Bert and Ernie Talk DOMA, Honeymoons, and 'The New Yorker' Cover (Not Really)
Okay, sure, so we didn't really talk to Bert and Ernie — after all, Sesame Street has already claimed that the duo are only best friends without sexual orientation created "to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves" — but Sesame Street also taught us to have an imagination. So, following the release of The New Yorker's Bert and Ernie cover celebrating marriage equality, we imagined sitting down with the duo to hear their thoughts. This interview is brought to you by the letter "F" for fake!
"You guys are awfully hard to get in touch with!" I said, laughing, as I sat down for a midday brunch at Balthazar with two of the most highly trending people in New York, Bert and Ernie.
"I know, I know," said Bert, putting his arm on the back of Ernie's chair as he scanned the menu, "I guess it's the sign of a good publicist, ya know?"
This was the beginning of our interview, one of the biggest moments in my career as a writer, and yet it was so... casual. Bert ordered the ratatouille omelette, eggs whites only, and Ernie opted for the brioche french toast. As I got out my notepad, Ernie leaned over and kissed Bert's neck, so quickly I almost missed it. I smiled to myself — this was not the Bert and Ernie I'd grown up with, playing it straight with gags about noses. This was the real Bert and Ernie, finally free to share their love with the world. It was a sunny day in Manhattan as we brunched, and it really felt like the world was changing.
So guys, now that DOMA has been overturned, what do you have planned for the foreseeable future? Any white wedding we can look forward to?
Ernie: Well I told Bert I'd love a wedding, but only if our bridesmaids are fish and the ceremony is performed underwater, with scuba equipment. I've been shacked up with this fella for so long, I just don't want to have a wedding that's been done before. But I could be persuaded to do a safari wedding if some exotic animal would agree to oversee the ceremony. We'll see.
Bert: Oh Ernie, you and your outlandish ideas. We're extremely excited to have the opportunity to live freely. Staying closeted for so long was such a challenge, especially in show business. When people speculated on our sexuality, it was always so stressful, lying and hiding our true selves from the public. But, I mean, come on — we lived in the same room and were constantly bickering. It should've been obvious.
[Bert and Ernie laugh]
Do you know where you'd go for your honeymoon?
Bert and Ernie: [In unison] Fire Island.
Ernie: Yeah. we've had our house in the Pines for absolutely forever and we just love going out there when we get the time.
Very cute. Did your co-stars know about what was going on between the two of you?
Bert: Well, it was hard not to! I mean, when Jim Henson first hired us, we didn't know each other, but you spend that much time together with someone and, ya know, something blossomed. I think our co-stars were supportive because they watched us fall in love with each other. I mean, Elmo has already asked to speak at our wedding and Snuffleupagus and Big Bird want to throw us a dual bachelor party. They've been together almost as long as we have, so I'm sure it'll be glamorous and wonderful.
Ernie: Yeah, besides, Big Bird throws the best parties. He's already hired Burt Bacharach to perform "Rubber Duckie," which I really wrote about my Bert.
[Bert looks down bashfully]
I always thought so!
Bert: Yeah, it was one of the sweetest things he's ever done for me. It was our two-year anniversary and he serenaded me with it, and then told me he'd be singing it on the show, with the words changed slightly. See, originally the chorus was, "Bert my baby, you're the one," but the producers weren't comfortable with that, so they incorporated Rubber Duckie.
Ernie: Who, by the way, still keeps in touch. He's gotten older, so he moved to Florida to be closer to his kids, but we still get in contact from time to time, reminisce about the old days in the bathtub.
That's really nice, that you all keep in touch outside the show and support each other. However, I have to ask, how did you decide to do the New Yorker cover? Were you worried about how it would be perceived? It's a daring move, even post-DOMA.
Bert: I mean, of course, our relationship has been speculated about for so long — it was terrifying to think about confirming it to everyone so dramatically, but we feel like people have been so brave in their support of gay rights. It was our turn to step up to the plate.
Ernie: Yeah, we were sitting watching Golden Girls with a nice bottle of Shiraz, and what do you know? David Remnick called us and pitched us the idea. He's a close friend, and we said we'd think about it, but we hung up and looked at each and we just knew it was the right thing to do.
Well, I think it was brave, and it's been very well received thus far. You guys have given your careers a real boost!
Ernie: It's been really heart-warming. So many fans have reached out and congratulated us. Beyoncé called me this morning and said she cried when she saw it, so we'd like to think it's made an impact. That would be really nice.
That's wonderful to hear. Well, thank you for your time guys! I know it's a hot commodity these days.
Bert: Always a pleasure sweetheart. Thanks for brunch! We're headed to the Brooklyn flea market now but give us a call if you need anything more.