Christopher Cerf hosted his annual cocktail party for the graduates of the Columbia University Publishing Course at his home on East 62nd Street last night. For over fifty years, the Publishing Course, which is currently under

the direction of Lindy Hess, has provided students an intensive introduction to the publishing world. More than 100 publishing professionals come to the course each summer to lecture. Past speakers include Bennett Cerf, (Chris Cerf’s father who founded Random House), John Updike, Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, and John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Bennett Cerf's books displayed

Chris Cerf is one of the most prolific and actively creative people in New York. He’s played a significant role in the creation and production of the Sesame Street, most notably as a regular contributor of music and lyrics, and as producer of many of its music albums. He’s won two Grammys and three Emmys for songwriting and music production for the show. Since writing and performing his first song for Sesame Street, "Count It Higher" in 1972, he’s written or co-written more than 200 songs featured on the program, including "Put Down the Duckie," "The Word Is No," "Dance Myself to Sleep," "Monster in the Mirror," and such notable parody songs as "Born To Add," "Letter B," and "Furry Happy Monsters." You remember those, kids; no?

Since Sesame Street’s first season in 1970, Chris has also played a pivotal role in the ongoing funding of the show. He also founded and served as the original editor-in-chief of Sesame Workshop's books, records, and toys division.

In addition to his contributions to Sesame Street, there’s musical material that has been performed on Saturday Night Live, The National Lampoon Radio Hour, The Electric Company, Square One Television, Between the Lions, and in numerous Muppet productions. His songs have been performed by such stars as Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, R.E.M., James Taylor, Tony Bennett, The Dixie Chicks, Tracy Chapman, Carol Channing, Randy Travis, The Four Tops, Melissa Etheridge, Smokey Robinson, Bonnie Raitt, Wynton Marsalis, Little Richard, B.B. King, Jimmy Buffett, Bart Simpson, and the Metropolitan Opera's José Carreras—not to mention the blond, curly-haired Muppet character from Sesame Street who is his namesake and the lead singer of the rock group "Chrissy and the Alphabeats."

Before joining Sesame Street, Chis spent eight years as a senior editor at Random House where he worked with such diverse authors as George Plimpton, Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman, Ray Bradbury, and Dr. Seuss. In 1993, he renewed his ties to Random House when he assumed the role of Chairman of the Modern Library's Board of Advisors.

One of his best-known projects (I told you; this guy never sleeps) was the editing and production of Marlo Thomas & Friends' Free To Be...A Family book, album and TV special. The book reached #1 on The New York Times bestseller list within a week of its publication in 1987, and the show received a prime-time Emmy as the year's outstanding children's special.

Cerf and Thomas recently collaborated again, co-editing and co-producing Thanks & Giving: All Year Long, a book and CD about generosity and sharing (and their polar opposites, selfishness and thoughtlessness). Royalties from the project, for which Thomas and Cerf won a 2006 Grammy Award, go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded by Thomas’s father, Danny Thomas, in 1962.

And if that’s not enough, he’s also served as Executive Producer, and Music and Audio Producer, of Between the Lions, the children's literacy series that his company, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., created for PBS.

Between the Lions has twice won the Television Critics’ Award as the nation’s outstanding children’s television program, and, in its six seasons on the air, the show has amassed six Emmy Awards. (In 2006, Between the Lions was nominated for three more Emmys, including Outstanding Children’s Show.) In two independent studies, conducted by the University of Kansas and Mississippi State University, the program has also demonstrated success in helping kids – including those at the highest risk of literacy failure – to learn how to read.

Paige Peterson and Chris Cerf welcome Ed Victor

Chris Cerf, Nicholas Callaway, and Ed Victor

The general public know him best for his work as an author and satirist. In 1970, he helped launch the National Lampoon, serving as a Contributing Editor from its first issue until the mid-1970s, and in 1978, he co-conceived and co-edited the journalistic parody Not the New York Times. The Experts Speak, the "compendium of authoritative misinformation" that Cerf co-authored with Victor Navasky in 1984, has recently been reissued. In 1986, Cerf collaborated with National Lampoon colleague Henry Beard on The Pentagon Catalog: Ordinary Products at Extraordinary Prices, which offered readers the historic opportunity to obtain a free hex nut—valued at $2,043 by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation—with every copy they purchased. The Official Politically Correct Dictionary, also written with Beard, first appeared in 1992.

But I digress: The party at Chris Cerf’s home was a great way for students to interact with industry leaders. In attendance were Nicholas Callaway, Ed Victor and Lena Tabori from Welcome Books, just to name a few. Share the wealth is a Cerf philososphy.

Also at the party Paige Peterson and Chris unveiled the first copy of their book Blackie The Horse Who Stood Still which was illustrated by Paige as well as written by Cerf and Peterson and published by Welcome Books.

Chris Cerf, Paige Peterson, Lena Tabori, Ed Victor, and Shaye Areheart

Nicholas Callaway and Paige Peterson

Guests mingling

Lindy Hess and Monique Valeris

Tina Keane, Chris Cerf, and Paige Peterson

Chris Cerf, Lena Tabori, Frank Rehor, and David Foxley

Natasha Fried, Eric Norgaard, Frank Rehor, Lena Tabori, and Paige Peterson

Ginny Smith and Ian King

Photographs by DPC; Chance Yeh/©Patrick McMullan (BID).


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