U is for… uncertain times. What now for Elmo?

Puppeteer behind Sesame Street's most widely loved character resigns over alleged relationships with teenagers

Los Angeles

In the award-winning documentary Being Elmo, a colleague of Kevin Clash, the human alter ego of Sesame Street’s pre-eminent furry, red monster, Elmo, declares: “When a puppet is good and true, and meaningful, it’s the soul of the puppeteer that you’re seeing.”

The makers of America’s best-known and most influential children’s-television show were yesterday hoping those comments aren’t taken too literally after Mr Clash, who has been on the company’s payroll for almost three decades, announced his resignation amid a widening gay-sex scandal.

“Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go any longer,” read a statement from Mr Clash, 52, who has won 24 Emmy awards over the years. “I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”

The development came amid allegations that the puppeteer had conducted at least two sexual relationships with teenage boys. On Tuesday, one of the alleged victims, Cecil Singleton, filed a lawsuit in New York claiming the actor had engaged in “sexual  behaviour” with him when he was  just 15 years old. He is seeking $5m  in damages.

A day earlier, Sheldon Stevens, a male model, claimed to have been “pressurised” into accepting a $125,000 payoff to retract a previous public allegation that he had slept with Mr Clash at the age of 16. At the time, the age of gay consent in New York, where they had supposedly conducted a relationship after meeting online,  was 17.

Whether there is substance to both men’s claims remains to be seen. Mr Clash has not yet commented on his dealings with Mr Singleton, but maintains that he had an “adult, consensual relationship” with Mr Stevens, whom he originally met on the internet.

Sources close to the puppeteer say that both of the men’s allegations must be viewed through the prism of huge potential compensation awards. A “thorough investigation” by the Sesame Workshop, which produces the show, has found no evidence of illegality, though Mr Clash was found to have “violated company policy regarding internet usage”.

Whatever now transpires, it’s a sad moment for Elmo, whose giggly  persona was essentially invented by Mr Clash in the early 1980s, and who has since become Sesame Street’s most widely loved character,  spawning endless cuddly toys. Analysts believe that, in recent years, he accounted for $50m a year in sales for Hasbro, which has a lucrative endorsement deal with the television show.

Mr Clash, who is divorced and has a teenage daughter, will meanwhile continue to appear in Sesame Street for several months, because future episodes of the show have been pre-recorded. After that, the role of Elmo  will be handed to  an understudy.

“Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street,” read a statement from the show, which boasts 1.2 million daily viewers in the US alone. “This is a sad day for  Sesame Street.”

Major milestones: Life on the street

* In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney pledged to eliminate public funding for Sesame Street’s broadcaster, PBS. “I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for,” he said.

* Debate has long raged over the sexuality of Bert and Ernie. Last year, the show issued a statement describing them as “best friends”.

* Katy Perry’s 2010 appearance on the show sparked an outcry from “family-values” campaigners, who claimed her dress revealed too much cleavage.

* Amid concern over child obesity, Cookie Monster was forced to “broaden his eating habits” in 2005. In addition to giving tips about healthy eating, the puppet changed his signature song from “C is for Cookie” to “A Cookie is a Sometimes Food”.

Guy Adams

 

life on the ‘street

major milestones

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape