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
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,
Cerf's books displayed
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?
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.
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.
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.