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Emilio Delgado, a Sesame Street legend for 45 years, dies at 81

  • The Mexican American actor, who died Thursday of blood cancer multiple myeloma, was a fixture on Sesame Street from 1971 until his firing in 2016 along with two other longtime cast members, playing the singing The Fix-It Shop owner and handyman Luis Rodriguez. "Over a span of 44 years on Sesame Street, Mr. Delgado’s character was the owner of The Fix-It Shop, where he repaired any objects that needed fixing, like picture frames or giant toasters. Luis was joined in the shop by Maria, played by Sonia Manzano," Vimal Patel writes in Delgado's New York Times obituary. "After an on-screen courtship, the characters married in a widely viewed episode of the program in 1988. The marriage of Maria and Luis was cause for celebration among the children who were learning numbers and letters — and about worldly concepts like death and diversity — from Sesame Street. Parents dressed their children in their fancy clothes for viewing parties. Mothers cried as the ceremony unfolded. The union, which followed five months of hugging, serenading and pizza-sharing, was also a way to teach young children about love. The two characters were friends and partners at the shop for 10 years, but their feelings started to change when they cared for a sick kitten." As Delgado's Twitter biography notes, he holds the record for the longest running role for a Mexican American in a television series. When Delgado joined the cast in Season 3 in 1971, he said the producers embraced his suggestion to sprinkle Spanish terms into the script. “The first time that I saw Big Bird walk on, my line was, ‘Big Bird!’” Delgado said in the 2021 interview. “But I didn’t say ‘Big Bird,’ I said, ‘pájaro!’” After a quick meeting in which Delgado explained that “pájaro” meant “bird,” the producers decided to keep it in. In 2016, Delgado and longtime cast members Bob McGrath and Roscoe Orman were let go from Sesame Street amid its move from PBS to HBO. "Sesame Workshop mourns the passing of Emilio Delgado, known the world over for his role as Luis on Sesame Street," Sesame Workshop said in a statement. "A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations. At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the “record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.” We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world."

    TOPICS: Sesame Street, Emilio Delgado, Kids TV, Obits, Sesame Workshop