On Being Cookie Monster



3rd Ave. between 59th and 60th Sts., NY 10022

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

I have an idea for a new diet book. Dress up as a cartoon character for an hour. It is guaranteed to take off at least five pounds.

At the behest of my friend Dawn, who works for the non-profit PBS affiliate Channel 13/WNET, I answered an ad for volunteers for a function sponsored by her station. They were seeking people to wear costumes at a premiere for “The Pink Panther.” Under no circumstances would I step over the line and actually wear a costume, but I made clear I was willing to be a “wrangler”, a person who accompanies the person in the costume.

By the time I arrived at the meeting the next day at the Channel 13 offices with 20 other people and received a handout I saw my name after the words “Cookie Monster”. Oh God. The assembled crowd was very nice, so I decided not to disappoint anybody and said nothing, especially since they needed a ‘tall’ person (I’m 5′ 10″).

You don’t just wear a costume. There are rules. Characters do not speak.

Cookie Monster does not approach small children lest they suffer nightmares for the rest of their lives in which a mountain of blue fur chases them because he wants to devour them in his big black maw. Other Don’ts: Don’t intimidate people. Don’t smoke. Don’t be seen going in or out public restroom. I like that one the best. That would make a great reality TV short: Cookie Monster lumbering into a crowded bathroom then squeezing into a stall to take a cookie dump.

I didn’t know any of the other characters (Caillou, Clifford, Digit, Piggley, Zoe). Some of the other volunteers down in the theater basement, where we changed and put together goody bags on Sunday, didn’t either. One girl asked before they put her head on: “What’s the name of my character again?” Favorite lines heard while we put on our gear: “This has got to be the body pod.” (Guy referring to the instruction sheet, which uses specialized terminology to tell how to put on the different parts of the costume.) “I’m snapping on your butt right now.” (Wrangler helping character complete her costume.)

My suit was somewhat special. I had a handheld device with which I could open the mouth of Cookie Monster (incidentally, it was the only way I could breath, through his open mouth). “Cookie cannot easily walk up stairs,” stated the Cookie Monster instruction sheet, on account of the big blue Sasquatch feet. Once I was heading to the area where I was to greet kids that not only how difficult it was to refrain from making any noises in the costume, but it was hot.

HOT. An hour of waving and acting lovable took its toll. I kept on wanting to ask, How much time do I have left? (The Cookie sheet stated that the costume should only be worn in 30-minute intervals followed by breaks due to the heat factor.) When, after nearly an hour, my wrangler finally said eight more minutes, I was, like, Thank God. (I have never experienced a slower eight minutes in my life.)

But it was worth it. Little kids genuinely love Cookie Monster and wanted hugs. I tried not to squeeze them too hard. I didn’t want Cookie Monster to be accused of being Fondling Cookie Pervert. I acted like I ate one kid’s stuffed toy then spit it out because it wasn’t a cookie. The wide-eyed, straight-lipped look he gave me said he was more scared than amused.

The only incident was when three boys surrounded me and acted like they were going to tear into me. My wrangler defused the little pre-testosterone situation by pulling me towards a group of fawning girls. I kept on fearing some child, while shaking my hand, would rip off my blue furry snap-on paw and jet away screaming due to the shock.

Sweat was streaming down my body as my Cookie head was popped off back downstairs. My t-shirt, gym shorts and socks were drenched.

Next to me, a guy named Mike who had dressed up as Digit (a chicken-like thing) had a war story. As he was pulling off his costume, he explained that while he was stationed outside, without a wrangler, a group of three young boys started punching him. “I was ready to swing back with my chicken claw before they were ushered away,” he said.

I knew exactly who those boys were. They were the same type of boys as David Chaulfor, a kid at Emerson Elementary School in Columbus, Nebraska. He yelled to Smoky the Bear, when he visited our 4th Grade class in 1974, “Hey Smokey, why do you got all those holes in the back of your head?” My teacher Miss Walters, a sweet old gray-haired lady, crucified Chaulfor after Smoky trudged out our wooden classroom door.

Chaulfor ended up in Boy’s Town, which is where any boy should go who even thinks of punching Cookie Monster.

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§ One Response to “On Being Cookie Monster”

  • James Sullivan says:

    I would have love to see that. I had to be Santa Claus once in 2002. I had this incredibly hot outfit also, but the worst was when the little tikes asked for presents. I had always taught high school, so I had to laugh and be funny and ‘HO,HO,HO” After awhile I was so itchy in that polyester and woolen outfit that I kept on begging someone else to do it; however the ultimate was kids who pulled on the beard, pulled the stuffing, that was supposed to be my belly, and screaming for presents and treats. Iwas incredibly itched, sweating to death, and so many kids were sneezing that I knew I was going to get the worse case of flu in history. Finally, it was time for Santa to take a break. I got out of the outfit, and one annoying, little tike followed. As I got back into my jeans, the costume was hung up. He came in and looked at the Santa hanging on the hook, and asked, ‘What happened to Santa?”It was like the cute characters from the Grinch, but this little tyke was the most annoying child I met. My response was, ‘ He had a massive heart attack and died because all the children were naughty and not nice.” He ran out screaming, ‘Santa is dead.” I ran out and got water because I was dehydrated

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