A former Broadway dancer in the 1930s, O'Brien transitioned from performer to stage manager, working on productions ranging from Brigadoon to Finnian's Rainbow. O'Brien shifted into television, serving as production stage manager/floor director on Sesame Street and related specials, for over a decade. Like Kermit Love, his behind the scenes work generally limited his on-screen appearances.
His brother Mortimer "Snooks" O'Brien was the floor (stage) manager for Sesame Street during the same time. When they were younger, they had worked together in vaudeville as a dance act. Their vaudeville history was referenced in a Sesame Street News Flash sketch, with "Chet and Snooks," a pair of comedians who casually assist Don Music in writing "The Alphabet Song."
O'Brien's other stage manager credits include the television version of the controversial musical O Calcutta! He was once married to Marilyn Miller, a Ziegfeld girl (1918-1919), who broke from the chorus line to have a decent acting career in Hollywood.
In 1991, both O'Briens were honored by the Directors Guild of America, receiving the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award "for an Associate Director or Stage Manager in Recognition of Career Achievement in the Industry and Service to the Directors Guild of America."
- ↑ Davis, Michael. Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, Viking, 2008, p 223.