Saturday, June 14, 2008
What happened to David?
David appeared on Sesame Street from 1971 until 1989, as the second adult African-American male resident, after Gordon. A hip, upbeat individual, David was fond of eccentric hats and singing. He initially worked part-time at Hooper's Store while studying law. For several years, it was implied that David and Maria had a romantic relationship. However, later seasons would find Maria falling in love with and marrying Luis.
Following Mr. Hooper's death in 1983, David inherited the store and operated it with help from Petey and later Gina. David's family includes his sassy grandmother Harriet, who visited periodically. When Northern Calloway left the show in 1989, it was explained that David had moved away from Sesame Street to be with his grandmother, and ownership of the store was turned over to Mr. Handford.
Northern J. Calloway
Northern J. Calloway (January 22, 1948 – January 9, 1990) was an American actor who played David on Sesame Street from 1971 through 1989, and also voiced Muppet characters including Same Sound Brown.
His death was possibly the most tragic one of the Sesame Street cast. Jive talking hipster David was portrayed as Sesame Street's number one cool cat from 1971 until just before his death in 1989. Throughout his life the immensely talented Calloway would be subject to whispers involving the subject of legal issues, illness, drug addiction and madness.
Northern Calloway had a life long love for the theatre. A New Yorker, Calloway graduated from the School of Performing Arts and immediately found work with the Lincoln Center Repertory Company. Soon afterward Calloway had stints at Stratford Ontario's Shakespeare Festival and quickly found himself on the Broadway and off-Broadway stages. Even once he got his regular gig on Sesame Street, the theatre proved to be an essential part of Calloway's life. He appeared on the New York stage throughout the rest of his life in various productions.
Northern Calloway was hired in 1971 as the first "new" human character since Sesame Street's debut. His character, David, was created to be a positive older brother type character that might appeal to African American kids.
David was hip, talked in jive, and was more in tune to street life than the older black characters, Gordon and Susan.
However, what made David unique and a positive role model to urban children was that unlike the older boys that got involved in drugs and gangs in their neighbourhoods, David was not only studying in university to become a lawyer but he also held a part time job at Mr. Hooper's store...and STILL managed to be the coolest cat on Sesame Street.
Northern Calloway also voiced the jive talkin' rhyming Muppet "Same Sound Brown" which was sort of a Roosevelt Franklin knock off after the character was retired when Matt Robinson left the series. Eventually David was even dating the prettiest girl on the street, Spanish character Maria which was the first inter-racial relationship on children's television.
However, when Maria eventually married Luis in 1988, just prior to Calloway quietly leaving Sesame Street, viewers kind of wondered what was up.
What was up was that Northern Calloway was diagnosed earlier that year with stomach cancer. While he battled the disease for a little while on television, he was soon unable to continue work on Sesame Street and opted to be quietly written out of the series. However, Northern Calloway's battle with cancer ended in January of 1990, only months after he left Sesame Street.
Unfortunately, Calloway's family rushed him to the closest hospital that happened to be a psychiatric hospital, which created rumors that Calloway had died in an asylum. Tragically these rumors were believable due to an unexplained episode in Calloway's life ten years earlier.
In 1980 Nashville Tennessee police arrested a half naked Northern Calloway, who was wearing nothing but a Superman T-shirt, during a wild rampage in a quiet residential neighbourhood. Calloway had been in Nashville performing a Sesame Street themed stage production while staying at the home of the theatre's marketing director. Apparently, sometime during the evening of September 20th, Calloway had beat his host with a metal iron, causing her to suffer a head injury and broken ribs, before tearing off half naked to the streets. In his rampage Calloway managed to break a series of windows, as well as take the iron to a car. Police found him by following a trail of the actors blood, caused by cuts suffered by shattered glass, and Calloway was reported to the police as muttering strange phrases and trying to eat grass. As police and ambulance drivers attempted to strap the enraged Calloway to a stretcher he was reported to have screamed "I'm David of Sesame Street and they're trying to kill me." When finally being interviewed days later about his rampage, Calloway was quoted by the Nashville Tennessean as saying, "It will be a sad, sad thing for the children to hear about this. I can't remember a thing. I've never had a spell like this before." Calloway was transferred to Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute for further study. However, the strange story of Northern Calloway's insanity ends there. The woman whom he attacked lived and soon Calloway was not only out of the hospital but back on Sesame Street without the CTW batting an eyelash, and would play the role for another nine years without incident.
