Simon Barnes, the actor best known for playing Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby in the popular children’s ’90s television series Teletubbies, has died. He was 52.
As you may remember, Tinky Winky made international headlines back in 1999 when Jerry Falwell published an op-ed in his magazine National Liberty Journal declaring the purple creature was homosexual.
“The character, whose voice is obviously that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse,” Falwell claimed. “He is purple, the gay pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle, the gay pride symbol.”
A worldwide outcry ensued, prompting producers of the show to hold an emergency press conference, where a spokesman for the series assured audiences that “there is simply nothing sexual in our show.”
But by then the damage was done. Gay rumors have followed Tinky Winky ever since.
Barnes’ niece confirmed on Instagram that her uncle, who was also a trained as a ballet dancer and choreographer, passed away suddenly four days ago.
Actor John Simmit, who played Dispy, the green teletubby, also posted about Barnes’ death on social media:
What a week ! RIP Simon Shelton aka Tinky Winky : remembering the many good times. Rest easy pic.twitter.com/4uyJDBoJdO
— John Simmit (@JohnSimmit) January 22, 2018
Tinky Winky was the largest and oldest of the group of Teletubbies.