Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Northern Calloway (January 22, 1948 – January 9, 1990)

Northern Calloway played David on Sesame Street from 1971 through 1989 – and he shares a birthday with me! On Sesame Street, David was often seen flirting with Maria, as her unofficial boyfriend, plus he voiced some Muppet characters including Same-Sound Brown. The character of David was also studying to be a lawyer, but when Mr. Hooper died, David took over Hooper's Store. But it was not all sunny days on Sesame Street...

By the late 70's, Calloway slowly began to exhibit signs of bipolar disorder which led to a nervous breakdown on the morning of September 19, 1980 in Nashville, TN. He beat a woman with an iron rod, giving her head and rib injuries. He then fled into the suburbs of Nashville half naked, wearing nothing but a Superman T-shirt. Along the way, he smashed a plate-glass window and storm door at one house and did extensive damage to the the interior of another, destroying the family's collection of fine crystal, smashing a television set and breaking light bulbs with his bare hands. He also stole a backpack from a first grader and smashed a windshield with a rock. He was arrested after hiding out in a couple's garage, screaming "Help! I'm David from Sesame Street and they're trying to kill me!"

Today the tabloids would have a field day with this piece of gossip but back then they were able to keep the incident relatively hushed. Despite the freak-out, Children's Television Workshop showed it's loyalty and allowed Calloway to continue to work on Sesame Street for nine more years. But those years were marked by periods of declining health – Northern got fat – with episodes of erratic behavior. In 1989 Children's Television Workshop finally retired Calloway for "medical reasons", and his character was written out. Calloway died in 1990, two weeks before his 42nd birthday.

In the authorized book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, author Michael Davis claims that Calloway had been a patient at the Stony Lodge psychiatric facility in Ossining, NY at the end of his life, and had died after going into cardiac arrest during a violent altercation with a staff physician. A coroner's report listed Calloway's official cause of death as exhaustive psychosis, now more commonly referred to as excited delirium syndrome (EDS).

I personally will always remember Northern Calloway as David, the cool guy on Sesame Street.

Here's Calloway, in happier times, singing on his Sesame Street solo album, David...Daydreamin' on a Rainy Day...

[DOWNLOAD] David...Daydreamin' On A Rainy Day
01- I Wish
02- David's Circus
03- Jump Up High
04- Wonderful You, Wonderful Me
05- The Hat Song
06- Rubberband Band
07- What D'ya Wanna Do Today?
08- Safari
09- Sounds
10- Space Cadet
11- Daydreamin'
12- You Are My Friend

TRIVIA: The Beastie Boys sampled David's "I Wish" at the end of their song "And Me" on the album Hello Nasty.


Erick said...

Wow! What a tragic end. Thanks for the great post, I really enjoyed it. This is one of the reasons I'm a fan of your blog. You're posts are really interesting. To show my appreciation, I've given you the "Honest Scrap" blog award. You can read about it on my blog here. Thanks again.

Franklin Mint said...

Thanks Erick! I've commented to you in the past about liking your blog, too. I know I've been quiet lately but I'm working on another "Theme Week". Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Since you're such a fan of Wonderland Records, do you have the Wonderland Singers' Spooky Halloween to post for Halloween? (Posting it early would be great too!) Happy Halloween!

coolpoete said...

Dude, thank you thank you, thank you so much for posting this stuff. I was scouring youtube to see if I could find these songs and I couldn't. Thanks for such a great blog on Northern Calloway!

Anonymous said...

Bless thee memory of Northern Calloway. I have owned that record for many years and it's still one of my favorites. I read that book awhile back and it was so sad to read about thee man and his brief life. Whatever thee circumstances were, he passed on too soon. Left us with hopefully fond memories from our childhoods.

TIM said...

I miss you, David.

MIKE said...

I'm suprised the media didn't have a field day with this back then.

Anonymous said...

I know that you are referencing Michael Davis' book, but there has been some scrutiny as to the accuracy of the facts in this case. Other accounts claim that the Nashville incident did indeed happen, however the other events were pure fabrication. I had heard that he had left the show due to stomach cancer, and that he finally succumbed to it in January, shortly after leaving the show. He was indeed at the mental hospital the day he died, but claims that he was a patient there are not likely as that particular hospital only treats children under age 18 according to the New York City Department of Health. Also, his New York Time obituary states that he "he had lost consciousness shortly after his arrival" at Stony Point that day. One account that I have heard that seems credible, but is less sexy to someone trying to sell books is that Northern Calloway was in extreme pain that January morning and after his family members finally convinced him to go a hospital they rushed him to the nearest one, and it unfortunately was a mental hospital. Davis' conclusions seem based more in rumor and speculation than actual fact.

MIKE said...

Also what do you mean by "he fled to the Suburbs?"

Probably all happened in the same Nashville neighborhood and I've not read that elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Mariusz S. Cybulski was led here after watching the video about "what's the name of that song?" on YouTube. What a sad ending to a talented individual.