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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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The real Elmo came to Milwaukee the past weekend and it was magical.

I was honored to be the MC for an MPTV fundraiser on Saturday. It was a perfect fit. I don't know what we'd do in my house with three little kids and no Mr. Rogers, no Word World, Super Why, no Sid the Science Kid, and no Sesame Street. They're all Channel 10 staples, and they're big time stuff in my house.

It was Big Bird and Snufalupagus in my day, but the King of Sesame Street these days is Elmo. It really is Elmo's word. It's why young Ella was luckier than her 3 year old brain can comprehend. She was among a number of Milwaukee kids who got to meet Elmo.

Here's something maybe you didn't know, and if you didn't know you're going to be shocked. It's okay. Everyone is shocked. The man you see pictured with Elmo in these photos, yeah, that's the guy. Kevin Clash is the personality, the talent, and perhaps most notably, the voice behind that furry red monster.

On Saturday morning he hosted an event full of screaming kids (including my daughter Ella) at the Milwaukee Public Library. What a big deal for those kids. We only told Ella the night before that she was going to meet Elmo tomorrow. Saturday morning she woke up and called downstairs for me.

ELLA: Dad. Dad!

DAD: (Yelling up the stairs and wondering why Ella hadn't just come down) What Ella?

ELLA: I need help.

DAD: (Wondering what Ella broke) What is it?

ELLA: My drawer is stuck, and I need to pick out my clothes. I'm going to see Elmo today!

It was like the kid was going on a date. She couldn't have been more excited. Her one on one time (or two on one if you count Kevin) with Elmo was priceless.

In the evening, Kevin and Elmo spoke to a notably different crowd. No kids this time, but no less engaged were we. I'll not recount all the highlights of his amazing rise to prominence. It's a fascinating story, and if you'd like to read it he's got a book. I'm in the middle of it. Thus far it's interesting, and inspiring. Check out the link for more on the book.

Now I'll admit, at first it's weird seeing Elmo with Kevin pulling the strings and moving his mouth. It's like peeking behind the curtain. It freaked Ella out a bit. When she got home (my wife actually took her) I immediately asked her, "Did you meet Elmo today?"

"Yeah," she answered. "Elmo's a puppet."

Yes he is. And that's okay. After a while, when Kevin begins doing his thing, it's like you don't even notice him standing there. You become so engaged in Elmo. I'm not kidding. Kevin is so talented, that you begin to believe Elmo is his own man... or woman... or... what is Elmo actually?

Ella posed that very question before her meeting, and then proceeded to answer it herself. "Is Elmo a boy or a girl," she asked. "I don't know, Ella," I replied. "I think he's just an Elmo," she calculated.

He's just an Elmo, and I'll never look at him the same.





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