Bert and Ernie, Sesame Street staples since 1969, are packing up their striped shirts and leaving the long-time children's hit show, the casualty of GOP budget cuts and a neighborhood that increasingly embraces traditional family values. Big Bird is expected to join the confirmed bachelors in their exodus.
Re-tooled show to feature puppet version of Tucker Carlson
NEW YORK, NY—The atmosphere in this Sesame Street townhouse couldn't be more morose as long-time companions Bert and Ernie pack up their striped shirts and prepare to vacate the bachelor pad that they've called home since 1969. The couple, officially known here as "just good friends," is leaving Sesame Street for good, a casualty of GOP budget cuts and a culture that prefers traditional family values to puppet lovers.
"They're devastated," says a friend and neighbor of the couple. "This is where Ernie wrote 'Rubber Duckie,' where Bert began collecting paperclips and bottle caps. They've put so much love into this place," recalls the friend, noting that the couple is currently condo shopping in the Sesame Street vicinity.
Rising rents take a toll
An official spokesperson for the felt-clad duo chalks up their decision to relocate to rising rents—rents are expected to skyrocket on Sesame Street, in Green Gables and even in the Neighborhood of Make Believe as the Republican-dominated Congress prepares to eliminate all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the next two years.
But other longtime Sesame Street residents say that Bert and Ernie's decision to pack up may have more to do with the culture shift underway in their neighborhood. Voters recently approved a tough zoning measure that would prohibit the use of garbage cans as residences and require a permit for junk collecting—a measure widely seen as a rebuke to trash tenant and out-spoken GOP critic Oscar the Grouch.
Gates for Sesame Street?
Neighbors are also divided over a proposal to make Sesame Street into a gated community, requiring residents to display ID's in order to gain access to their homes. While proponents of the plan say that adding gates and a guard house will make Sesame Street safer, critics worry about what it will mean for immigrant puppets employed as caregivers, including Spanish-speaking Rosita who immigrated to the US from Mexico.
If the famous street does get a gated makeover, a name change is likely as well. Fans of the plan say that they'd like to see Sesame Street reborn as "Sesame Hills," "Sesame Acres" or "The Estuary at Sesame."
And a new neighbor
While the talk of the street these days is about who's leaving—Oscar and Big Bird are widely expected to join the departing Bert and Ernie—Sesame Street is also expecting at least one new resident, and a prominent one at that. PBS conservative star Tucker Carlson has been looking at property in the area and is expected to relocate there as early as fall 2005.
Bert and Ernie say that they're struggling to remain positive despite what is clearly a devastating development in their lives. "It's hard for us to imagine living anywhere else," says Bert, packing up teacups and saucers while an episode of "Pigeons in the News" plays softly in the background. As for their immediate plans: "We'll be staying at Buster's place while he's traveling," says Bert. "After that it's anybody's guess."