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Richard Hunt (August 17, 1951 – January 7, 1992) was an American puppeteer, best known as a Muppet performer on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and other projects for The Jim Henson Company.[1] His roles on The Muppet Show included Scooter, Statler, Janice, Beaker and Sweetums.[2][3]

Richard Hunt
Born(1951-08-17)August 17, 1951
DiedJanuary 7, 1992(1992-01-07) (aged 40)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of deathComplications of HIV/AIDS
OccupationPuppeteer
Years active1970–1992
Notable work
The Muppets
Sesame Street

Early lifeEdit

Hunt was born in The Bronx, New York City,[3] The family eventually moved to Closter, New Jersey some years later.[4]

Hunt came from a family of performers.[2] As a student in middle school and high school, he put on puppet shows for local children, and was a fan of the then-fledgling Muppets.[2] After high school graduation, and a four-month stint of doing weather reports at a local radio station, Hunt pursued a meeting with Jim Henson.[5] He cold-called from a payphone and was invited to audition.[4][6]

CareerEdit

After being hired to work on Sesame Street, Hunt mostly performed background characters.[6] One of his first major performances was as Taminella Grinderfall in The Frog Prince, physically performing the character while Jerry Juhl portrayed the voice.[7] Hunt performed Scooter and shared Miss Piggy with Frank Oz until the final quarter of the first season of The Muppet Show.

His characters on Sesame Street included Forgetful Jones, Placido Flamingo, Don Music, Gladys the Cow, and Sully; Hunt also briefly performed Elmo before Kevin Clash was cast in that role.[6] On Fraggle Rock, Hunt's main role was the performing the facial expressions and voice of Junior Gorg; he also performed Gunge (one of the Trash Heap's barkers) as well as several one-shot or minor characters.

Hunt also worked as a director of several home video releases such as Sing-Along, Dance-Along, Do-Along and Elmo's Sing-Along Guessing Game, as well as an episode of Fraggle Rock.[6] Hunt was close friends with fellow puppeteer Jerry Nelson.[8] Several of their characters were paired, such as Nelson's Floyd Pepper with Hunt's Janice; the Two-Headed Monster; and Nelson's Pa Gorg to Hunt's Junior Gorg on Fraggle Rock.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Hunt was openly gay.[6][9] When Rudolf Nureyev, also openly gay, made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, Nureyev bluntly flirted with Hunt.[9] Mark Hamill was close friends with Hunt, as he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in November 2003.[10]

Death and legacyEdit

On January 7, 1992, Hunt died of HIV/AIDS related complications at Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan, aged 40.[1][3] He was cremated, and some of his ashes were sprinkled over the flower beds at the Hunt Family home in Closter, New Jersey.[11] The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to his memory.

Following Hunt's death, the roles of Scooter and Janice were recast to David Rudman. The roles of Beaker and Statler, likewise, were recast to Steve Whitmire and Jerry Nelson, respectively, with Whitmire later cast as Statler as well. John Henson was cast as Sweetums shortly prior to Hunt's death, having initially been trained by Hunt for physical performances in the attraction Muppet*Vision 3D, before Matt Vogel was cast in the role in 2009.

On Sesame Street, Hunt's roles of Sully, Sonny Friendly, and the right head of the Two-Headed Monster were also recast to Rudman until the former two were eventually retired, while the role of Gladys the Cow was recast to Jennifer Barnhart.

FilmographyEdit

Film
Year Film Role Notes
1977 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas Charlie Muskrat, Fred Lizard, George Rabbit Puppeteer/voice
1979 The Muppet Movie Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice
1981 The Great Muppet Caper Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets Puppeeter/voice
1983 Trading Places Wilson
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice
1984 Oxford Blues Larry
1985 Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird Gladys the Cow, Turkey, Elmo Puppeteer/voice
1986 The Christmas Toy Belmont Puppeteer/voice
1987 A Muppet Family Christmas Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Gladys the Cow, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice
1990 The Muppets at Walt Disney World Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Statler, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice
1990 The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson Scooter, Janice Puppeteer/voice
1990 Basil Hears a Noise Two-Headed Monster, Dip Cat, Kathleen the Cow Puppeteer/voice
1991 Muppet*Vision 3D Scooter, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice; Theme park attraction
Television
Years Title Role Notes
1972–1992 Sesame Street Placido Flamingo, Don Music, Sully, Gladys the Cow, Two-Headed Monster, Forgetful Jones, Sonny Friendly, Additional Muppets
1976–1981 The Muppet Show Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets
1983–1987 Fraggle Rock Gunge, Junior Gorg, Beige Fraggle, Firechief Fraggle, Flex Doozer, Turbo Doozer, Gillis Fraggle, Lambo, Herkimer Fraggle, Mean Genie, Mudwell the Mudbunny, The Odd Old Man, The Wizard, Additional Muppets
1985 Little Muppet Monsters Tug Monster, Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Animated Muppet Shorts Narrator
1990 The Cosby Show Statler, Disagreeable Sandwich, Boppity

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Richard Hunt; Puppeteer for 'Sesame Street,' 'Muppet Show'". Los Angeles Times. 11 January 1992. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Finch, Christopher (1981). Of Muppets and Men: The Making of the Muppet Show. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 79–85.
  3. ^ a b c "Richard Hunt; Puppeteer, 40". The New York Times. 9 January 1992. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b Stein, Jessica Max. "A Chat with Richard Hunt's Mother". Tough Pigs: Muppet Fans Who Grew Up. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  5. ^ Finch, Christopher (1993), Jim Henson: The Works, Random House, p. 58, ISBN 0-679-41203-4
  6. ^ a b c d e Stein, Jessica Max (17 March 2011). "The Rainbow Connection: Richard Hunt, Gay Muppeteer". The Bilerico Project. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  7. ^ "Ask Henson, question 60". Archived from the original on 3 October 2000. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ a b Soberman, Matthew (26 June 2014). "Great Muppeteer Duos: Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt". Tough Pigs: Muppet Fans Who Grew Up. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  9. ^ a b Kaiser, Charles (1997). The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America. Grove Press. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-395-65781-2.
  10. ^ "Mark Hamill Chat Transcript". The Bothan Spy. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  11. ^ "Richard Hunt (1951-1992)". Find a Grave.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
None
Performer of Scooter
1976–1991
Succeeded by
Adam Hunt
Preceded by
Eren Ozker
Performer of Janice
1977–1991
Succeeded by
Brian Henson
Preceded by
Jim Henson
Performer of Captain Vegetable
1983–1984
Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
None
Performer of Bobby Benson
1977–1981
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
None
Performer of Wayne
1976–1981
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
None
Performer of Gladys the Cow
1973–1992
Succeeded by
Jennifer Barnhart
Preceded by
None
Performer of Storyteller Fraggle
1983
Succeeded by
Terry Angus
Preceded by
None
Performer of Two-Headed Monster (left head)
1978
Succeeded by
Jerry Nelson
Preceded by
Peter Friedman
Performer of Two-Headed Monster (right head)
1978–1991
Succeeded by
Adam Hunt
Preceded by
None
Performer of Sonny Friendly
1986–1992
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
None
Performer of Sully
1970s–1991
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
Carl Banas (voice)/Jerry Nelson (puppetry)
Performer of Sweetums
1975–1991
Succeeded by
John Henson
Preceded by
None
Performer of Beaker
1977–1991
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire
Preceded by
None
Performer of Statler
1976–1991
Succeeded by
Jerry Nelson
Preceded by
Michael Earl Davis
Performer of Forgetful Jones
1981–1992
Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
Brian Muehl
Elmo
1984–1985
Succeeded by
Kevin Clash