RICHARD HUNT was an American puppeteer who died on this date (b: 1951); Hunt is best known as a Muppet performer on Sesame StreetThe Muppet ShowFraggle Rock, and other projects for The Jim Henson Company. His roles on The Muppet Show included Scooter, Statler, Janice, Beaker and  Sweetums.

Hunt was born in The Bronx, New York City, The family eventually moved to Closter, New Jersey some years later.

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 out gay. When Rudolf Nureyev made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, Nureyev bluntly flirted with Hunt. Star Wars’ 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.”

In  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.