Would it be worth sandboxing an article about Caroll Spinney anecdotes that are mistaken?
He refers to Rufus as "Flash the Wonder Dog" in the audio commentary for his documentary, he claims (on several occassions) to have played Elmo in the early 1970s, etc. I have at least a handful more that pop into my mind every now and then but I can't think of them right now.
We'd have to be careful not to be mean spirited, but I think it's a valuable lesson in how faulty human memories are and serves as a qualifying factor in the wiki research we do and why we require citable sources.
My day was hinging on your moral approval, so thanks for that.
But sure, everyone's recurring inaccurate anecdotes works too. I just can't think of anyone else who's so often infamously mistaken about past events.
Which, there's nothing wrong with, by the way. Spinney's been doing this for 50 years; I can't remember my girlfriend's birthday. The point is, my ability to remember a birthday isn't in the public eye affecting research; Spinney's is (as well as other performers, writers, etc).
No harm in Sandboxing if there are enough examples. There's one anecdote from The Wisdom of Big Bird that relates to an episode where Big Bird and Snuffy temporarily part ways. It appears to describe Episode 0361, though Spinney's recollection differs from the scripted version (and sadly, as it's lost, there's no easy way of comparing that to how it actually aired). Because of this, I was mixed on making note of it on the episode page itself.
Last night on the Muppet Central forum I was talking about how Spinney's memories of episode 0361 differ from the script and wondered if it's poor memory or a change from the final aired version, too bad we won't be able to know (at least for the time being), but I also wonder if they redid that plot later (seems like the kind of plot that would get remade) with an ending that more closely matches what's been said in interviews.
In The Wisdom of Big Bird, he mentions that for season two the Muppet bits were shot at a different studio from the street scenes and he didn't see the other performers as often, but I wonder if maybe that was really the case with the first season. In the first season, it is rare for other Muppets besides Big Bird and Oscar to be in street scenes (the first episode as well as the three with Rufus being big exceptions), while there are quite a few times in the first season where Muppet characters other than Spinney's appear in street scenes (though it seems it was always rare for characters performed by Jim Henson to appear on the street, even when the other main performers were more commonly there).
This is actually very common with showbiz people in the public eye who reach a certain age and tell a lot of anecdotes (those with accurate memories, and there are a few, are the surprise). Happened all the time in animation. Mel Blanc's memoirs are full of events that didn't happen the way he says, repeating stories used for the talk show circuit (Walter Lantz, who liked to say he created Woody Woodpecker because a woodpecker annoyed him in his honeymoon, is similar), claiming roles he didn't actually play or misnaming the ones he did, etc. while the various Disney and Looney Tunes animators contradict each other (Tex Avery had one of the better memories, while with some of the others taking credit or who they were feuding with or even just which aspect of production they were actually paying attention to all came into play, and the same happens with movie star bios and some directors, although at least some of them seem to have kept better notes or relied less on their own recollections than the record, and then there's the "I honestly don't remember any of this, so I'll take your word for it" school). A combination of age, emphasis (those who have kept more accurate memories when older tend to be those who also documented more), and that after awhile, as one keeps telling certain anecdotes, the facts tend to blur in one's mind. It even applies to things like the variations in Does "Muppet" mean "Marionette and puppet"? with Jim Henson contradicting himself back and forth (which could have been memory, another example of talk show or interview anecdotes which was how he put it, or even just kind of wanting to mess with people).
I think the way to approach this and keep it classy would be akin to the Errata sections. It would be worthwhile doing that on The Wisdom of Big Bird. If a stand alone article, I can only see it working in Category:Rumors (and then it could in fact become a "Which anecdotes by Muppet people are accurate" if we wanted to broaden it).
And relevant to the larger question, to paraphrase how an animation scholar of my acquaintance has put it, "The colorful anecdote is the bane of historians."
Funny you bring up those examples, Andrew, because just recently I was perusing through various articles and blog posts on the whole Clampett/Jones kerfuffle, particularly Jones' 1975 response to Clampett's 1970 Funnyworld interview.
I like the idea of a Sandbox article (for starters, anyway) corralling provably inaccurate anecdotes -- not just from Caroll, but from others as well -- to help draw a line between facts and evidence, and fiction, faulty memories, or what just makes a good story.
Yeah, basically we apply the same litmus test we do to everything else. We appreciate the person's talents and the fact that they were there, but apart from the passage of time, we weigh with screen evidence and other records. One reason phrases like "According to" or "As so and so recalled" are useful (they mean we're recording the recollection itself, not necessarily its accuracy).
At some point doing errata pages for commentaries or documentaries in general might also be worthwhile.
In addition to many people having faulty memory, it seems like sometimes people tell facts a bit differently from how they really happened, perhaps because it's easier to say it one way in an inteview than to go into all the details (I can't see myself shortening info like that) or maybe it made a more interesting story to tell. I believe that's the case with the marionettes and puppets thing - it was something Jim Henson made up because it's a more logical and interesting answer than just "I liked how the word sounded."
Could it also be a case of facts maybe changing from the time it hit Carrol Spinney (or anyone else's) ears backstage to by the time they got on screen, and Carrol (or anyone else) only remembers the first set of information and not the new information? Like, I don't know much about Rufus or if Rufus kept a consistent name back then, but it's not like we don't know of puppets going through identity crises (Poor pre-1990's Betty Lou)
The second thing seems like it could be a conflation of facts on Carrol's part. He remembers performing a red monster puppet, someone goes "This puppet's cute, it should be it's own character," then 10 years later Elmo is born, and he probably just connected the two dots that may or may not even be there.
Granted, this is all supposition on my part, and probably not helpful in that regard, but it was something that just came to mind.
Flash the Wonder Dog was the name of a late twenties/thirties canine Rin Tin Tin type in shorts and feature films. Rufus had been named since 1963's Land of the Tinkerdee, had been so in Hey Cinderella pre-Sesame, and in scripts for Sesame Street. But as far as we can tell, Spinney hadn't actually been in any scenes with Rufus. So he misidentified him due to, ahem, fuzzy memory (which would have been a less controversial title for this thread).