Although not directly causal, actors suffer from addiction at a higher rate than most other professions. In 2018, Tinky Winky talent Simon Shelton, also known as Simon Barnes, died from a combination of hypothermia and alcohol. According to Sky News, coroner Anita Bhardwaj ruled his death a misadventure, elaborating in her report that Shelton, whose medical history of alcohol dependence was well-documented, was found outside the Port of Liverpool Building in the early hours of January 17, 2018, with a high concentration of alcohol in his system. The temperature was noted to be three degrees Celsius, or 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Shelton was 52 when he died.
Shelton is not the original Tinky Winky actor. Dave Thompson holds that honor, though he was fired after a year of working on “Teletubbies.” Shelton, a trained ballet dancer, replaced Thompson and remained with the BBC production until the original run ended in 2001. Throughout his tenure with the show, Shelton faced accusations that he was peddling pro-LGTBQIA+ messages to children because three-year-old Tinky Winky sometimes carried a purse. It must not have affected him too deeply because News also noted that Shelton spoke in 2008, saying, “I didn’t know it would be as big as it was, but I did know as soon as I started working on [‘Teletubbies’] that it had something special.”
If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).