Elmo’s World Comes Crashing Down

November 13, 2012 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

The first posts about Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, appeared on my Facebook feed late in the afternoon. Reading the articles was disheartening, depressing and downright sad. And each article (from mostly quasi-reputable sources) was capped by one inflammatory headline after another. It seemed they were all trying to cram as many damning words into a single line as possible: “Sex,” “Denies,” “Underage Boy,” “Pedophilia,” “Gay.”

So I went in search of a more respectable source, one that would stick to the facts. I came upon what I hoped would be such an article from ABCNews. No such luck. Here are a few of the questionable—and some completely irrelevant—phrases peppering the story:

Clash…began using a falsetto voice in 1984 to bring life to the furry red monster.

The accuser…is being represented by…the same high powered firm hired by a victim of Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of child sex abuse.

Clash spoke to ABC News last year about his passion for puppets… “I have Peter Pan syndrome we call it,” Clash said.

After learning how to sew around age 9…

“‘You sleep with your puppets, you play with dolls,’ you know,” Clash said of being teased as a kid.

Let me state that I have never been that fond of Elmo. I grew up on Bert & Ernie, The Count and Cookie Monster. Elmo is a relative newcomer, and has always seemed way over-hyped and unendingly shrill.

But then last year I saw Kevin Clash on The Daily Show promoting Being Elmo, and was amazed at his energy, his spirit, and his undeniable talent. When I finally watched the documentary I was genuinely moved by this story of an odd, sensitive, creative (and extremely driven) boy that pursued his dream of being the next Jim Henson. Clash became hugely successful at not merely entertaining or educating, but spreading joy wherever he went.

A young Kevin Clash with his idol and mentor, the late Jim Henson

I sincerely hope the accusations are untrue. Yet if the level of hyperbolic coverage surrounding this continues, it kind of doesn’t matter. Kevin’s career as Elmo (and in children’s entertainment) is over, regardless of the outcome. I just can’t imagine the talking heads and paranoid corporate sponsors will allow the truth to win out.

In response to the story, Sesame Workshop is quoted as saying, “Elmo is bigger than any one person…” But if you watched Being Elmo (and you should), you know this isn’t true. Elmo existed for several years before Kevin Clash, but Kevin Clash brought Elmo to life, imbuing him with a toddler’s wonder and loving spirit. It would be a shame for such a lively life to be stifled by the flames of homophobia, fear and sensationalism.

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comments

One response to “Elmo’s World Comes Crashing Down”

  1. Leanne says:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/13/entertainment-us-elmo-idUSBRE8AB14M20121113 This one mentions that TMZ said they had an email from Clash that the guy was less than 16, though the accuser’s lawyers did not present to Sesame St lawyers when they inquired. “absolutely fraudulent” they said. And says that Clash has been given the time off to defend himself and has hired a libel lawyer. This is a very different slant, with nothing about sewing (btw that is a great thing to do… I sewed at 9 and made puppets myself) or sleeping with puppets.

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