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Death - Miscellaneous

Will Lee as Mr. HooperMr. Hooper - A November 1983 episode of the children's program SESAME STREET dealt with the death of actor Will Lee who played store owner Mr. Harold Hooper on the program. Mr. Hooper was a friend of Big Bird and often made him birdseed milk shakes.

When Big Bird tries to find Mr. Hooper to give him a portrait drawing, Maria (Sonia Manzano) tells Big Bird "Mr. Hooper died." Big Bird innocently responds,"I'll give it to him when he comes back." Then Susan (Loretta Long) regretfully tells Big Bird "When people die, they don't come back."

Mr. Hooper willed his store to a young African-American named David who was Mr. Hooper's store assistant. After David, the store passed into the hands of Gina (1989), Mr. Handford (1992), and then to Alan (1998).

Dialog from the "Mr. Hooper is Dead" Episode

[Big Bird gives pictures that he drew of everyone.]

Big Bird: And last but not least, ta-da!

[Shows picture of Mr. Hooper.]

Big Bird: Well, I can't wait till he sees it!


Big Bird: Say, where is he? I wanna give it to him. I know! He's in the store.
Bob: Uh, Big Bird. He's ... he's not in there.
Big Bird: Oh. Then where is he?
Maria: Big Bird, uh, don't you remember we told you? Mr. Hooper died. He ... he's dead.
Big Bird: Oh yeah. I remember. Well, I'll give it to him when he comes back.
Susan: Big Bird, Mr Hooper's not coming back.
Big Bird: Why not?
Susan: Big Bird, when ... when people die, they don't *come* back.
Big Bird: Ever?
Susan: No, never.
Big Bird: Well, why not?
Luis: Well, Bird Bird, they're dead. They ... they can't come back.
Big Bird: Well, he's *gonna* come back. Why, who's gonna take care of the store? And who's gonna make my birdseed milkshakes and ... and tell me stories?
David: Big Bird, I'm gonna take care of the store. Mr. Hooper, he left it to me. And I'll make you your milkshakes and ... and we'll all tell you stories, and we'll make sure you're okay.
Susan: We'll look after you.
Big Bird: Hmmm.

[Another awkward moment of silence.]

Big Bird: Well, it won't be the same.
Bob: You're right, Bird Bird. It's ... it's ... it'll never be the same without him.
Big Bird:  Mmm.
Bob: [crying] But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him and ... and to know him. And to love him a lot when he was here.
Big Bird: Yeah.
Olivia: And Bird Bird, we'll still have our *memories* of him.
Big Bird: Well, yeah ... yeah ... our memories. Right. Why, memories, that's how I drew this picture. From memory. And we can remember him and remember him and remember him, as much as we want to! But I don't like it. It makes me sad.
David: We all feel sad, Big Bird.
Big Bird: He's *never* coming back?
David: Never.
Olivia: No.
Big Bird: Well, I don't understand! You know, everything was just fine! I mean, why does it have to be this way? Give me one good reason!
Gordon: Big Bird, it has to be this way ... *because*.
Big Bird: Just because?
Gordon: Just because.
Big Bird: Oh.

[Looks at Mr. Hooper's picture.]

Big Bird: You know, I'm gonna miss you, Mr. Looper.
Maria : [crying] That's *Hooper,* Big Bird, *Hooper.*
Big Bird: You're right.

[Everyone gathers around Big Bird for a hug.]

Big Bird with Drawing of Mr. Hooper
Big Bird places his drawing of Mr. Hooper on the wall.

Over the years, the owner and operators of Mr. Hooper's store included:

Mr. Hooper (Will Lee 1969-1982) the original proprietor.

Gina Jefferson (played by Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly). She was hired in 1987 to assist store operator (David). Gina eventually went to veterinarian school.

Mr. Handford (played by David Langston Smyrl) was a retired firefighter who wanted to keep active in his retirement. He took over the operation of Hooper's store in 1989.

Alan (played by Alan Muraoka, 1998+) took over Hooper's store in 1998. On one episode, actress Natalie Portman (of FACTS OF LIFE fame) ran Hooper's store when Alan went on vacation.

TRIVIA NOTE: Sesame Street published a book entitled "I'll Miss You, Mr. Hooper" (Random House, 1984) as a memorial to Will Lee who died of cancer/heart attack on December 7, 1982.

In the early Sesame Street days, Big Bird used to get the name Mr. Hooper wrong, for example "Dooper," "Sooper," "Scooper," "Blooper," "Looper," etc..

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