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I think during Sesame Street was when I came completely out. My father knew. There was no hiding it. Richard Hunt So were there other out writers at that point? I think as I got out-ier I was the only male writer who was out. I think even being out, I was sort of…the straight guys, you know, are sort of non-inclusive. You also have to remember, all our friends were dying. This is the mids… That was the worst of it. It was a miracle we found each other then.
And everybody gay that was alive then remembers that article. Because we knew nothing. And that was a big part of your social life then?
Are Ernie and Bert gay?
You kind of went from one to the next. People just vanished, and everyone was in some kind of panic. It was nice being there with the Muppets. Hunt died of AIDS in , age What was the attitude like among the cast, the crew? When something like that is going on, is there discussion about how the show should address it? Was there homophobia you encountered? I mean, what can you tell a preschooler about AIDS? Practice safe sex? I can remember pitching to the education department, the gatekeepers of the curriculum, gay content, just to get it off my conscience.
And I can remember being stonewalled in a way that it made me think it was a lost cause.
Apple Plans to Stream Children’s Shows From Sesame Workshop
Did that question ever come up? And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it.
Yeah, I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. Because how else? How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not?
It was later on he came out and everyone realized he actually existed. That happened while I was there, yeah. The Sublime Miss M We wish! I created her based on Bette Midler. I mean, what could be gayer? I think that was Fran Brill [performing her]. The only way it would have been gayer is if it had been Richard Hunt.
Do you have any great guest star stories? Fanboy moments? I was, as usual, tongue tied and star struck in front of a legend of this magnitude, but I stayed close during shooting. Mostly trimming lines; he was not comfortable acting. But when he played on screen for a group of kids, they were mesmerized. The sound! The cheeks! When we were done, the trumpeter, as trumpeters do, emptied his spit valve. One of the kids was fascinated, riveted to the falling thread of drool.
And what about Patti Labelle? Arnie loved her. I even brought him to the set that day.
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This brings back a third-degree memory cringe…this must have caused by XGFS Xtreme Gay Fanboy Syndome but that day was the only time in my TV career that I ran in front of a live camera and ruined a take. Wait, how did you do that? You forget where you are and forget to check which camera is taping — there were several on the floor.
I tell you this as a cautionary tale — scoff all you want, but this will happen to you some day. Come on. Who will that diva be? Does Bill Condon count as a diva? She should. All right then. I know you understand the syndrome! What was it like working with Jim? I got to know him better on The Jim Henson Hour , but he was hard to know. So with a lot of them, the puppet was the communicator. Did it go down?
There was a calypso rhythm. He was like that with all the writers. I think that with the puppeteers he could be closer, then the designers, then, I think the writers. Did you get to know them at all? Not that close.
I should have been friends with Richard Hunt, you know… There was something gay and yet not bonding about it. Certainly not Carroll Spinney [performer of Big Bird]…they were all friendly and we had a good working relationship.
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And this could have been me…this could have been me being timid. They were actual stars. Were you flirty with Richard, when you met? It was the opposite. He was flirty. You know, I put the blame on myself. And I mean healthy flirting, not MeToo ass grabbing. My suspicion is Richard may have perceived me as someone who rebuffed him. Placido Flamingo You wrote some characters for Richard.
He was Placido Flamingo, who you created. What was he doing to flirt with you? Well, we were in a dressing room, and he was getting into his costume for [Sweetums, the full body Muppet costume]. And I think when I realized when I was in the room…and here I am, closeted. And nobody can freak out about a gay pass like a closeted man. Join free today! Send a message or interest to start communicating with members. It's your time to shine. We promise to keep your information safe and will never post or share anything on your Facebook page.
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