing him in action with his fans, as a friend. He’s everything I knew he’d be, and I’m delighted to read these wonderful moments you have shared here.
I know how it is at these functions, and they can try the patience, of even a Saint.
Steve stands out as a man who has truly followed in the footsteps of Jim Henson,, both in spirit and talent.
Thank you Mary.
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You’re welcome, Anne. I feel doubly blessed, first to have been able to witness this and now to be able to share it with others.
And you’re so right about patience. If I were in Steve’s position, I might do comic con appearances, but I know I could never do as many as he does because the repetition would drive me crazy.
Gracious is exactly the right word. He is everything we knew him to be, and more.
I would expect nothing less.
The man carries on what Jim Henson started, pretty much all of his life.
To a core member of Jim’s legendary team, “kindness” and “grace” apply by definition. 🙂
Can’t wait to see what he creates next!
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Andrew, your comment made me realize something. When I was hanging out with Steve on Sunday, I told him about the first time I ever saw Jim Henson on television as himself (Muppet Family Christmas). Then Steve told me about the first time he ever saw Jim Henson on TV as himself (The Ed Sullivan Show). And I just now realize that, at least for that moment, it was less a conversation between one-time Muppet performer and mild obsessive and more a conversation between two fans. In that moment, we were on an equal footing, though whether Steve descended to my level or raised me up to his, I’m still not sure. Maybe we met in the middle.
Well, I watched Frank’s ‘The Muppet Guys Talking’ recently, and I think it’s more like ‘separation of duties’ than a ‘level’ kind of thing, really. 🙂 It seems that when it comes to Jim Henson, we all are mild obsessives, performers and fans alike, it’s a common ground we all equally share. The only difference is that some people were fortunate (and talented) enough to be a part of the work, while for the rest of us, our part is the appreciation of their creations. (Speaking of which, I wouldn’t use the term ‘one-time performer’ or even ’40-year veteran’ for any of these guys — i think being a part of THAT original team is simply timeless. ) 🙂
All of that said… i’m sure that if i ever chance to meet Steve myself, I’ll be having a hard time coming up with anything coherent to say anyway, LOL!
Thank You SO MUCH for sharing your experience!
Saw your responses, but the site keeps kicking out my likes!