Once upon a time, there lived a presumptuous and possibly troubled, grown-ass man who made his living by pitching his voice cartoonishly high to the precipice of nasal annoyance.
Oh, he was gifted, all right.
This man did things with a puppet that made him beloved by children — and adults — the world over. People watched this man’s puppet on television, they read the puppet’s stories to their children, and they stood in ridiculously long lines at Christmas to buy the puppet, just so their children could soon drive them batty by tickling the puppet over and over and over again to get it to laugh that laugh.
You know the laugh.
To show his dedication and maybe even his absence of ego, this man stayed stooped out of sight for decades, his arms outstretched, while he finagled the bug-eyed, red and furry everyfriend named Elmo with such grace and finesse that many of us grown-ups were pleasantly shocked when he finally showed himself to be a moon-faced, non-threatening black man.
A black man was Elmo.
That man — Kevin Clash — was cursed with no truer or more fictitiously delicious last name, for when his first male accuser came forth, a trippy clash between fantasy and reality is certainly what ensued.
Suddenly, when Clash started appearing with Elmo in tow, we knew Elmo was the figment of a real someone’s imagination. Question is, could the same imagination that gave flight to all those simple notions of friendship and acceptance and that taught our children to laugh because it invented a patented laugh, could that same imagination also be capable of repeatedly conjuring ways to entice teenaged boys into sexually deviant behavior?
So … Elmo is a chicken hawk, right?
Alas, it seems that Elmo’s maker is a man-child attracted to teenaged boys. One accuser could be a fluke or a gold-digger, but three is proof of poor judgment at the least and at the most it’s proof Clash was lying when he once declared he was proud to be a gay man.
Proud gay men don’t dial gay chat lines and end up with accusations from then-teenaged boys.
Clash took a mysterious leave of absence from his Elmo duties at Sesame Street, despite that his employers — who heard from that first accuser way back in June — claimed that Clash’s business was his own and what happened outside the studio had no bearing on the program.
Exactly one week later Sheldon Stephens, that first accuser, quickly settled with Clash’s lawyers — Andreozzi Associates, the same firm that represented one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims in the Penn State scandal — for $125,000, releasing a statement saying although he’d initially claimed underage sex with Clash, it was untrue. They were consenting adults, the statement said.
I breathed a shallow sigh of relief and thought it must’ve all been a ruse since Stephens settled so quickly for so little.
Before I could say “Tickle me, Elmo,” Stephens recanted, claiming he was forced under duress and in tears to sign. He is looking to give up the cash and is now interviewing lawyers to wriggle him out of that initial agreement.
Stephens is now sticking to his original claim that when he was 16 in 2005 he had sex with a then-45-year-old Clash.
One such indiscretion is usually the signpost to more.
On Nov. 20, Cecil Singleton, 34, came forth claiming he met Clash in 1993 on a gay telephone chat line when he was 15 and Clash was nearly 33 years old.
“We dry humped,” Singleton told the media.
Their fling lasted two weeks but picked up again and then included “groping, masturbation, intense kissing and dry humping,” and later sex once Singleton was grown, he said. That’s a three-year stretch, by my math.
To make sure he’s taken seriously, Singleton is suing Clash for $5 million.
Clash resigned his Elmo-ness from Sesame Street a few hours after Singleton came forward.
On Nov. 26, a 28-year-old “John Doe” — accuser number three — claimed he engaged in “sexual activity” with Clash when he was 16 years old and Clash was 40 after they allegedly met on a gay telephone chat line in 2000.
Any teenager in a gay chat room or — back then — on a gay chat phone line has to lie to be there and if he’s lying to be there he is probably running game and if he is running game he is undoubtedly a hustler accustomed to using sex and promises of sexual favors to get all kinds of crap teenagers love: sneakers, cell phones, cash to pop tags at the mall, a car, meals, maybe a few trips.
I guess discretion and judgment are supposed to separate adults from stupid kids, but in Clash’s case it doesn’t seem to have worked.
And it is so creepy in a way that the charm and skill that made him so brilliant at his job are the same things that seem to be doing him in.
It’s almost as if he couldn’t believe how easy and anonymous it could be to meet his alleged sexual fantasies. But that doesn’t take charm or skill.
That takes a credit card and an erection.
I hope Clash pays up; I hope he squeegees the seediness off his sexuality, taking it out of the realms of the sinister.
I hope his accusers reconcile their sexualities and realize sex isn’t scandalous or a career.
And I hope if Clash goes to prison, he, Jerry Sandusky and all the priests who ever piddled little boys will be forced together in a room to sit in silence and look at their hands.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org