Obviously Northern Calloway's rampage was an isolated incident of temporary insanity and the story was quickly swept under the rug, allowing Northern Calloway to keep both his reputation and his career. However, those who remembered Calloway's night of madness were quick to jump over the actors legacy when they found out that during his death he was treated at a psychiatric hospital.
In reality Northern Calloway lost consciousness shortly after arriving at the psychiatric hospital and was immediately transported to the nearby Phelps Memorial Hospital where he died at age 41. Thankfully the stories of Northern Calloway's madness were only told in whispers and rumors, thus not tainting his memory. Instead he will always be remembered as the funky and friendly singing hipster.
However, it has been asked many times why Sesame Street never dealt with Northern Calloway's death in the same fashion as they did with Will Lee. The CTW felt that two major character deaths in a short span of years may be pushing the envelope a bit too much, thus it was explained that David had gone to live on his grandmother's farm to help her, but still owned Hooper's Store (which Mr. Hooper had willed to him) and managed it from afar while Gina ran the store.
The CTW would honour the memory of Northern Calloway in their own way. When Elmo began his solo adventures he was often accompanied by a little orange Muppet-like stuffed toy which he had named David. Elmo's favourite toy would be a tribute to Northern Calloway so that the name David would always be connected to Sesame Street.
The lives and the stories about these three Sesame Street actors only prove, once again, that there are stories to be told from all the actors that forge the path of our pop culture journey. Often, such as in the case of shows like Sesame Street, they are taken for granted for just "being there" instead of the stories of their lives and their careers being told. Hopefully these three talented and unique men will never be forgotten by the children that loved them, and the public that will never forget them. May their legacies live on, just as the Muppets that they played with still do.
Northern Calloway, Actor, 41, on Stage And 'Sesame Street'
NY Times January 13, 1990
LEAD: Northern J. Calloway, who played David, the proprietor of Mr. Hooper's store, on public television's ''Sesame Street,'' died Tuesday. He was 41 years old and lived in Ossining, N.Y.
Northern J. Calloway, who played David, the proprietor of Mr. Hooper's store, on public television's ''Sesame Street,'' died Tuesday. He was 41 years old and lived in Ossining, N.Y.
The Westchester County Medical Examiner's office said Mr. Calloway had been taken to a psychiatric facility, Stony Lodge Hospital, in Ossining, where he had lost consciousness shortly after his arrival. He was then taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital in North Tarrytown, N.Y., where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death has not been determined.
Mr. Calloway joined the cast of ''Sesame Street'' during its fourth season in 1972 and left it last year. He began his career in 1966 with the Lincoln Center Repertory Company just two days after graduating from the High School of Performing Arts in New York.
During the next season he appeared at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, in ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'' and ''The Three Musketeers.'' On Broadway he was in ''The Me Nobody Knows'' and the Off-Broadway rock musical ''Salvation.''
Mr. Calloway appeared as the Leading Player in the Broadway hit ''Pippin,'' a role he also played in London and at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J.
He was also seen on Broadway in 1980 as the orderly in ''Whose Life Is It Anyway?'' with Mary Tyler Moore, and appeared as Louis Armstrong in the New Federal Theater's production of ''Louis'' in 1981.
Surviving are his mother, Bunnetta Calloway, and a brother, Gregory, both of Manhattan, and his sister, Connie Jackson, of Baltimore.