Elmo left behind on 'Sesame Street' as actor exits
FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2011 file photo, Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash poses with the "Sesame Street" muppet in the Fender Music Lodge during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Sesame Workshop says Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from "Sesame Street" in the wake of allegations that he had sex with an under-aged youth. Last week a man accused Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy, a charge Clash denied. A day later, the man recanted his charge. A lawsuit by a second accuser was filed Tuesday, Nov. 20, according to attorney Cecil Singleton. (AP Photo/Victoria Will, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Even on "Sesame Street," where everything is famously A-OK, problems can arise for its residents.
And that includes the Muppets. Cookie Monster grapples with an eating disorder. Oscar the Grouch gets cranky. Mr. Snuffleupagus gets the blues.
But Elmo seemed immune to any of that. Since enjoying his breakout success more than two decades ago, the 3 1/2-year-old red monster has radiated good cheer, love and trilling giggles. No wonder everyone — adults as well as children — adores him.
The key to Elmo is "his innocence, his positiveness and his sweetness," according to Kevin Clash, the man who created him and once told The Associated Press, "I would love to be totally like Elmo."
Now Clash has been scandalously separated from Elmo and from "Sesame Street," the TV series where he reigned behind the scenes for 28 years.
Clash spoke of "personal matters" as the cause of his resignation Tuesday after an unthinkable nine-day stretch that began with an unnamed man in his 20s claiming he had sex with Clash at age 16. That allegation was quickly recanted. But then came another accusation of sexual abuse, and a lawsuit.
That second accuser, a 24-year-old college student named Cecil Singleton, said the actor had engaged in sexual behavior with him when he was 15. He is suing Clash for $5 million.
"I am deeply sorry to be leaving," said Clash in his parting statement, "and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
But privacy may no longer be possible for Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter who acknowledged last week that he is gay. Singleton's lawyer, Jeff Herman, said he has been contacted by two other potential victims of Clash and expects additional legal action.
At a news conference Tuesday, Singleton said he and Clash met on a gay chat line and then, for a two-week period, they engaged in sexual contact, though not intercourse. Sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is 21 or older.
Singleton said he didn't know Clash's profession until years later, when he Googled the man's name.
"I was shocked when I found out what he did for a living," said Singleton.
Now that career has ended for Clash, who, in his dream job as a puppeteer for "Sesame Street," was assigned a little-used puppet now known as Elmo, then turned him into a star. In the process, Clash won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy. He published his 2006 autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."