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Brian Muehl as Alphabet Bates, with Dominique.


An illustrated Bates in Everyone Makes Mistakes

Alphabet Bates is a skywriter on Sesame Street who, although rarely appearing in person, made his mark with the giant letters he made in the sky over Sesame Street. The actual skywriting in the segments was done by Cecil Coffrin of Sky Advertising Corporation,[1] one of the original Pepsi-Cola pilots, and was filmed over Asbury Park, New Jersey in June 1969.[2][3] The films were integrated into the street scenes making it appear that the street residents would see the letters being written over their heads, although occasionally in the early years they used shown as silent standalone segments.

Mr. Bates' work appeared on Sesame Street beginning in the first season. He went unnamed until Episode 0088, when Gordon refers to him as Letter-Writing Lewis. His permanent name was first mentioned in Episode 0091 when Gordon and a couple of kids watch him write the letter L. His voice was heard in Episode 0113 provided by Will Lee. Subsequent early mentions included Episode 0261 when Oscar and the kids watched the same letter, and in Episode 0300, when Susan spotted him making a Q. He was also mentioned by David in Episode 0536, during a game of "follow the leader."

Beginning in season 11 of the show, he began to make the occasional appearance out of the skies and on the street, portrayed by Muppet performer Brian Muehl.[4] In some of these appearances he would drop via parachute from the sky from his plane, which seemed to have a mind of its own. He would then write on-screen (with the use of a telestrator) while imitating the sounds of his airplane, then somehow rising back up into the sky back to his plane. Muehl's performance had him initially speaking in incoherent, French-like nonsense. In season 12, he was joined by Dominique, an Anything Muppet who served as his driver (using a motorcycle).

Alphabet Bates made an illustrated appearance in the 1983 book Everyone Makes Mistakes. He appears in the animated adaption of the story for Three Sesame Street Stories, also giving him a French accent.

Book appearances[]




  1. ↑ Spiegel, Phyllis. "Early Days Revived at Airport" The New York Times, March 4, 1973
  2. ↑ Gibbon, Samuel and Palmer, Edward. Pre-Reading on Sesame Street. Final Report, Volume V of V Volumes (ED047825). ERIC. pp. 44-45, December 1970
  3. ↑ Asbury Park Sunday Press "Veteran Pilot Meets Toughest Challenge: Skywriting ABC's for Television Series" by Paul Van Duren, June 21, 1969
  4. ↑ Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street, page 92