The World of Muppet Crap: Spruce Springsteen

Published: April 17, 2015
Categories: Feature

The following article was written by Whitney Grace.  If you missed her previous installments of “The World of Muppet Crap,” click here to read about a strange Big Bird eggbeater, Skeksis-inspired clothing, and more.  Thanks for your dedication to weird Muppet stuff, Whitney!

Spruce FullWelcome to the wonderful world of Muppet crap! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Oh wait! It’s not Christmas yet. I’m a few months tardy or early, depending on your perspective.

Christmas is a time for giving and shelling out your bucks to a worthy charity. Jim Henson wasn’t a stranger to the Christmas spirit and he was known to give time and donations to his favorite causes. I have no idea what they are though. I just knew he did it and the Muppets promoted it.

To my astonishment. an interesting and expensive thing has popped up on eBay. I’ve never seen nor heard of this merry character through all my years.

He was born in the USA and probably has been dancing in the dark storage closet for years. Muppet fans give a round of sound for Spruce Springsteen.

Besides delighting fans with his top billboard hits: “Born in the Henson Shop,” “The Ghost of Jim,” “Flossing in the Dark,” and “I’m Goin’ Stay Still,” the Floss-he uses his pine needles to pick food from his teeth-was a Jim Henson Company donation to the Night of 100 Trees. I’ve honestly never heard of this charity and Google didn’t yield anything beyond references to this guy. It pointed me towards the Muppet Wiki and I learned a lot about Spruce Springsteen’s career and birth.

The Night of 100 Trees was a charity event in 1988 with proceeds going to the Special Olympics. Companies donated the trees, decorated them however they wished, and then they were auctioned off. It was a short-lived event, unlike Broadway Bears that has a similar concept.

Zombie DoozerHenson employee Ed Christie made Spruce. To compliment the Christmas theme, Doozer bodies were refabricated as jolly snowmen. If you want to be morbid though, they could be Doozers that died and were buried. Ed decided to dig up the graves, dismember them, and use a belt sander to round them out. It also explains the gray color.

Spruce also has Muppet Magazine photos glued to his charming Greek column pedestal. Spruce, himself, is an interesting character. Given his price, when I first saw him I thought he was an official Muppet being sold. He was, however, made for charity and was never used in a performance capacity. He’s a typical Anything Monster (get it? Sesame Street has the humanoid Anything Muppets. I don’t know if they have names for basic monsters, so I just invented it. [What about Whatnots you say? He’s too gentle looking to be a Whatnot I reply]) and I don’t know if Spruce is even an usable puppet. He seems to be solidly glued on his pedestal there with his guitar. He does come with a string of X-mas lights that to my dismay don’t work. The seller does note that the lights will need to be rewired.

Spruce Springsteen is a unique collectible and beyond the Wiki entry, there’s no other record of him. It makes me wonder if the seller created the entry to give the auction credibility. Not to disparage the seller, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen fake stuff being sold on eBay. Ask me to tell you about the fellow who was trying to see Labyrinth puppets and Harry Potter movie props one day. It would be a lot of work for an eBay auction, however.

So the authenticity of Spruce Springsteen is in question at the moment, but check out the image below that makes me hold my breath.

SignatureIt’s Jim’s, albeit faded, signature. I’d recognize that handwriting anywhere, but you know how I feel about autographs after reading my article on Labyrinth scripts. I’ll admit the absurdity of someone going to the trouble to make a character like Spruce Springsteen and fake all the evidence. I just like to see a bit more paperwork or receive Karen Falk’s seal of approval. In fact, I think I’ll send her an email about Spruce Springsteen to see if she has records about his old tour dates.

Five minutes later…

Wow, Karen Falk is quick! For those of you who have been living under a block of rotting puppet foam, Karen is the Jim Henson Company archivist. Not only does she get to play around with dusty documents all day, she gets to keep track of Muppet materials, and knows every single secret about the company. She airs out amazing tidbits on her blog Jim’s Red Book. (Pro tip: read it!)

According to Karen, Spruce is a real item and she’s been asked about him several times with his random eBay appearances. Spruce has been sold many times or attempted to be sold. I gotta feel for the guy, because no one apparently likes him as a roommate. Maybe the zombie Doozer corpses smell or he spends too much time tuning his guitar. I used to have a roommate who did that at 3:00 AM. One night I had to get up early the next morning and on schedule my roommate started plucking her guitar. It was the last piece of fake fur to fall on top of a flocked puppet head. I stormed into her room, throwing glitter behind me to mimic Jareth, took the guitar, and smashed it over her head. We both had a good night’s sleep.

Back to Karen’s information on the Floss, which isn’t a lot. Here is what she sent me:

“This character was created for the Night of 100 Trees Benefit 12/9/1986. The benefit raised funds for NY Special Olympics. Celebrity trees were auctioned off, including a “tree” from Henson Associates – actually a green “Spruce Greensleeves” puppet built by Ed Christie of the NY Henson Workshop and signed by Jim Henson.”

PedestalIt’s pretty much the same information available on the Muppet Wiki. We’ve established Spruce is real and changed his name from Greensleeves to Springsteen to make himself a more marketable musician.

Looking at Spruce, I can’t help but think about how he’d be made for a charity auction today. If we use the same general design, I’d change the column to a more contemporary style. Then I’d have X-mas lights or fiber optics built into it. I’d make the zombie snowmen Doozers a little more festive with hats and scarves. It would be even better if I made them look like Bruce Springsteen’s band during the famous (and annoying) “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” To spruce Spruce up, I’d contact the Sesame Street toy developers or the Creature Shop to have them rig up some moving arms, mouth, and a sound box with Floss’ music. Yes, I know animatronics are expensive, but do you know how much technology has improved since 1986?

Sesame Street toys are mass-produced with smaller and cheaper servos than the Fraggle Gaggle. In other words, it wouldn’t be that expensive or difficult.

Spruce Springsteen’s price tag is $3500 or best offer as of writing this article. I have no idea what the person originally paid for him in 1986, but it might have been around that. Spruce Springsteen is a unique collectible, but I probably have to put him in the expensive niche that few Muppet fans can afford.

If I could afford Spruce, I probably buy him. Why? Because it would be the closest I’d ever get to owning a Muppet, then I’d write songs, more of a back story for him, and then publish it on the Muppet Wiki. Publishing on the Muppet Wiki would make it official. To cement my new partnership with the Floss, I’d ask Karen for a certificate of authenticity if she has the authority to do that.   If not, then I’ll just have a neat Christmas decoration to show at parties.


Click here to spray paint a Doozer on the ToughPigs forum!

by Whitney Grace

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