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Elmo puppeteer accused of underage relationship

3:29 am - 11/13/2012
Elmo puppeteer accused of underage relationship

The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on "Sesame Street" is taking a leave of absence from the popular kids' show in the wake of allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

Sesame Workshop said puppeteer Kevin Clash denies the charges, which were first made in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.

"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said in a statement issued Monday. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."

The organization described the relationship as personal and "unrelated to the workplace." Its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details.

"I had a relationship with (the accuser)," Clash told TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."

At his request, Clash has been granted a leave of absence in order to "protect his reputation," Sesame Workshop said.

No further explanation was provided, nor was the duration of his leave specified.

"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of 'Sesame Street' to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years," Sesame Workshop said in its statement.

"Sesame Street" is currently in production, but other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to the show who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to publicly discuss details about the show's production.

"Elmo will still be a part of the shows being produced," that person said.

The 52-year-old Clash, the divorced father of a grown daughter, has been a puppeteer for "Sesame Street" since 1984. It was then that he was handed the fuzzy red puppet named Elmo and asked to come up with a voice for him. Clash transformed the character, which had been a marginal member of the Muppets troupe for a number of years, into a major star rivaling Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."

In 2006, Clash published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."

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wrestlingdog 12th-Nov-2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
I don't think I can overstate how sad this makes me.
crossfire 12th-Nov-2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah.
i_amthecosmos 12th-Nov-2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
I'm horrified.
eames 12th-Nov-2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Interesting that in the UK (I am neither condemning or condoning what he did) this would be perhaps frowned upon, or passed comment on, but it wouldn't be classed as child abuse, based on one party being 16. Dubious, yes, but not child abuse.
jasonbeast 12th-Nov-2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
It varies from region to region, here. In some places, 16 is squicky-but-legal, in others 16 is a felony.
wesleysgirl 12th-Nov-2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Sickening.
the_gabih 12th-Nov-2012 09:05 pm (UTC)
God fucking dammit.
lord_cellytron 12th-Nov-2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
DAMMIT
callmetothejedi 12th-Nov-2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
Fucking DAMMIT. I feel sad now. D:
elobelia 12th-Nov-2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
This guy was my hero after seeing the Being Elmo documentary. This is just awful.
circumambulate 12th-Nov-2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
The organization said its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details.
the_physicist 12th-Nov-2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
so wait, what? Sesame Workshop are just saying the accuser lied?
lovedforaday 12th-Nov-2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
Even with the age of consent being 16 and 17 in some places, it's still a huge power imbalance. Kevin Clash has been Elmo for the accusers entire life.
sfrlz 12th-Nov-2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah I agree. I had someone try to tell me the other day that a professor sleeping with a student was OK because they're two consenting adults so I've been thinking about this a lot... things like age difference and power and authority DO matter, even when the actual "act" itself is legal.
ecrivais 12th-Nov-2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
Honestly Kevin Clash seemed like a dick to me. Being Elmo was actually a really sad documentary for me to watch because while his passion was inspiring, his distance from his family was not.

It really kind of made me mad how he pretty much never saw his family, especially his daughter. THEN in an effort to be closer to her he threw her an Elmo themed sweet sixteen party. WTF. I get that Elmo is your life but there's no need to be so egotistical you have to make every aspect in your life and others' about Elmo.

elobelia 13th-Nov-2012 01:40 am (UTC)
I got the same impression from the documentary. I loved it still and what he did with Elmo, but I really felt sorry for his daughter.
randomcheeses 12th-Nov-2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
Aargh. There goes my childhood.

Honestly, how hard is it to be a freaking adult and realise that a healthy relationship and a 'legal' relationship are not the same thing.
teacup_werewolf 12th-Nov-2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
This is disappointing as fuck...
romp 13th-Nov-2012 09:29 am (UTC)
Thank you for the perfect summary of my reaction.
piratesswoop 12th-Nov-2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
It still boggles my mind that he is the VOICE of Elmo. I don't know why I always imagined it being a little kid, or someone like the woman who did the voice of Tommy from Rugrats, but that it's this burly, middle aged adult man always just blows my mind.

This whole this is so sad and sickening :(
hikerpoet 13th-Nov-2012 12:54 am (UTC)
As someone five years older than her husband (although we didn't start dating until our 20s) I overall agree with you, but that one sentence/example is a bit of an odd choice.

Senior in high school/freshman in college is totally common and non-taboo and totally different than a 36 year age difference with one a minor!
cuterabbit33 12th-Nov-2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
Mom: So are they going to shut down Sesame street?

Me: Of course not!

Mom: Well, they shut down Penn State, so I was wondering...

Me: *sputtering* What - that - How is that even the same thing?!

Mom: *chuckling* I'm just saying, it's funny.

I... I can't. Just can't.
wapiko 13th-Nov-2012 12:27 am (UTC)
oh my god if I believed in the place I think I'd go to hell for having to stifle my giggle just now...
eyetosky 13th-Nov-2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Oh Jesus, I can't imagine being that kid. This is so awful.

And man, the pressure for Mr. Clash to NOT do something like this... Pretty much the first time since Mr. Henson himself, (and maybe that curmudgeon Frank Oz, who seems more in hiding these days) that Sesame Street has put forth one of their puppeteers as a face of their brand, and this happens? Jiminy Christmas.
lady_borg 13th-Nov-2012 01:09 am (UTC)
What, I was going to watch the doco about him and now I dont think I want to. I hope to hell this isn't true.
chaya 13th-Nov-2012 01:24 am (UTC)
Okay, who else read this frantically looking for the dates of the incidences, hoping to god it happened a long time ago when Clash would've been at least moderately close to 16?
perthro 13th-Nov-2012 02:21 am (UTC)
If the accuser was 16 when it happened, and is 23 as of last June, that's 7 years difference. Clash is 52. That means he was 45 when he had that relationship.
poetic_pixie_13 13th-Nov-2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Well, god-fucking-dammit.

This reminds me of the really squicky 'tradition' within queer dude circles of older men dating/going after guys that are significantly younger (and many of whom are underage), acting as their sugar daddies and being their 'guide' to the queer male culture/community. It's so creepy.

Edited at 2012-11-13 02:35 am (UTC)
zinnia_rose 13th-Nov-2012 08:08 am (UTC)
I've never heard of that tradition, but it is indeed massively squicky. Mentorship = awesome. Being a sexual predator = VERY BAD.
idemandjustice 13th-Nov-2012 06:03 am (UTC)
God dammit. I just watched "Being Elmo" earlier tonight, and thought he seemed like such a wonderful person.

Fuck humanity. Dammit.
mskye 13th-Nov-2012 10:37 am (UTC)
What a betrayal. :(
angelofdeath275 13th-Nov-2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
RIGHT IN THE CHILDHOOD
angelofdeath275 13th-Nov-2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
A-AND THERE JUST WAS THAT ARTICLE ABOUT HIM BEING ELMO TO REASSURE KIDS ABOUT THE HURRICANE
little_rachael 13th-Nov-2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
This is why I gave up on "idols" long ago. They always let you down in some way. :( I'm not expecting people to be perfect, but so many have done truly awful things.
bestdaywelived 14th-Nov-2012 12:05 am (UTC)
I was just coming her to post that link - maybe making a new post would be better?
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