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- April 18, 1977
- Vol. 7
- No. 15
Sesame Street Made Joe Raposo a Success, but Only Pat Collins Made Him Feel Like One
Joe fell instantly in love. ("I had forgotten," he says, "what that feeling was like.") For Pat, a winsome, wisecracking blonde, love came more slowly. "I thought," she recalls, " 'He's the first person I've met I don't feel I have to interview!' But he was going through a bitter divorce, so we palled around, and I never thought more would come of it." After a year Joe asked Pat "if she had anything against marriage in general." When she answered "no," he asked, "Well, then, why don't you marry me?"
They did so in January 1976, and neither has a regret in the world. Pat now does movie criticism and interviews for the CBS network, has just received two 1976 Emmys for her New York show and at 33 is also the mother of brown-eyed Elizabeth, born last September. ("I got pregnant on my honeymoon," Pat deadpans when people count months, then adds, "I think.")
Joe, 40, is at the top of his business. Besides Sinatra, stars like Streisand, Diana Ross and the Carpenters have recorded his songs. And this month Raggedy Ann & Andy, a $4 million animated film featuring Raposo's music, opens nationwide.
"Success is funny," says Raposo. "My songs have gone around the world, and I've loved the comfort and security of that. But for a long time I had no one to share it with. I've learned what success is from being married to Pat."
The son of musical parents (his Portuguese father teaches music, his mother plays piano), Joe grew up in suburban Boston rehearsal halls. He started piano at 4 and by 10 was developing his own orchestrations. Later, as a law student at Harvard, he supported himself by playing in clubs and summer theaters. In 1959 he abandoned his legal studies for music and went to Paris to work with the noted teacher Nadia Boulanger. When he left after eighteen months, Mme. Boulanger urged him to stay for "five more years of counterpoint." She begged him not to go popular, warning "what happened to Gershwin will happen to you." Raposo replied, "I certainly hope so."
Back in New York in 1960, Joe married former Radcliffe student Sue Nordlund and began writing film scores and musicals, including an off-Broadway hit, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He signed on as the new Sesame Street musical director in 1969. Three years later, having written the show's theme and songs for everyone from Kermit the Frog to Lena Home, he moved to the Electric Company.
When Sinatra—who called Raposo "a genius" after recording Kermit's Bein' Green—needed material for his comeback album, Old Blue Eyes Is Back, he went to Joe. The album eventually included four Raposo songs, notably You Will Be My Music. Today Sinatra says, "Joe's still a genius, just a little older."
Joe, who has made millions in royalties, is open about his appreciation of fame. "A few summers ago," he recalls, "I played the piano while Jesse Jackson and 12,000 ghetto kids sang Sing, and six hours later stood before all Hollywood while Sinatra sang my songs. What guy has a day like that?"
His instinct for the limelight occasionally rankles his colleagues. So while Raggedy Ann scriptwriter Pat Thackray calls Raposo "a joy to work with," former Electric Company writer Tom Wheldon says, "There are several Joes. That Sesame Street innocent philosophy of his is totally genuine. But Joe is also an operator. I'd bet that if it came down to two people in a lifeboat the last one would be Joe Raposo."
Without Raposo's daring, however, Raggedy Ann might never have made it to the screen. After being turned down by several major studios, Raposo personally auditioned eight songs for IT&T president Harold Geneen in the company boardroom. IT&T financed the entire project.
Like her husband, Pat Collins is a clever survivor in another barracuda business. Raised in suburban Boston, she went from student body president of Simmons College to crime reporter for the Boston Herald American. "I was too career-oriented to marry young," recalls Pat. "Ten years ago no man would have pulled up stakes when I had to move." And move she did. Within 10 years she had moderated talk shows in Boston, San Francisco and Washington. Then three years ago she became hostess/producer of her own show, which helped raise consciousness in daytime programming by probing such subjects as homosexuality in sports and deafness among the young. She left The Pat Collins Show last May to tend to Elizabeth and write a book on only children.
Home for the Raposos is an eight-room co-op high on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. Joe's sons from his first marriage (Joey, 13, and Nick, 10) live nearby with their mother and often play squash with Dad.
Amid much affectionate bantering, there are minor arguments between Pat and Joe. "We both have strong opinions," she says, "and we both voice them. We argue over my reviews sometimes." Pat assigned Raggedy Ann & Andy to some kids selected at random from the audience: they gave it raves.
The Raposos alternate between lounging around barefoot and in jeans and lavishly entertaining their celebrity friends. Last month Pat invited 50 guests to mark Joe's 40th birthday and the opening of Raggedy Ann. At 2 a.m., after Walter Cronkite had mugged through a mock striptease and New York Gov. Hugh Carey had offered some off-key Irish ballads, Joe began to play You Will Be My Music and reminisce. It was a song he composed shortly after he and Sue separated. "I wrote that in hope and tears," he said. "When you've failed at something, you live your life to cut your losses until you meet someone who gives you hope. That happened to me when Pat came into my life."
January 26, 2015
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