CBC has learned the hard way not to mess with puppets, and yesterday officially apologized to Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe.
The Homme family removed the beloved puppets - stars of deceased creator Bob Homme's hit show The Friendly Giant - from the CBC Museum yesterday after the broadcaster used the characters in a recent Gemini Awards skit without the family's permission.
Jeff Keay, spokesman for the public broadcaster, said "we have apologized to members of the Homme family for not getting their permission to use The Friendly Giant puppets ... and we sincerely regret they feel any trust was breached."
Ann Homme, a daughter of Bob, said in a recent e-mail to The Globe and Mail that the Gemini infraction was "the last straw."
"Until recently, we were contacted by the people at the CBC museum, where the puppets are on loan, by a very conscientious woman who seemed to guard the Friendly Giant display with her life," Ms. Homme wrote. "Recently, she was let go, and replaced by someone who seems to think our permission is unnecessary. Needless to say, I am going to remove the Friendly Giant props and puppets as soon as possible."
Yesterday, Faye Blum, the "conscientious" woman Homme referred to, said she is not surprised at the fracas over Rusty and Jerome. Ms. Blum, who was co-ordinator of the CBC Museum, was handed a "redundancy notice" (along with another museum colleague) and finished her last day with the broadcaster in October.
Ms. Blum was concerned about the collection and, prior to leaving, had a meeting with Richard Stursberg, head of CBC English TV, radio and CBC.ca.
"I assumed if our jobs were redundant, then the museum would no longer be open. I appealed to Richard Stursberg to extend out work so we could look after the collection and address how to disperse it," Ms. Blum explained.
She contacted the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, which agreed to acquire it. She left her position before the collection had been fully documented. "I told Richard Stursberg I would not be here to oversee the process. He told me he'd look after it.
"The collection is still at risk. The individuals in charge currently don't have the expertise, sensitivity or love for the collection."
Prior to leaving her post, Ms. Blum said she contacted the owners of collection items on loan to the CBC Museum. Many asked for their artifacts to be sent back. The Hommes did not.
"I'm hoping for the collection to move out of their [CBC's]hands and into an institution with the infrastructure in place to properly exhibit and care for the collection," Ms. Blum said.
Mr. Keay said the CBC remains committed to its past, adding that "as we continue with our plans to redevelop the main floor space of the Toronto Broadcast Centre, we fully intend to include displays, artifacts and information that will represent CBC's rich history, its programs and its people."