(CBS Local/CBSLA) — A former “Sesame Street” writer has revealed that Bert and Ernie are gay.
Mark Saltzman, who wrote scripts and songs on “Sesame Street” for 15 years beginning in 1984, told Queerty that the iconic characters’ relationship is based off his real-life relationship with Arnold Glassman, an acclaimed editor. The two were together for 20 years before Glassman’s death in 2003.
“And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as ‘Bert and Ernie,’” Saltzman told Queerty.
Saltzman says that Bert and Ernie became analogs for his relationship with Glassman.
“Yeah. Because how else? That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate?” Saltzman explained to Queerty. “The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not? I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, ‘Oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.’”
Saltzman added that he got a kick out of a preschooler asking decades ago if Bert and Ernie were lovers.
“I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked ‘are Bert & Ernie lovers?’ And that, coming from a preschooler was fun. And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it,” he said.
Sesame Workshop said in a statement that the popular characters “do not have a sexual orientation.”
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation,” Sesame Workshop said.
Sesame Workshop issued a similar statement in 2011, when an online campaign called for the show to let Bert and Ernie get married.
“Sesame Street” has been on the air since 1969. The average age of its audience is between two and five years old, according to researchers.