By Paul Lombino
Over the years, I have written hundreds of articles on multiple topics. If I could go back in time to relive a single journalistic endeavor, it would be one that involved a paper-mache moose head.
In the spring of 1987, CFO magazine assigned me to interview the chief financial officer of Henson Associates — master of the Muppet empire. My mission was to write 1,800 words for the magazine’s “Final Analysis” feature, which profiled CFOs who had ostensibly achieved their “dream jobs.”
When my taxi stopped in front of a neatly kept, but austere brownstone at 117 East 69th Street in Manhattan, I shook my head and asked the driver, “Are you sure this is the place?” After the cabbie assured me this was the address I gave him, I walked to the front door, pushed a button, and announced myself to a glass eye overhead.
“Paul Lombino to see Bob Bromberg,” I said.
The buzzer rang and I twisted the door knob. At that precise moment, I knew how Dorothy felt when she entered Oz.
A blinding burst of colors from hundreds of actual Muppets lined the lobby to greet me. A mural displaying the entire Muppet family cavorting against a theater backdrop seemed to say: “Welcome — you’ve arrived.”
My subject, the aforementioned Bob Bromberg, was a cordial fellow eager to share insights about his dream job as well as Jim Henson. He portrayed his boss as a creative genius with boundless energy. After an hour-long interview, Bob said, “I’d introduce you to Jim, but he’s in London on a shoot. Would you like to see his office?”
“Of course,” I said.
In the Presence of Genius
My host guided me to Henson’s third-floor office space — a workshop with a drafting table and sketches lying about. No pretense. One image stood out. Behind the great man’s desk was a large paper-mache moose head on the wall. Bob flicked on a switch, lighting up the odd creature. I scratched my head, wondering what kind of world-renowned executive would use such a perishable arts-and-crafts piece as a central focus for his corporate headquarters. The moose stared back at me as if saying: “Remember where you are.”
Just about then, a magazine photographer arrived. I stayed to watch the shoot. The photographer was cajoling Bob to pose in different positions with assorted Muppet partners. All the while, Bob’s colleagues — women who clearly felt affection for the middle-age bean counter — would step in to straighten his tie and comb his thinning hair. Everyone was laughing and having a grand time just as you might expect in the home of the lovable Muppets.
Having taken position out of harm’s way on a staircase, I called out: “Bob, do you always attract so much attention?” Without missing a beat, the affable CFO replied: “I usually do, because I handle payroll.”
Bingo. That would be my article’s lede. In all, it was a perfect story experience.
The Moose Head Lives
Three years later, the news of Jim Henson’s death at age 53 shook me like many others who had grown up and raised their kids on The Muppet Show. Since then, I occasionally recall the memory of that paper-mache moose head. I can’t tell you why. Did I imagine it? Was it thrown out after Henson’s passing?
When I decided to write this blog, I called the Muppet’s New York office. I wasn’t sure how to preface my question to the receptionist. I began awkwardly: “Many years ago I wrote an article on your then-CFO. He took me to Jim Henson’s office. Um, I recall a paper-mache moose head …”
Before I could say another word, the receptionist said, “I’m looking at it right now.”
The moose head was saved. Jim Henson lives.
Click to read “The Color of Muppets.” Muppets_CFO
Note: The title played off “The Color of Money,” which premiered a year earlier.