Richard Hunt (puppeteer)

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Richard Hunt
Born (1951-08-17)August 17, 1951
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died January 7, 1992(1992-01-07) (aged 40)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Complications of HIV/AIDS
Occupation Puppeteer
Years active 1969–1992
Notable work The Muppets
Sesame Street

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

Early life[edit]

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

He came from a family of performers.[2] While in middle school and high school, he put on puppet shows for local children, and he 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[edit]

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, puppeteering the character while Jerry Juhl performed 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.[citation needed] Hunt performed many characters on Sesame Street, including Forgetful Jones, Placido Flamingo, Don Music, Gladys the Cow, Sully, and an early version of Elmo.[6] On Fraggle Rock, Hunt's main role was the performing the facial expressions and voice of Junior Gorg, but he also performed Gunge (one of the Trash Heap's barkers), and several one-shot or minor characters.[citation needed] He also directed several home videos 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[edit]

Hunt was gay.[6][9] When Rudolf Nureyev, who was 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 2003.[10]

Death[edit]

On 7 January 1992, Hunt died of HIV/AIDS-related complications at Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan; he was 40.[1][3] Episode 3136 of Sesame Street, as well as The Muppet Christmas Carol were dedicated to his memory.

Following Hunt's death, his primary Muppet characters, Scooter and Janice, were puppeteered by David Rudman. His secondary roles of Beaker and Statler were recast to Steve Whitmire and Jerry Nelson, respectively, with Whitmire later taking over Statler as well. John Henson took on the role of Sweetums for a short time, after being trained by Hunt to do so and performing him for the onscreen footage of Muppet*Vision 3D before it was permanently recast to Matt Vogel. On Sesame Street, Hunt's roles of Sully, Sonny Friendly, and the right head of the Two-Headed Monster, were also taken over by Rudman until they were eventually retired from the show (except the Two-Headed Monster), while Gladys the Cow was taken over by Jennifer Barnhart.

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Film Role Notes
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
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, Gladys the Cow, 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

References[edit]

  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. 
  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. 

External links[edit]

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
Peter Friedman
Performer of Two-Headed Monster
1978–1992
Succeeded by
Jerry Nelson/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
Performer of Sweetums
1976–1991
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