Friends, for nearly the decade I was lucky enough to write for The Retroist site I never shied away from how much that the work of Jim Henson personally meant to me. From a brief desire to become a ventriloquist thanks to the Edgar Bergern episode of The Muppet Show – crushed after seeing Poltergeist in ’82 – to realizing one should never stop dreaming and trying to express themselves through imagination. While it pained me to learn of his passing on the morning of May 16th of 1990 – it affected me so that when my Father told me the bad news I very plainly informed him I would not be going to school that day – instead I stayed home and watched my collection of Henson TV programs and films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. While I do indeed love both of these films and many of the Henson produced movies – there is something about Labyrinth that I find more charming. It might have something to do with the late and great Terry Jones injecting his brand of humor into the screenplay – or as you can see in this 1986 feaurette featuring the magic of Michael Moschen.
Michael Moschen demonstrated the style of juggling, known as contact juggling, which he is quite acclaimed for in that short featurette from Labyrinth. And I think it was plainly obvious that it was quite uncomfortable at times for the artist – but those practical effects that he pulled off are indeed magical. Interestingly enough, Moschen and Penn Jillette were classmates at Greenfield High School in Massachusetts – the graduating class of 1973. Apparently the two joined up after High School to work on acts to showcase their juggling abilities – obviously Penn would eventually team up with Ryamond Joseph Teller to become Penn & Teller.
Moschen would go on to be awarded the Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation, develop acts for the permanent Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas – in addition to working in advertising and appearing on everything from The Tonight Show, Sesame Street, to Ricky Jay’s Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women to name just a few. His work doubling as David Bowie’s right hand in Labyrinth is more than impressive… wait though until you see this performance from PBS’ Great Performances back in ’91.
To quote Queen in this case – it’s a kind of magic.