About a month before he died, a group of us put together a tribute for Richard at the Henson Townhouse. I researched Muppet Show items he had done, and David Gumpel put together a tape of some of the highlights of Richard’s work. We were all flabbergasted when we saw it. Most of the time we were all working hard and not thinking about the body of work we had accumulated. When we saw the sheer volume and range of Richard’s work, it really sank into us what a huge talent he had. And what an enormous loss we were facing. By the evening of the event, Richard was quite weak, but he managed to speak to everyone from his wheelchair, and we all had a chance to speak with him and tell him how much we loved him. I think he really appreciated the gathering.
And then there’s his huge personality. When we did the Muppet Show, I noticed that the guests tended to go away knowing Jim, of course, but also Richard. He was very perceptive about people, and he always said what he thought, regardless how outrageous. His presence was always strong, and he made a connection with every crew member and every guest.
For years Richard tried to introduce his own favorite phrase into the language of the world. Whenever someone insulted him, he would counter with “your face!” in much the way one might say “the heck with you.” It never caught on. But with so many other successes to enjoy, this wasn’t a significant loss for him.
I’ve written the above with some trepidation, as Richard did not like sentimentality. If he could respond to the above, I know what he would say: “your face!”