Andrew Beecham, Sr., VP of Programming at PBS KIDS Sprout, front left, and Sandy Wax, president of Sprout, front right, pose with The Wiggles, from back left, Anthony Field, Sam Moran, Murray Cook and Jeff Fatt at Hot Potato Studios in Australia.
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LOS ANGELES -- It's been 21 years since the Wiggles burst onto the scene with colorful costumes and educational ditties. But next year a new era dawns for this children's entertainment giant from Down Under.
Speaking from the group's home base of Sydney, 59-year-old Jeff Fatt talked about joining Murray Cook and Greg Page -- three of the original foursome -- in handing over their respective purple, red, and yellow jerseys to the next generation of performers as they recede from the spotlight in favor of behind-the-scenes creative roles.
But first the group, rounded out by Anthony Field (aka the blue Wiggle, who will continue his presence on stage), will bid fans a farewell with their Celebration! tour that started Saturday in California.
Later this year, the tour wraps in Sydney where the torch will be passed to Lachlan Gillespie, Simon Pryce and the first-ever female Wiggle, Emma Watkins.
Why have you decided to retire now?
For a variety of reasons, but I think the main one is that Murray and Greg want to spend more time at home with their families and I want to make my health a priority.
You had a pacemaker implanted last year.
My heart rate was dropping below a critical level making me feel tired all the time. I thought that was just the nature of the work the Wiggles do. In reflection, it certainly drove home the fact that I wasn't feeling well when I thought that I was.
You're ending your farewell tour in Sydney in December. How do you anticipate that to go?
I think it'll be a very emotion-filled concert. We'll be passing it over to the new Wiggles.
Who replaces you as the purple Wiggle?
Lachlan Gillespie. He's a super laid-back guy.
Will you stay involved with the group?
Murray, Greg, and myself will still be involved in songwriting and recording aspects of the Wiggles. I may be in the backing band on concert tours, I don't know. It depends on where next year takes me.
Any plans to explore another passion?
I may go down the avenue of furniture design. I mean, I trained as an industrial designer so I may dabble in that.
Everybody in the Wiggles has a background in early childhood education except you. How does an industrial designer end up in a children's music group?
Essentially, it was through my friendship with Anthony. All through the '80s we played in a pop band called the Cockroaches, but we've been friends since the late '70s, early '80s. I was actually playing in a rockabilly band with my brother at the time, and Anthony would come by and check us out. He was always a crazy dude. When the Cockroaches ended toward the end of the '80s, heading into the '90s, he asked me to get involved in the recording of some children's music. And the Wiggles were born.
You were also known as the Wiggle that dozes off. How did you fall into that role?
Not having any of the teaching skills, my role was designed as a way for me to stay involved onstage without having to actually say anything. And as it turned out, it's a very empowering thing for a child to wake up an adult. I happily took that mantle on my shoulders and I've really enjoyed it.
Do you have any memorable Wiggle moments to share with us?
We used to bring an inflatable Big Red Car onstage. One time, it ruptured while we were singing. We tried getting offstage in a hurry while Greg was still singing and trying not to laugh.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was another thrill for us.
But probably the thing we'll always cherish is the effect that we've had on children with disabilities, and particularly children with autism. Quite often we have parents telling us how our songs or our videos have communicated to their autistic child.