By Kyle Petersen

Dexter the Juggler

Sesame Street first aired 40 years ago, and has featured such universally recognized characters as Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster. However, one character you may not be aware of is Dexter the Juggler.

Dexter appeared in only two segments in the 1980s, and was manipulated by Kevin Clash, who controlled the head, and juggler Fred Garbo, who controlled the hands.

If the name Fred Garbo sounds familiar, it should. Fred is an American juggler, clown and vaudeville performer who has been performing since 1974. He was one of Brian Dubé’s first customers in the mid 1970s, and has been a regular at the store ever since. He has performed across the world, and currently operates the Inflatable Theater Company.

Although Garbo’s career has been long and successful, his stint as Dexter was not. Kevin Clash, better known as the man behind Elmo, has said that Dexter was Sesame Street’s “most spectacular failure”. In his book, My Life as a Furry Red Monster, Clash writes:

I puppeteered the head of the character and we found a talented artist named Fred Garbo to do the juggling while squatting under the camera’s frame. Talk about tough! Trying to coordinate Fred’s actions was next to impossible. Fred was the best, but this was asking too much. We spent most of our time in rehearsal rounding up dropped balls, stumbling over one another, and flubbing lines of dialogue – just try concentrating on what you’re saying when you’ve got balls flying around your head.

Even though Dexter only appeared in two segments of Sesame Street, his memory now lives forever thanks to the magic of YouTube. Below, you can watch Dexter in action. In the first half, Dexter juggles three and four balls. In the second, Dexter teaches the Sesame Street character Gordon how to juggle.

  • Rodney D

    Fred Garbo also played Barkley the Dog on Sesame Street.

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