Angry at Stalin’s treatment of hand-puppets and fearing a widening of anti-puppetism, Snuffleupagus escaped the Soviet Union and made his way to the United States via a Japanese fishing trawler in 1952, whereupon he requested political asylum. Though eventually granted resident status, Snuffleupagus—an aspiring actor—found himself quietly blacklisted because of the close proximity of his Wrangel mating ground to a Soviet weather station. After years of surviving on odd jobs in the Cold War '50s, he finally found work in the more liberal-minded '60s, becoming an extra on Days of our Lives. Several cigarette commercials followed. Then came Snuffleupagus’s big break: landing a cameo on an episode of Sesame Street in 1971, which, of course, grew into a recurring role. Ironically, Brezhnev assumed complete control of the communist party around this time, and most of Snuffleupagus’s early exchanges with Big Bird constituted diatribes on Soviet foreign policy, including this one, which aired March 12, 1972:
Big Bird: “Hi, Snuffleupagus!”
Snuffleupagus: “Ohhh, hello, Big Bird. Ohhh.”
Big Bird: “What’s wrong, Snuffleupagus?”
Snuffleupagus: “Ohhh, it’s those damned Soviets, Big Bird. Why don’t they get out of Czechoslovakia? Czech dissidents such as Václav Havel have clearly demonstrated a mandate for democracy. Damn that Brezhnev. Ohhh.”
Big Bird (whispering): “Stick to the script, you putz!"
Brezhnev publicly expressed contempt at Snuffleupagus’s frequent harangues, going so far as to call Snuffleupagus a “punk” during the SALT I talks in Moscow (although Pravda added that Brezhnev admired Grover). Thus, in addition to their startling physical resemblance, Snuffleupagus and Brezhnev possess the classic qualities of sibling rivalry.
Although the Kremlin still categorically refuses to release any information on Brezhnev’s DNA or medical history, and Snuffleupagus isn’t talking, I believe that the evidence is overwhelming.
(Photo of Leonid Brezhnev copyright Associated Press.)