Three years after divorcing his college sweetheart, Kevin Clash—who until recently was known as the voice of Sesame Street’s Elmo—described that painful period in his life.
“Often it is harder to find the courage to face a personal difficulty than it is to understand and accept a large-scale tragedy,” the Emmy-winning puppeteer wrote in his 2006 memoir, My Life as a Red Furry Animal. “We love each other deeply, but after 17 years, it was not enough to sustain our marriage.”
What Clash neglected to mention was the main reason his marriage didn’t last. But following breathtaking accusations last month that he engaged in sex with male minors, Clash decided to publicly admit that he is gay. A friend of the family says Clash struggled with his sexuality for years until he and his wife, Alice Eugenia Loving, finally decided they were better off as friends. No one in his inner circle believes there’s any truth to the allegations, the friend added.
Clash’s privacy about his sexual orientation ended on Nov. 12, when the gossip website TMZ broke the news that a college student from Pennsylvania was claiming that he had a sexual relationship with Clash, 52, that began when he was 16.
“I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter,” Clash said in a statement. On the same day, Clash, who has a 20-year-old-daughter, also admitted he had been involved with the student, but said the relationship began after he was an adult.
The next day, the student retracted his accusation, but before Clash could be redeemed it all came crashing down: Two other men came forward and sued Clash in federal court for having sex with them when they were teenagers.
As the accusers faced a barrage of criticism, scrutiny, and anti-gay attacks online, Clash resigned from the job he held and cherished for 28 years and had wanted since he was a little boy. The story may not be over, either. Jeff Herman, who represents the two men suing Clash, told The Daily Beast he is vetting other men who have reached out to him with the same claims.
Clash’s attorney, Michael Berger, declined to address the accusations specifically but told The Daily Beast that all of the allegations against Clash “are without merit and we’re going to defend them vigorously and defend Kevin Clash’s reputation vigorously.” Berger also declined to discuss how Clash is doing in the wake of the scandal.
‘I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.’
Clash’s publicist, Risa B. Heller, declined to comment for this article.
As Clash prepares for the legal battle of his life, his three accusers are being publicly censured for essentially taking down Elmo. Are they gold-digging liars, as they have been depicted in the press, or are they young men coming to terms with their own demons and summoning courage in the face of certain disparagement?
The Daily Beast interviewed two of the three accusers at length, Sheldon Stevens and Cecil Singleton. (The third accuser has concealed his identity, going by the initials D.O.) Click above for their stories.