Elvis Costello Sings With Grover And All The Gang

The Wall Street Journal: Marshall Heyman: 3rd June 2011

One of the things that's frustrating about going to a fund-raiser at Cipriani 42nd Street is that, sitting through speeches and waiting for dinner to be served, you could eat a lot of breadsticks. The perfectly salty Cipriani carbohydrates are usually in the center of the table in water glasses. They're offered in addition to a croissant-like circular roll lying in wait on your bread plate.

In fact, sometimes you're so hungry or bored or both or, let's face it, the breadsticks are just there, that you could plow through them like Cookie Monster eats cookies. Except, as we learned Wednesday at Sesame Workshop's annual benefit there, Cookie Monster doesn't eat so many cookies anymore.

"We helped Cookie Monster deal with his obsessive compulsive disorder," said Gary Knell, the president and CEO of Sesame Workshop. "Now he knows that cookies are a sometime food and not an every time food."

Cookie Monster's diet is just one of the many things "Sesame Street" has changed, world-wide, to help children modify their habits toward healthier living. (Recent adaptations have sprouted in China and Nigeria.) This was the general message of the evening. (Richard T. Clark from Merck and Charles MacCormack from Save the Children were honored, too.)

"We even have Elmo model the correct way to sneeze," added Mr. Knell.

The dinner served to guests, which started with a green- bean salad and moved onto that Cipriani branzino that you can usually request as a substitute for steak, was pointedly healthy. But still there were those pesky breadsticks, which, thankfully, Cookie Monster doesn't appear to enjoy, leaving them for the rest of us, including a table mate who was wearing a tie with Elmo on it. The Sesame Workshop benefit is, apparently, one of the few events in the city where you can safely wear a tie with a red furry creature on it and be complimented.

"Dinner? Oh that my favorite," said the actual Cookie Monster when he appeared on-stage to introduce the meal. The great pleasure of this particular party is that the Muppets mingle with the guests.

With a carrot in his mouth, Mr. Monster reminded everyone that "Cookie is a sometime food and vegetables is an everything food, so me just eat three centerpieces." (On point, centerpieces were made of yellow peppers and green apples.) "But me hope cookies for dessert!"

No such luck, Cookie Monster: It was berries and sorbet in a dark-chocolate basket.

Continuing the preoccupation with taking care of ourselves, after dinner, Grover—emcee with Deborah Roberts—came out in jogging attire. "Come on, everyone, it's jumping-jack time," he said. "Everyone feel the burn. We want furry blue buns of steel."

It's hard enough to get patrons to show up to these events sometime—though the Sesame Workshop benefit certainly ranks up with the best of them—let alone get them to work out in festive dress, so Ms. Roberts quickly calmed Grover down. Instead she introduced the musical guest: Elvis Costello, who blended right in with the rest of the "Sesame Street" denizens on hand.

"Come on, Grover," Mr. Costello said. "Be a cute fuzzy rock star like me and sing along."

Grover, Cookie Monster and Telly Monster joined Mr. Costello for a rousing performance of "Alison." Then Abby Cadabby and Kami (a muppet from the South African "Takalani Sesame") sang backup for "Peace, Love & Understanding." It was pretty thrilling, a throwback to those "Muppet Shows" of our youth.

"This is the hardest I've ever rocked," said Ms. Cadabby, a 3-year-old fairy-in-training.