Did Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, have a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy? Apparently unaware that it’s still gross, Clash claimed things started only after the boy turned 18. What, did he wait for the kid’s “special” birthday? And WAS ELMO THERE? Sesame Street Workshop execs have known about the situation since June. Did Elmo protect the man who operated the puppet for more than 27 years? Will our furry red friend go out like Paterno, disgraced and weakened, or will he persist, forever a symbol of parental awkwardness?
And who’s going explain Elmo’s sudden, if slight, voice change?
PART I: The (now) “consenting adult” in question, Sheldon Stephens, insists the relationship happened when he was 16 and Clash was 45. Clash denies this, telling media outlets his accuser is “trying to make it into something it’s not.” Smooth dummy. Makin’ yourself out to be a victim here is gonna’ work for your defense like Sandusky’s denial worked for him.
Messages made available to the media were indeed sent to the young man after he turned 18, but they read as a full-blown courtship (“I’m here to protect you and make sure your dreams come true”), and that’s unlikely to have happened overnight. Either way, a 45 year-old puppeteer begging for forgiveness for a barrage of emails “talking about sex” to a young person flat out begins and ends with creepy.
Is this Sheldon kid an opportunist who, reputation be damned, is trying to hustle himself a payday by carelessly discrediting a former lover and ruining his livelihood in exchange for notoriety? Who can say? So let’s set him aside and get back to the curiously stupid voice of Elmo.
Clash’s career relies upon the sanctity of children’s happiness and well being, yet he sought out a situation in which his judgment could be questioned. His breaking the law isn’t even the (immediate) issue. By allowing himself to start a relationship with a newly minted adult, Clash invited his principles –and excuses– to be publicly scrutinized. (He also made himself eligible for pariah-level consequences, which is where that breaking the law part comes into play.) By setting himself up to become the butt of inevitable late night jokes, he stands as a shining example of someone who failed to have enough character to avoid becoming one.
And what will become of Elmo? From this day forward, people will talk trash out the sides of their mouths so the kids won’t hear. Clueless friends and family will continue to show up to holiday parties with Elmo toys, only to be mocked for their ignorance. Eventually, this’ll all probably blow over, as Elmo is a commercial entity like no other, but the conveyor belt of pervert jokes has been turned on.
Personally, I can’t rid my head of the image of Elmo sitting in a room, desperate to blow the whistle on his master of 27 years, but terrified the beatings will resume. Poor little Elmo, stuck saying those two terrible words –“Tickle me”– over and over again.
UPDATE #1: Less than 48 hours later, the unidentified man who accused the Emmy winning puppeteer of teenage pervy stuff now says it was consensual.
In a statement made through his representative, Clash vowed, “I will not discuss it further. I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest.”
Uh, yes, you will, and no, it hasn’t.
The fact that the young man Clash hounded with sex talk is running hot ‘n cold (as 18 year-olds can) actually presents yet another area where Clash’s self-gratification may backfire; it adds further insight into the level of maturity, emotional intelligence, and potential trauma associated with his creepy pursuit.
But all creepiness aside, I’m jumpin’ off this dead horse and over to the Petraeus bunch. No one’s bailing ‘outta that burning plane any time soon!
No doubt Sesame Street Workshop will strive to put some distance between Elmo and these two idiots.
At this point, it’s ridiculous to think that puppeteer Clash’s accuser, Sheldon “If Camels were Transgender” Stephens, is anything less than a straight up street skank. The potential was there, we knew all along. It felt close to the surface because it was.
Last week, Sheldon claimed Kevin Clash and Elmo buggered him when he was 16, only to recant his accusation when his alleged rapist paid him $125,000. Clash obviously paid a little too quickly, ’cause now Joe Camel wants to give the money back. He’s expected to renew his accusations that the two had a sexual relationship while was he underage.
Stephens’s character speaks for itself. He took a molester’s pay-off, retracted his statement, and either realized for the sake of his integrity he’d made a mistake (yeah, sure) or saw how much more he could get via future litigation. But hustler’s don’t get do-overs.
Also, my ruling stands. Poor judgment on the part of Kevin Clash landed him in the gravitational pull of a gouging, self-serving Jr. Pimp. Whatever happens between two consenting adults is no business of ours, but writing apology notes for relentless sexualizing should’ve been a wake-up call. What possible excuse could Clash offer for not seeking counseling or help of some kind? Something tells me we’re going to find out.
Clash exposed an otherwise long and successful career to lightning fast public dismissal. He allowed his private life and preferences to be exploited for profit. He put himself on the child predator chopping block. His legacy will now be seen as a arguable betrayal of children and parents. The rest, as previously stated, is left to late night comedy hosts and Saturday Night Live.
A young man named Cecil Singleton has emerged with similar accusations – and Singleton isn’t alone. A third unnamed accuser stands with him, waiting for his turn at the Elmo ATM. No doubt this third guy (along with any others) will have to “frame” the details of his encounter to a salivating attorney’s liking, but a pigeon’s reward will be his nonetheless.
This subject has become wormy. There’re flies buzzing around it. We filed it under where there’s smoke there’s fire from the start, but those of us who don’t practice law can’t be certain if crimes have been committed or how much weight these accusations may carry in a courtroom. So instead, this story is just another end-game reckoning for a career entertainer. An epitaph for a life out of balance.
Kevin Clash allowed his preferences and lifestyle to be called into question by straddling the creepy-crawly border of child molestation, so for him things won’t change. He got what he wanted, regardless of the questions his self gratification raised. As a result, his young castoffs –be they genuine victims or ho-bitch backstabbers– are his legacy.
Final Judgment: I miss Jim Henson.