Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Films
Buried in the details of the potential sex scandal that broke yesterday—regarding Elmo creator Kevin Clash and a young man accusing the 52-year-old puppeteer of having a sexual relationship with him when he was underage—was the fact that the Sesame Street mainstay is gay. Clash has now publicly come out and said he's gay, saying he's "a gay man" and has "never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt [my relationship with the accuser] was a personal and private matter."
If you've seen the award-winning documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, you know that detail was left out (as Michael Musto has also written). In the film, Clash attends his daughter's birthday party, at which he seems sad and lonely. He's divorced from his wife (who never speaks in the film) and there's glimmers that he had some reason—either overwork or something else—that caused that break-up. Details of his brilliantly creative childhood skirt any hint of him being a cute gay child. Now we can assume it was because he was hiding his sexuality from his wife and decided to shield his fans from that knowledge.
Clash is an extraordinarily talented man and a proud father. Not only did he create the hugely successful Elmo personality and voice (the puppet was a failed experiment until he picked him up in 1984 and used that falsetto), he's helped usher the company into its current success as a multimillion-dollar industry.
By the way, this case is already seeming quite strange. The age of consent in New York is 17. Clash says he did have a relationship with the accuser, but it was legal. Now the young man, who is now 23, is saying it happened a year prior and would constitute statutory rape.
As for why he was disciplined by his employer, Sesame Workshop, it's regarding an email Clash wrote to his accuser that reads, "I'm sorry I keep talking about sex with you, its driving me insane." Clash added: "I want you to know that I love you and I will never hurt you. I'm here to protect you and make sure your dreams come true."
Is this a case of spoiled grapes? A break-up gone wrong?
But don't worry about that furry red puppet, no matter what happens: Elmo's not gay. He's a perpetually 4-year-old sprite who is mischeivous and exudes pure, unconditional love. And Sesame Street has reiterated in an odd (but reassuring?) statement: "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."
UPDATE (11/13/12 at 6 p.m. EST):
After forcing Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash out of the closet yesterday. The New York Times reports that Andreozzi & Associates, a law firm that said it represented the accuser against Clash, released a statement that said: “he wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.” The statement added: “He will have no further comment on the matter.”
Clash issued a subsequent statement through a spokesman that stated: “I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further.”
Clash remains on a leave of absence from Sesame Street Workshop of his own volition.