Friday, February 13, 2009

The Tragedy of Sesame Street

Don't be fooled. Life wasn't all sunny days on Sesame Street. If you need any convincing, look no further than the case of David. This is not to be confused with the tragic story of Northern Calloway, the actor who played David. Calloway was a brilliant performer whose life was cut short by a sudden death in 1990. His family have not made a big scene over the circumstances of his illness or death, and rumours of legal, physical and mental health issues have circulated for years.
However, the tragedy of David is even more heart-wrenching. I realize that there's a lot of the story that can be explained by a longtime battle with cancer, the details of which we'll never fully appreciate. But try to look at the story just as it appeared to the kids watching Sesame Street:

In 1971, David first appears on Sesame Street, one of the first new human characters since the show began. Without a doubt, David was the coolest one on Sesame Street. In fact, because it was the 70s, David could be hip. He was funny, he had awesome clothes, and everyone wanted to be like him.

That's part of the reason he was written into the show. The creators wanted to have an African-American character who could be a role-model, older-brother type for kids who watched Sesame Street. Gordon was too old, and just not with it enough to be that character, so David came on board. He was meant to be a positive role model, to show black kids that they could have a future that involved more than just drugs and gangs and violence.

In his second season on the Street, David even started to go to law school, working part-time in Hooper's Store. In 1974, Maria moved to Sesame Street, and as the 'young couple' on the Street, there was definite chemistry between her and David. Supposedly, there was never a serious relationship. They were just 'good friends'. But the amount of time they spent together (quite closely) seems to suggest otherwise. Things were looking good for David, and the future was golden.

And then, the unthinkable happened. In November 1983, a very special episode of Sesame Street ran, breaking the news that Mr. Hooper had died. What's more, he had left Hooper's Store to David in his will. Suddenly, there wasn't as much talk about becoming a lawyer. While Hooper's Store was probably a pretty good business to run, it was kind of like George Bailey taking over the Savings and Loan. Suddenly, all his dreams got put on the back burner, because someone had to stay around to make Big Bird's birdseed milkshakes.

And as time went on, David and Maria weren't so close a couple anymore. Suddenly, she and Luis started to make goo-goo eyes at each other, and the next thing you know, they're getting married (on TV, as tacky as it is). I haven't got access to enough old episodes to track it specifically, but you'll also notice that during this same period, David started putting on weight. Not just getting a bit soft around the middle–he got FAT.

That's right, buddy. Smile and wave manically, to cover up the fact that your heart is breaking. The very last episode David was in was when Luis and Maria's daughter was born, and he realized that he was never going to get her back. It's kind of sad, when you think about it. And then, without any real goodbyes, David was gone – moved away to live with his grandmother, or so they said. And looking back at it, I can't think of anything to say except 'How sad.'


  1. I loved David, particularly after watching the Sesame Street: Old School DVDs. So sad that he disappeared off the show.

  2. Wasn't he awesome? I don't know that I ever really appreciated him either, until watching him in Old School. Our daughter is a bit of a fan, too.

  3. whatever happend to the funny song that he and "Maria" sang called "Just Ask" about asking for help if you need it?

  4. Actually both N. Calloway and Sonia Mannzano (aka) Maria came on in 1971. 10 years ago tha channel Noggin now something else reran the fist 20 years of SS and the seaon premire episode shoed both on.