November 27, 2012

I stupidly figured we”€™d have grown bored with overcompensatory, self-flagellating pedomania by now, but the chest-thumping hysteria that’s engulfed the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile“€”and almost claimed another “€œabuser”€“€”proves me wrong.

I was hesitant to believe the accusations against Clash, and not only because so many of these witch hunts turn out to be hoaxes. Here was an African American male who”€™d followed a whimsical childhood dream that had nothing to do with either rap or professional sports and still somehow made it to the top. In the 2011 festival-circuit doc about his life, Being Elmo, Clash radiated gratitude and decency.

I felt vindicated when Clash’s first accuser recanted, but it soon emerged he”€™d done so after getting a $125,000 payoff.

If you”€™re wondering how a puppeteer happens to have a spare hundred grand lying around, note that Clash’s boss, the president of Sesame Workshop, makes $956,513 a year and the show’s puppeteers also earn “€œsix figure salaries.”€ (Contrary to popular belief, Sesame Workshops gets little of its money from PBS, so your tax dollars were not, for once, at work.)

I don”€™t know if Clash also receives a cut of Sesame Street“€˜s approximately $50 million in annual merchandising revenue, but Elmo is the company’s most popular character, and disturbingly, Christmas sales of that character’s merchandise don”€™t seem to be down.

Clash resigned last week after two decades on the job, but “€œElmo”€ still made it to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, singing:

I”€™m gonna keep my head up high
  Keep on reaching high
  Never gonna quit
  Just keep getting stronger

When fanboys complain of some Hollywood mogul “€œraping their childhood,”€ they usually mean George Lucas tinkering with Star Wars again or Michael Bay helming a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Did even the most twisted and cynical among us ever imagine harmless, childlike Elmo ending up as the butt (as it were) of lame fisting jokes?

And the bits keep on writing themselves. Did you hear the one about Elmo getting a Penn State T-shirt?

My sense of humor is as sick as they come, but does anybody else sometimes miss the days when every other news story didn”€™t sound like the punch line to an unfunny comedy routine? Or did I just imagine those days ever existed, back when I was a kid, hugging my Elmo doll?



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