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In the forthcoming documentary I Am Big Bird, actor/puppeteer Caroll Spinney details the emotional peaks and valleys you probably didn't realize were a part of the Sesame Street life. According to the New York Post, the film reveals a multitude of touching anecdotes on Spinney's life. For example, Spinney was originally scheduled to take Big Bird aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger but was replaced by Christa McAuliffe after NASA decided the suit was too large to fit on the shuttle. Tragically, the Challenger broke apart less than two minutes into its flight in 1986 — killing all seven crew members, including McAuliffe.
In addition to making so little money during the early years ($375 a week) that he couldn't afford rent, Spinney also says that the Big Bird persona allowed him to cope with thoughts of suicide surrounding a painful divorce in the 70s.
At home, [Spinney] opened the window of his apartment, looked down the nine stories and said to himself, “I could just jump out and be over with it.”
Luckily, he closed the window, called a friend and went to the movies, and never thought about suicide again. A year and a half later, he met Debra (his current partner), and they’ve been in love ever since.
“No matter how black a day, if you can just hold on, the sun will eventually come out for you,” he says in the film.