Richard Hunt (puppeteer)
|Born||August 17, 1951|
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 7, 1992 (aged 40)|
Manhattan, New York City
|Notable work||The Muppets|
|Partner||Nelson Bird (?-1985; Bird's death)|
Richard Hunt (August 17, 1951 – January 7, 1992) was an American puppeteer, best known as a Muppet performer on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and other projects for The Jim Henson Company. His roles on The Muppet Show included Scooter, Statler, Janice, Beaker, and Sweetums and characters on Sesame Street include Gladys the Cow, Don Music, and Forgetful Jones.
Hunt came from a family of performers. As a student in middle school and high school, he put on puppet shows for local children, and was a fan of the then-fledgling Muppets. 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. He cold-called from a payphone and was invited to audition.
After being hired to work on Sesame Street, Hunt mostly performed background characters. One of his first major performances was as Taminella Grinderfall in The Frog Prince, physically performing the character while Jerry Juhl portrayed the voice. Hunt performed Scooter and shared Miss Piggy with Frank Oz until the final quarter of the first season of The Muppet Show.
His characters on Sesame Street included Forgetful Jones, Placido Flamingo, Don Music, Gladys the Cow, and Sully; Hunt also briefly performed Elmo before Kevin Clash was cast in that role. On Fraggle Rock, Hunt's main role was the performing the facial expressions and voice of Junior Gorg; he also performed Gunge (one of the Trash Heap's barkers) as well as several one-shot or minor characters.
Hunt also worked as a director of several home video releases such as Sing-Along, Dance-Along, Do-Along and Elmo's Sing-Along Guessing Game, as well as an episode of Fraggle Rock. Hunt was close friends with fellow puppeteer Jerry Nelson. 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.
Hunt was gay. When Rudolf Nureyev, also openly gay, made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, Nureyev bluntly flirted with Hunt. Hunt was in a relationship with Nelson Bird, a painter from Alabama, until his death in 1985.
Mark Hamill told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel during a chat in November 2003 that he became friends with Hunt during his Muppet Show appearance, and that "[Hunt] became one of the best friends my family has ever had."
Death and legacy
On January 7, 1992, Hunt died of HIV/AIDS related complications at Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan, aged 40. He was cremated, and some of his ashes were sprinkled over the flower beds at the Hunt Family home in Closter, New Jersey. The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to his memory.
Following Hunt's death, the roles of Scooter and Janice were reassigned to David Rudman in 2008. The roles of Beaker and Statler, likewise, were reassigned to Steve Whitmire and Jerry Nelson, respectively, with Whitmire performing Statler fulltime later in 2002. As of 2017, Beaker is now performed by Rudman, and Statler by Peter Linz. John Henson was cast as Sweetums shortly prior to Hunt's death, having initially been trained by Hunt for physical performances in the attraction Muppet*Vision 3D, before Matt Vogel was cast in the role in 2009.
On Sesame Street, Hunt's roles of Sully, Sonny Friendly, and the right head of the Two-Headed Monster were also reassigned to Rudman until the former two were eventually retired, while the role of Gladys the Cow is now performed by Jennifer Barnhart. The role of Don Music has been performed by Ryan Dillon since 2019.
|1977||Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas||Charlie Muskrat, Fred Lizard, George Rabbit||Puppeteer/voice|
|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|
|1984||The Muppets Take Manhattan||Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Additional Muppets||Puppeteer/voice|
|1985||Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird||Gladys the Cow, Board of Birds Member, Sully||Puppeteer/voice|
|1986||The Christmas Toy||Belmont||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, Rockhead #1||Puppeteer/voice|
|1991||Muppet*Vision 3D||Scooter, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets||Puppeteer/voice; Theme park attraction|
|1993||Billy Bunny's Animal Songs||Edgar Bear, Raccoon||Puppeteer/voice; Posthumous release|
|1972–1992||Sesame Street||Placido Flamingo, Don Music, Sully, Gladys the Cow, Two-Headed Monster, Forgetful Jones, Sonny Friendly, Additional Muppets||Puppeteer/voice (Also direct 1 episode)|
|1976–1981||The Muppet Show||Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Additional Muppets||Puppeteer/voice|
|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, The Bandit Fraggle, Additional Muppets||Puppeteer/voice (Also direct 1 episode)|
|1985||Little Muppet Monsters||Tug Monster, Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Animated Muppet Shorts Narrator||Puppeteer/voice|
|1990||The Cosby Show||Statler, Disagreeable Sandwich, Boppity||Puppeteer/voice|
- "Richard Hunt; Puppeteer for 'Sesame Street,' 'Muppet Show'". Los Angeles Times. 11 January 1992. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Finch, Christopher (1981). Of Muppets and Men: The Making of the Muppet Show. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 79–85.
- "Richard Hunt; Puppeteer, 40". The New York Times. 9 January 1992. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Stein, Jessica Max (7 January 2010). "A Chat with Richard Hunt's Mother". Tough Pigs: Muppet Fans Who Grew Up. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Finch, Christopher (1993), Jim Henson: The Works, Random House, p. 58, ISBN 0-679-41203-4
- Stein, Jessica Max (17 March 2011). "The Rainbow Connection: Richard Hunt, Gay Muppeteer". The Bilerico Project. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- "Ask Henson, question 60". Archived from the original on 3 October 2000.
- Soberman, Matthew (26 June 2014). "Great Muppeteer Duos: Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt". Tough Pigs: Muppet Fans Who Grew Up. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Kaiser, Charles (1997). The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America. Grove Press. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-395-65781-2.
- Richard Hunt: The Gay Man Behind the Muppets, retrieved 2022-01-06
- "Richard Hunt at Reeves Teletape Studios – NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project". www.nyclgbtsites.org. Retrieved 2022-01-06.
- "The Swashbuckling Babysitter: An Interview with Ernie Capeci | Jessica Max Stein". Retrieved 2022-01-06.
- "Mark Hamill Chat Transcript". The Bothan Spy. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- "Richard Hunt (1951-1992)". Find a Grave.