Tinky Winky says bye-bye to Jerry Falwell
The former TV star (who played Tinky Winky) recalls the trauma of being called gay by the conservative preacher.
[Dated May 16, 2007] Eight years ago the Rev. Jerry Falwell warned parents that BBC children’s television star Tinky Winky was a hidden symbol of homosexuality. Falwell died Tuesday at 73, and the world wanted to talk to Tinky Winky.
“They’re calling again, again, again,” he said by phone from his home in Islington, in London. A spokesman said the former “Teletubbies” costar got more than 100 calls from reporters in the hour following news of Falwell’s death.
UPDATE Jan 23, 2018
Actor Who Played Tinky Winky On ‘Teletubbies’ Dead At 52
Simon Shelton was a ballet dancer and choreographer before he was cast on the show.
The man who played Tinky Winky on the iconic children’s TV show “Teletubbies” has died at the age of 52.
Actor Simon Shelton, also known as Simon Barnes, died last Wednesday, according to the BBC.
Shelton was a ballet dancer and choreographer before he was cast on “Teletubbies” as purple, purse-carrying Tinky Winky in 1998. He was the second actor cast in the role; the original actor, Dave Thompson, was canned in 1997.
“I didn’t know it would be as big as it was, but I did know as soon as I started working on it, that it had something special,” he told the BBC in 2008. “It was like being the Beatles, it was wonderful!”
But like the Beatles, the Teletubbies were occasionally controversial.
In 1999, conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell accused Tinky Winky of “modeling the gay lifestyle,” because the character carried a purse, was purple and had a triangle-shaped antenna.
Although Thompson admitted to playing the character as gay (a claim that got him cut from the show), Shelton dismissed the question as irrelevant, according to Variety.
“People always ask me if Tinky Winky is gay,” Shelton told reporters. “But the character is supposed to be a 3-year-old, so the question is really quite silly.”
Shelton is survived by three kids.
News of his death inspired tributes from co-workers and family members.