Kermit promotes 'green' earth

The Associated Press

OXFORD, England This time, you couldn't blame the audience for turning green with envy.

With nary a frog in his throat, the inimitable Kermit of Muppets fame arrived in triumph to the stately halls of Oxford University on Friday, to become, yes, at last, the first amphibian ever to address that training ground of prime ministers and presidents, the Oxford Union debating society.

"I really am very honored," he declared, straightening his black bow tie and flicking his coat tails. "These are some very nicely hallowed halls."

The guest of honor wore his customary benign expression, and shared his thoughts on everything from mosquito hors d'oeuvres ("love 'em") to men's underwear ("I prefer being naked").

And, of course, he talked about his biggest problem, the amorous Miss Piggy.

To a generation of students raised on "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," the goggle-eyed one is an object of admiration.

"He's an icon," said 19-year-old biology student Tom Walker as he waited in the cold outside the Oxford Union's 150-year-old debating chamber.

More than 900 students lined up to see their hero, some of them for as long as three hours.

And for 30 minutes Kermit wowed them with a string of outrageous quips and folksy homilies. Risking a backlash from the possessive Miss P., he flirted shamelessly with his interviewer, TV personality Mariella Frostrup, who was clad appropriately in Kermit-green leather.

For a frog, he showed a neat grasp of British current events.

How was the swamp from which he sprang?

"Damp, a lot like England, only fewer scandals."

Thundering applause.

Would he turn into a prince if kissed?

"Nah, the Windsors have enough problems without Miss Piggy hanging out around Buckingham Palace."

So what is it with Miss Piggy?

"Our relationship is purely professional. She's a pig, for crying out loud!"

On a more philosophical note, one of the students asked how he keeps in touch with his inner tadpole.

"I fax him regularly," quipped the technically advanced swamp dweller.

But his biggest concern was the environment.

"I'm here on behalf of all the species that are lower on the food chain than you," he told his rapt audience.

"We can all recycle, protect the air and water around us. So on behalf of all the animals in the world I'm asking you to CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!"

Others who have spoken amid the marble busts of the great and famous here are Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Presidents Reagan, Carter and Nixon, Mother Teresa, Malcolm X and Billy Joel.

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