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Richard Hunt, Muppet and Sesame Street Puppeteer, Dies of AIDS

January 8, 1992 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Richard Hunt, a performer who gave life to scores of characters on ″Sesame Street,″ ″Fraggle Rock″ and ″The Muppet Show,″ has died at age 40.

Hunt died Tuesday of complications from AIDS, said Susan Berry, a spokeswoman for Jim Henson Productions.

″It’s impossible to imagine a world without Richard,″ said ″Sesame Street″ director Jon Stone. ″He came to us a wild-eyed 18-year-old and grew into a master puppeteer and inspired teacher.″

Hunt was responsible for a cadre of zany characters loved by children worldwide.

To ″Sesame Street″ fans, he was Don Music, Sully the construction worker and cowboy Forgetful Jones. He also brought to life Gladys the Cow - who possessed a Julia Child-type voice - and opera star Placido Flamingo.

In the role of the latter, he often performed with his human counterpart, Placido Domingo, as well as other opera and classical music greats.

On ″The Muppet Show,″ Hunt was the ever-whining and much dumped-on Beaker, throaty jazz aficionado Janice, Scooter, Statler and Sweetums.

″His endless talents, great wit and indomitable spirit will be deeply missed by all of us ... and I will miss a best friend and a big brother,″ said Brian Henson, president of Jim Henson Productions and son of the late Muppets creator.

In the Emmy-award winning ″Fraggle Rock,″ Hunt was the voice, eyes and mouth of the shaggy, lumbering Junior Gorg, one of the giant creatures who made life miserable for the Fraggles. He also was the voice behind tiny Turbo Doozer, The Mean Genie and Gunge.

Hunt had no formal training as a puppeteer when he joined Henson. He began his career writing weather forecasts for a radio station.

He quit after four months and found himself at home watching the Muppets a lot.

″I’d drop anything to watch them,″ Hunt said in a biography provided by Henson Productions. ″I thought they were weird.″

″Then, one day I thought, ’Hey, why don’t I try to get with them?‴

He managed an introduction to Henson, participated in a workshop production and found himself puppeteering in the 1970 television special, ″The Great Santa Claus Switch.″

Two years later he was summoned to ″Sesame Street″ and remained there until his death.

Hunt also worked on Henson feature films including ″The Muppet Movie,″ ″The Muppets Take Manhattan″ and ″The Great Muppet Caper.″

He also appeared, in human form, in the movies ″Trading Places,″ and ″Oxford Blues.″