Northern Calloway

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Northern Calloway
Northern Calloway.jpg
Calloway as David on Sesame Street
Born Northern James Calloway
(1948-01-22)January 22, 1948
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 9, 1990(1990-01-09) (aged 41)
Ossining, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Cardiac arrest
Resting place Ferncliff Cemetery
Other names Northern James Calloway
Northern Caloway
Northern James Caloway
Occupation Actor, voice artist, comedian
Years active 1966–1989

Northern James Calloway (January 22, 1948 – January 9, 1990)[1] was an American actor, voice artist, singer and comedian, best known for playing David on Sesame Street from 1971 through 1989.

On Sesame Street, his character David was studying to be a lawyer, but when Mr. Hooper died, David took over Hooper's Store. He was a favorite among the many viewers of Sesame Street during his time on the show, but his later career was increasingly hampered by a serious decline in his mental health, until he had to be dismissed from the show and later institutionalised.

On January 9, 1990, Calloway died of cardiac arrest at the age of 41, two weeks shy of his next birthday.


Calloway graduated from New York City's High School of Performing Arts in 1966, and he joined the Lincoln Center Repertory Company the same year. Stage roles he performed include:[2][3]

Calloway performed in six productions on Broadway from 1968 to 1980.

In 1971, he joined the cast of Sesame Street as David, a role he would hold for eighteen years.[4]

Legal troubles, health problems and final years on Sesame Street[edit]

On the morning of September 19, 1980, Calloway was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee. He beat Mary Stagaman, marketing director of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, with an iron rod, causing serious head and rib injuries. He then fled into the suburbs of Nashville, where he smashed a plate-glass window and storm door at one house and did extensive damage to the interior of another--destroying the family's collection of fine crystal, smashing a television set and breaking light bulbs with his bare hands.

He also stole a backpack from a first grader, and smashed a windshield with a rock before fleeing the scene, where witnesses reported him wearing only a Superman T-shirt. He was arrested after hiding out in a couple's garage, screaming, "Help! I'm David from Sesame Street and they're trying to kill me!"[5][6][7][8]

In his authorized history Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, author Michael Davis writes that Calloway's final years on the show were marked by periods of deteriorating health and ability punctuated by episodes of erratic behavior; during these years, he cites that Calloway reportedly bit music coordinator Danny Epstein during an on set fight, and he also states Calloway once appeared unannounced at Alison Bartlett's high school and proposed to her.

By 1987, with executive producer Dulcy Singer becoming increasingly doubtful about Calloway's future with the show, the writers gradually and quietly ended the relationship that the character of David had with Maria Figueroa (Sonia Manzano), which had been in the storyline for several years (Maria soon began a romance with Luis Rodriguez (Emilio Delgado), which resulted in their marriage in May 1988). Eventually, in the spring of 1989, Calloway was dismissed from Sesame Street by Singer, following an incident in which he had bitten music coordinator Danny Epstein.[7]


On January 9, 1990, Calloway died after going into cardiac arrest, during a violent altercation with a staff physician. He was then taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital in North Tarrytown, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 41. A coroner's report listed Calloway's official cause of death as exhaustive psychosis, now more commonly called excited delirium syndrome (EDS).[9]

He was survived by his mother, a brother, and a sister.[3] A prior marriage to Terri Calloway ended in divorce.[10] Unlike Will Lee, no mention of his death was made on Sesame Street, as at the time of the character's departure, Calloway was still alive. Nor did the show attempt to incorporate Calloway's mental health issues into his character, David. An early season 21 episode, aired in November 1989, explained that David had moved to Florida to care for his grandmother and look after her farm.

Calloway was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery.


Year Title Role Notes
1972 Together for Days Calvin


Year Title Role Notes
1971–1989 Sesame Street David


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Broadway League. "Northern J. Calloway - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Northern Calloway, Actor, 41, on Stage And 'Sesame Street'", The New York Times, January 13, 1990 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Hilman, Randy (September 20, 1980). "Sesame Street Actor Charged In Neighborhood Rampage Here". The Nashville Tennessean. archived. Nashville, TN. 
  6. ^ Hilman, Randy (September 21, 1980). The Nashville Tennessean. archived. Nashville, TN.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ a b Davis, Michael (2008). Street gang: the complete history of Sesame Street. United States: Viking Press. pp. 277–279. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0. 
  8. ^ "The Afro American - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Davis, Michael (2008). Street gang: the complete history of Sesame Street. United States: Viking Press. pp. 295–296. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0. 
  10. ^

External links[edit]