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Steven J. Niven and Kirsten Condry

puppeteer, children's entertainer, and voice of Elmo on public television's Sesame Street, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the third of four children of George Clash, a flash welder operator, and Gladys Clash, a daycare provider. Clash grew up in Turner Station, Maryland, a mainly black, working-class, semirural community on Chesapeake Bay, ten miles from downtown Baltimore.

His interest in puppetry and in entertaining children began at an early age. He learned to understand children from living with his mother, who provided daycare in her own home. Clash observed children at close quarters and eventually learned how to entertain them. As a six-year-old, he became fascinated with children's puppet shows on television, sitting close to the screen trying to figure out how to make the puppets he saw on Kukla, Fran & Ollie, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, and, after 1970, Sesame Street ...