By now everyone has heard about the “Elmo Scandal”. It has been plastered all over every newspaper and the internet. And from the second that (Elmo puppeteer) Kevin Clash was accused of having sex with teenaged boys, folks started taking sides. I was actually surprised at some people’s reactions. Many of the comments and blogs I read attacked (first accuser) Sheldon Stephens (below right) from all angles. Lots of discrediting information was released about him and many pegged him as a scammer trying to get money out of a celebrity.
Then we learned that Sheldon settled and received $125,000 with a gag order.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that popped into my head was the first Michael Jackson accusation. I remembered Michael basically using Oprah for a public relations moment. The kid and his family were paid off and everything was sort of swept under rug. No one really questioned what happened. No one was paying attention to the payoff and who paid it. I believe that Sony paid the family in exchange for getting their hands on the Beatles rights that Michael owned. This would explain how all these unreleased Beatles songs charted and won awards in the late 90’s. But by the time the second accusation came around, Sony had got what they wanted and left Michael out to dry. Remember Michael standing with Louis Farrakhan at a press conference complaining that Sony was not promoting his “Invincible” album? This left him no option but to go to court for the second case. But by this time, public opinion had been made. At that moment, he couldn’t get a hit in traffic.
Back to Sheldon, a couple of days after he recanted his accusing statement and signed the settlement, he announced that he wanted to recant his recant, saying that he signed the agreement under duress. Of course this went over like a lead balloon. So, like the accused in the Jackson case, the second accuser here Cecil Singleton’s (below left) accusation forced Kevin Clash to out.
I’m not usually awake for “The View”, but I happened to catch Whoopi Goldberg talking about Clash’s resignation. The way she spoke about Clash was to the effect that all he needed to do was take the time to prove his innocence and he will come back. And then I came across a posting of a Facebook friend who is an older gay man who was defending Kevin Clash. I immediately realized that there was this weird double standard amongst older gay men who sided with Clash. They seemed to believe that Kevin Clash is the victim here, probably because he came out so late in life. They felt that this was some scheme to take him down. And one post I read said that this was just another attempt to paint the black man as a monster.
I have to say...I was appalled! Coming from a troubled childhood myself, I know what it is to be taken advantaged of sexually. I was molested by my uncle between the ages of 7 to 10. Because I never really told anyone, it would lead to a breakdown in my teen years. Coming to terms with my sexuality and accepting myself shaped the person I am today. So, the idea that these two men who have brought their experiences to the public are being crucified really upset me.
I reached out to Cecil Singleton by sending him a Facebook friends request and offered some words of encouragement. I can’t imagine what it must be like to read comments of folks wishing you get AIDS and die. All because of the love and affection they have for a fictional children’s character. As if the person with his hand up the puppet does not have a real life.
The other thing I remembered was that I first heard that Kevin Clash was gay back in 1999 when I was recording my first album in Baltimore. It was the gossip of the moment that he was in therapy for his “gay episodes”. Apparently his wife was making him go get help to stop. We joked that when you have money, you have “episodes”. When you are an Average Joe, “you are just cruisin’ and sucking dick.”
After talking with Cecil Singleton, I received a phone call from his lawyer asking what I knew about Mr. Clash back then. I could only say that I heard that he was in therapy and was picking up guys. I think the lawyer was hoping I would say that he was picking up young boys, but I did not and could not because that was not what I heard.
To my surprise after a few messages back and forth, Cecil asked if he could call me. I guess he felt comfortable enough to actually speak to me. Immediately after we started talking we realized that we probably had seen each other when I was a DJ at Escuelita. We sort of bonded over being so young when coming out. I was surprised at how open he was about talking about his experiences with Kevin Clash.
“We met on a chat line and he invited me out to dinner” explained Cecil.
The interesting thing Cecil told me was that Kevin went to great lengths to keep his identity from him. It wasn’t until Cecil had been involved with him for several years before he found out his last name. A friend suggested Cecil google his name and that’s how he found out that he had been involved since the age of 15 with the voice of Elmo. He confronted Kevin and asked “Did you think that I was going to try to take advantage of you? Is that why you didn’t tell me who you are?” He had told Cecil that he worked for the School Board. "I was offended by your dishonesty!" Cecil told Kevin.
By the time Cecil had confronted Kevin, he was 19 and I guess he was too old for Mr.Clash. So, their relationship faded.
We talked about Sheldon Stephen’s recant of his recant. Cecil said that he felt that Sheldon made a mistake for settling. From talking with Cecil, I got the impression that he was more concerned about what Clash has been doing for years. “How many others has he used his position to manipulate into relationships and sex?” Because at the end of the day, this man has money and power. And from the situation with Sheldon Stephens, it appears Clash was going to use that money and power to shut him up. But there are reports that Sheldon was crying when he signed the agreement.
The other thing that seemed apparent in our conversation was that Cecil is a very articulate young man. “I’m very aware that I am androgynous. I love it.” he told me. He noticed that many of the comments had to do with how he looks. I made me think about when I worked at the Tampa Tribune. I was very androgynous in my appearance. Come to think of it....I just found the City Editor who hired me and I guess he was not thrilled to read my profile and blogs. Being an out HIV+ blogger, DJ and female impersonator was just a little too much for him. I can only imagine what a hateful internet would offer a pretty boy who has accused Elmo of having sex with teenaged boys.
We talked about if he felt like a victim in this situation. “At the time when I met Kevin, I had been in and out foster homes. I was depressed and felt that I didn’t have anyone.” explained Cecil. That sounds like a total recipe for a predator to pounce. Sheldon Stephens was not from a rosy background either. Do you recognize a trend here?
During the hour long time on the phone, I told Cecil that I was a blogger and that I wanted to write about him. I felt it was important that he be heard in the gay media. He has done several interviews for NY publications and TMZ, but for some reason no one from the gay mags has reached out, at least to my knowledge.
I just want everyone to take a moment and think about the fact that most child molesters and predators put themselves in positions where they have access to kids and teenagers. Classic examples are Michael Jackson and Jerry Sandusky. And now the spotlight has been pointed at Kevin Clash. I say we should listen to these two young men before anyone jumps to any conclusions. The proof is going to be in the pudding over the next few months as more information and, quite likely, more people come forward.