Memorializing Pop Icons with Puppets

Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have made a career based on their love of pop culture. Their positive entertainment content — including interviews, articles and trivia challenges — has been syndicated to Yahoo, OMG!, Examiner, Screenpicks, and many more.

They have conducted over 1,200 interviews including more than 50 one-on-one oral histories for the Television Academy's Archive of American Television — including in-depth interviews with Danny DeVito, Ed O’Neill, Tom Bergeron and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

They were handpicked by OWN to be part of the VIP digital press corps covering Oprah’s Lifeclass during Winfrey’s tour of the U.S. and Toronto. And through their work as MediaMine’s Creative Directors they helped to create the Official Hollywood Walk of Fame App, a thousand-question Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson trivia game, a Don Rickles Zinger App and more.

Most recently, they launched their own line of hand-crafted pop culture themed puppets that have paid tribute to legendary icons like David Bowie, Bernie Sanders, Freddy Krueger, Prince and Carrie Fisher.

DW: As women who are passionate about all things pop culture, what made you want to memorialize celebrities? Was 2016 and all the celebrity death the impetus?

The idea for the puppets actually came before the concept of memorializing celebrities. Several years ago we had worked for a company and we created a few sock puppets for a video segment we were trying out there. The company folded and we turned our attention to conducting interviews for our blog and the Television Academy and working on pop culture related projects like creating the Official Hollywood Walk of Fame app for one of our clients. But about a year ago we started talking about how we both wanted to do something more creative. We remembered how much fun we had making the sock puppets and decided we wanted to express our love of all things pop culture this way. We did our Emmy predictions through sock puppets in the Fall, followed by Halloween and election puppets. At the end of the year, we decided that so many sock puppet worthy celebrities had passed, that the best way to end 2016 was to immortalize them in a way that they probably hadn't been honored before.

DW: Why sock puppets?

We think part of it is that it brings us back to being two little kids doing endless crafts together growing up in Braintree, Massachusetts. Our parents were artistic and always encouraged us to be as well. So, we would spend hours making fake stained glass out of crayon shavings and wax paper. We were in heaven when we could waste an afternoon doing anything with papier-mâché. And now, even though we're grown ups, we can do something that reminds us of those early days squirreled away together having fun and making each other laugh.

DW: Any chance they will be displayed in public or is this strictly an online memorial?

Our goal for 2017 is to have a gallery exhibit and accompanying book this time next year. The exhibit will be a tribute to the greatest pop culture icons of all time. We're going to nail down the list and start construction after the first of the year so that we have plenty of time to get things just right and find the perfect location. And, throughout the year, we'll continue to post new pieces. We have an Oscar fashion retrospective planned for February.

DW: What celebrity death hit you the hardest this year?

For Nancy, it was David Bowie. While I have a deep passion for many musicians and entertainers, David Bowie has always been my kindred spirit. His message of individuality and non-conformity shaped my views at a very young age and led me down a path of carving out my own life in the way I want to lead it, not the way society dictated. In fact as a teenager, my hair style very much resembled the yarn hairdo you see on our puppet! His music touches me deep in the soul and his loss was extremely profound for me. 

For Amy, the loss of Carrie Fisher was a huge hit. Seeing "Star Wars" as a nine year old basically changed the course of my life. Not only did I love the movie and saw "The Empire Strikes" back over 100 times but the franchise is one of the major reasons I moved to Hollywood to get into entertainment and why my love of pop culture is so deep. More importantly, Princess Leia and later Carrie Fisher herself represented the pinnacle of what it meant to be an independent woman with a take no prisoners attitude — strong but flawed, sarcastic but not pessimistic. 

DW: Has making these puppets been therapeutic?

It certainly has helped in terms of the In Memoriam puppets. Each one was made with complete love and admiration. We feel like the details are critical to making each puppet work. So, it was fun to stop, reexamine each person in their prime — their hair, their clothes, their accessories and, most crucially, their attitude. It was a nice way to reconnect with what we loved or admired about each of the people that we lost this year. And, in general, it makes us happy that people are finding joy in the puppets when they see them. It feels like, for us and for the growing number of people who are connecting to them, they like them because seeing these people in this way just makes them happy rather than dwelling on the sadness of the loss. 


DW: There has been a lot of discussion and arguments on social media about people grieving celebrities, as if it is ridiculous. What do you think about that?

We have stepped back a couple of times this year and thought, "Why are we so sad to lose someone we never met?" And we certainly wouldn't begin to pretend that our suffering in any way compares to that of these people's family and friends. But people like Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Gene Wilder and Garry Shandling made a significant impact on our lives through their work. They shaped our points of view, our humor, our sense of style. They were always there for us when we needed to be entertained by them. So how could we not be sad to see them go? In our own very small way, these puppets were meant to be our way to carry on their legacies and thank them for all they meant to us.

DW: Thank you so much Nancy and Amy for sharing your puppets on my blog. I love them and can't wait to see then on display. If you want to see more of these puppets, you can like their Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter @PCPassionistas.