Northern Calloway

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Northern Calloway
Northern Calloway.jpg
Calloway as David on Sesame Street
Born Northern James Calloway
(1948-09-10)September 10, 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 (September 10, 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 institutionalized.

On January 9, 1990, Calloway died of cardiac arrest at the age of 41.


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 6 productions on Broadway from 1968 to 1980.

In 1971, he joined the cast of Sesame Street as David, a role he would hold for 18 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 marketing director of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center Mary Stagaman with an iron rod, giving her serious head and rib injuries, but she didn't die. He then fled into the suburbs of Nashville. Along the way, 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]

Calloway ultimately returned to Sesame Street and continued to play David for the remainder of the decade without major incident with the condition that he would promise to take his prescribed lithium, intended to treat his bipolar disorder, but it sedated him and he put on weight. Calloway also dabbled in cocaine, thus accelerating his declining reliability and health problems; despite still being a regular cast member, his role on the show steadily diminished[9] and by the late 1980s, Calloway's appearance had significantly bloated.[citation needed]

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 1988 marriage). Eventually, in the spring of 1989, Calloway was dismissed from Sesame Street by Singer.[7]


Calloway was reportedly a patient at Stony Lodge psychiatric facility towards the end of his life, but according to the Mental Health Association of New York City, this type of hospital only treats children and not adults.[citation needed]

According to Michael Davis, 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).[10]

He was survived his mother, a brother, and a sister.[3] A prior marriage to Terri Calloway ended in divorce,[11] but unlike Will Lee, no mention of his death was made on Sesame Street as at the time of the character's leaving, Calloway was still alive. 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
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. ^
  10. ^ Davis, Michael (2008). Street gang: the complete history of Sesame Street. United States: Viking Press. pp. 295–296. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0. 
  11. ^

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