Big Bird costumes fly off the shelves after Romney comment

The Associated Press
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Big Bird, of the children’s television show “Sesame Street,” is shown in this file photo from 2009 in Los Angeles. Halloweencostumes.com sold out of several takes on Big Bird almost overnight after U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney remarked earlier this month that he would cut funding to PBS.
— Photo by The Associated Press

Can’t figure out how to dress as a binder full of women for Halloween? There’s always Big Bird, the other star of the U.S. presidential debates.

The yellow one is flying off the shelves after Mitt Romney’s threat to do away with government support for PBS. President Barack Obama kept the Halloween dream alive Tuesday night when be brought up the bird again during their second debate.

At six feet, Angela Betancourt volunteered for Big Bird duty among a group of friends riffing on Sesame Street for a couple of Halloween parties and a meander along Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. She’ll likely carry a suitcase as she passes out the popular kid character’s resume.

“I grew up on Sesame Street and I think that PBS deserves all the funds it can get,” said Betancourt, 30. “We all feel the same way.”

Halloweencostumes.com sold out of several takes on Big Bird almost overnight after Romney’s remark during the first presidential debate Oct. 3, said a company spokesman, Marlon Heimerl.

“In the past this hasn’t been a very popular costume, so when Big Bird flew the coop in such high numbers, it was definitely a big surprise,” said Heimerl, who would not provide specific sales figures.

Disguise Inc., Sesame Workshop’s official costume maker, said interest is up among the thousands of retailers it services. The sellers of unlicensed Big Bird, especially sexed-up versions, beware.

“The only costumes authorized by Sesame Workshop are with our licensee, Disguise, and we are working with our legal team on having the others removed from the market,” said Ellen Lewis, a spokeswoman for Sesame Street.

Betancourt went for sanctioned, sassy Big Bird in a yellow, flapper-style feathered dress and a dainty head piece. Shannon Ziegler of suburban Detroit will be Big Birdesque in a sexier mini with mesh cutouts, ringed thigh-highs and a fluffy hat that has google eyes.

Ziegler, another six-footer, hadn’t decided between a sign that reads: “Big Bird for President” or one imploring: “Don’t Use Me.” An American flag may also be involved.

“When I saw that costume,” said the 27-year-old Ziegler, “I thought, how perfect is that?”

For the record, Ziegler’s a Republican who said she’ll probably vote for Romney.

“Big Bird is not getting fired,” she said. “Big Bird is big and strong and he will be able to stand his ground. I think that Sesame Street will be strong no matter what.”

Kimberly Wick, vice-president of Costume World based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., also saw sleepy seller Big Bird become a hot seller overnight. The company sells and rents costumes of all kinds and has four stores around the country.

“We had Big Bird dancing in front of our Deerfield Beach store and people were honking and going crazy,” Wick said. “It’s been 20 years since Big Bird was popular.”

Wick was madly trying to replenish sold-out Big Bird looks among several the company carries for infants to adults. So who’s buying — Democrats, Republicans or those pesky undecideds?

“Does Big Bird have a left wing and a right wing? I don’t know,” she said. “I guess we’ll find out.”

Sara Gaugl, a spokeswoman at the Bellevue, Wash., headquarters for the large thrift store chain Savers and Value Village, said sales of all Sesame Street character costumes picked up significantly after the first debate on Oct. 3. Managers of the nearly 300 secondhand stores across the United States and Canada were also busy helping customers put together DIY Big Bird, she said.

“Last year we were seeing a trend in nostalgia, such as Candy Land and Twister,” Gaugl said. “Big Bird was selling but it was not as hot of a commodity. People are not ignoring the conversation around the election.”

Cheryl Kerzner, vice-president for product design and marketing for San Diego-based Disguise, said her retailers have also been clamouring for more Big Bird since the debate.

“It’s been crazy,” she said. “We cannot give them more. We are sold out.”

Tim Waters, national political director for the United Steelworkers International Union, put Big Bird on the road at voter registration and other election-related events soon after the Oct. 3 debate, when Romney uttered these words before moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS: “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

The 8-foot, 2-inch character has been a huge crowd-pleaser, Waters said.

“People are loving Big Bird,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re lined up. There are hundreds of people wanting their pictures with Big Bird. They’re hugging Big Bird, kissing Big Bird. I’m, like, what in the world are we on to here?”

Organizations: Figures.Disguise, Democrats, United Steelworkers International Union

Geographic location: United States, Lincoln Road, Miami Beach Deerfield Beach Detroit Bellevue, Wash. Value Village Canada China

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