Mom sat me in front of the TV one day in 1969. I was four and fidgety. Eventually, a big yellow bird came on the screen and introduced me and the rest of the world to Sesame Street. The rest was history. I quickly became hooked and watched it happily for many years. The fast pace of the sketches were really nothing new — Laugh-In, which I watched with Mom while waiting for Dad to come home from his swing shift job, had a similar format. I don’t think there was a character I didn’t like (Elmo came after my time), but the one I identified with the most was Grover.
Friendly, goofy, lovable, shy yet slightly self-aggrandizing in a hammy sort of way, that was Grover. He had his own world view and tried to make the rest of the planet adopt to it. I could relate. One of his favorite lines, when confronted with having to lift something heavy, was “I’m not strong, but I’m wiry.” I used the line many times in elementary school.
He housed his more gregarious behavior behind the alter ego of SuperGrover. Replete with a helmet and a pink camp, SuperGrover captured the do-good, problem-solving spirit welling inside me even at that age. That SG was a klutz seemed to match, too. I didn’t wear a pink cape, but I did want to fly. What kid didn’t? At that time, my flying fantasy was modeled after the Flying Nun. I attempted to make a habit mimicking Sister Betrille’s, but made of cardboard and not heavily starched fabric. I wore it on my head on a windy day, stood on the stoop of the porch and jumped. It didn’t work, not that I expected it, but it was fun trying. SuperGrover rarely rescued anyone, but he had fun trying, too.
We were both friendly though a little introverted, and definitely “good boys.” I avoid the term “good two-shoes” because that implies being obnoxious snitches or something like that, which I wasn’t and I don’t think Grover was either. But we generally behaved. Which is why I was shocked when one day timid little Grover actually sassed one of the adults. I don’t remember who the adult was, Susan or Bob or whomever, but they said something to Grover like “but that won’t work” or “you can’t do that” and he replied simply “I do not care!” It wasn’t just that he said it, but the brazened way his voice inflected the syllables that emboldened my heart.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Grover had demonstrated the valuable art of being bitchy. For timid, wiry types, this was definitely required education. Other teachers would follow, including Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares — and as the Hooded Claw on “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop” — but Grover was the first. A queenette was in the making.
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