Richard Hunt
Born(1951-08-17)August 17, 1951
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 7, 1992(1992-01-07) (aged 40)
Manhattan, New York City
OccupationPuppeteer
Years active1969–1992
Notable work
The Muppets
Sesame Street
Fraggle Rock
Partner(s)Nelson Bird (?-1985; Bird's death)

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 and characters on Sesame Street include Gladys the Cow, Don Music, and Forgetful Jones.[2][3]

Early life

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]

Career

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 life

Hunt was gay.[6][9] When Rudolf Nureyev, also openly gay, made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, Nureyev bluntly flirted with Hunt.[9] Hunt was in a relationship with Nelson Bird, a painter from Alabama, until his death in 1985.[10][11][12]

Mark Hamill told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel during a chat in November 2003 that he became friends with Hunt during his Muppet Show appearance, and that "[Hunt] became one of the best friends my family has ever had."[13]

Death and legacy

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.[14] The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to his memory.

Following Hunt's death, the roles of Scooter and Janice were reassigned to David Rudman in 2008. The roles of Beaker and Statler, likewise, were reassigned to Steve Whitmire and Jerry Nelson, respectively, with Whitmire performing Statler fulltime later in 2002. As of 2017, Beaker is now performed by Rudman, and Statler by Peter Linz. 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 reassigned to Rudman until the former two were eventually retired, while the role of Gladys the Cow is now performed by Jennifer Barnhart. The role of Don Music has been performed by Ryan Dillon since 2019.

Filmography

Richard Hunt film roles
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, Rockhead #1 Puppeteer/voice
1991 Muppet*Vision 3D Scooter, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice; Theme park attraction
1993 Billy Bunny's Animal Songs Edgar Bear, Raccoon Puppeteer/voice; Posthumous release
Richard Hunt television roles
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 Puppeteer/voice (Also direct 1 episode)
1976–1981 The Muppet Show Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice
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, The Bandit Fraggle, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice (Also direct 1 episode)
1985 Little Muppet Monsters Tug Monster, Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Animated Muppet Shorts Narrator Puppeteer/voice
1990 The Cosby Show Statler, Disagreeable Sandwich, Boppity Puppeteer/voice

References

  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 (7 January 2010). "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.
  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. ^ Richard Hunt: The Gay Man Behind the Muppets, retrieved 2022-01-06
  11. ^ "Richard Hunt at Reeves Teletape Studios – NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project". www.nyclgbtsites.org. Retrieved 2022-01-06.
  12. ^ "The Swashbuckling Babysitter: An Interview with Ernie Capeci | Jessica Max Stein". Retrieved 2022-01-06.
  13. ^ "Mark Hamill Chat Transcript". The Bothan Spy. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Richard Hunt (1951-1992)". Find a Grave.
Preceded byNone Performer of Scooter 1976–1991 Succeeded byDavid Rudman Preceded byEren Ozker Performer of Janice 1977–1991 Succeeded byDavid Rudman Preceded byJim Henson Performer of Captain Vegetable 1983–1984 Succeeded byPeter Linz Preceded byNone Performer of Bobby Benson 1977–1981 Succeeded byDavid Rudman Preceded byNone Performer of Wayne 1976–1981 Succeeded byDavid Rudman Preceded byNone Performer of Gladys the Cow 1973–1992 Succeeded byJennifer Barnhart Preceded byNone Performer of Tug Monster 1985 Succeeded byKevin Clash Preceded byNone Performer of Storyteller Fraggle 1983 Succeeded byTerry Angus Preceded byNone Performer of Two-Headed Monster (left head) 1978 Succeeded byJerry Nelson Preceded byPeter Friedman Performer of Two-Headed Monster (right head) 1978–1991 Succeeded byAdam Hunt Preceded byNone Performer of Sonny Friendly 1986–1992 Succeeded byDavid Rudman Preceded byNone Performer of Sully 1970s–1991 Succeeded byDavid Rudman Preceded byCarl Banas (voice)/Jerry Nelson (puppetry) Performer of Sweetums 1975–1991 Succeeded byJohn Henson Preceded byNone Performer of Beaker 1977–1991 Succeeded bySteve Whitmire Preceded byNone Performer of Statler 1976–1991 Succeeded byJerry Nelson Preceded byMichael Earl Davis Performer of Forgetful Jones 1981–1991 Succeeded byMatt Vogel Preceded byBrian Muehl Elmo 1984–1985 Succeeded byKevin Clash Preceded byNone Don Music 1974 Succeeded byRyan Dillon