“My favorite Muppet is Janice. I like her.”
After an hour into our conversation this was not what I was expecting to hear Sam say. But then again, Sam was not anything what I expected to meet when his wife volunteered him to meet with me.
I'm not sure what I was supposed to expect. He was a stranger, kind of.
I knew he was an actor, and that they had moved from Orlando to just outside Philadelphia where Sam opened a dance studio, Twirl.
I could expect that my friend would marry someone who was cool and confident like Sam. She was that way herself as a teenager. Ironically, that’s not who Sam was when he was in high school. “I wasn’t popular. I was short and skinny, and not very athletic.”
For most kids that age this would have been what caused them to go inward or become an introvert. Sam, however, was an extrovert and would use his stature to his advantage.
At sixteen he met a girl who was a parade dancer at Disney World. She told him they were looking for people like him – energetic, outgoing, and confident. He would get the job, playing Mowgli from the Jungle Book. “I wasn’t popular at school, but there I clicked and was welcomed by everyone.”
This gig would push Sam to try new things and grow more confidently. At 19, he met another girl who convinced take his first dance lesson. “They didn’t have a beginner’s class for adults. So it was just me and a bunch of little girls.” His life just went up from there, turning his part-time job at Disney into a full-time career in theater and teaching.
I didn’t ask him about his time in seminary, but I did learn that Sam has never shot a crossbow and Sam has no interest in doing so. “I do have a shotgun story if you want to know it.” Let’s just say it involved a shotgun, some retired Vets, and trap shooting on a boat. It seems like after some disagreement on ship protocol, “Someone finally said, ‘Why don’t you shoot one?’”
Whether or not they knew that Sam had never shot a gun before wasn't the issue really. The way Sam saw it there were two rounds in the gun, “I had a fifty-fifty chance at hitting the target.” The first shot missed. The second hit. Calm, cool, and collected he persisted - traits that help Sam raise a daughter with his wife. "We are different but we compliment each other."
It does make me wonder if his wife would describe Sam the same way. “Outgoing, energetic, sociable, and confident and insecure that the same time.” As a kid he was a button pusher, today he is a “perfectionist with the confidence to fail.”
Not bad for a guy who moved to a new town without knowing a single person. Or for someone who married the “cool chick” from my youth. “I married my Muppet self.”
Which takes us back to Janice, the easy going, free spirited bass player in the Electric Mayhem Band. Believe it or not, Sam played her in the show “Here Comes the Muppets” a live musical that ran at the Disney MGM Studios. I can't think of a better person or a better Muppet to blur the line and get a great story out of it than those two.