Emilio Delgado, Luis on ‘Sesame Street’ for four decades, dies at 81

Emilio Delgado, the actor who played Luis the Builder on the beloved children’s TV show “Sesame Street” for more than four decades, died Thursday at his Manhattan home. He was 81 years old.

The cause was multiple myeloma, which was diagnosed in December 2020, said his wife, Carole Delgado.

For 44 years on “Sesame Street,” Mr. Delgado’s character was the owner of The Fix-It Shop, where he fixed anything that needed fixing, like picture frames or giant toasters. Luis was joined in the shop by Maria, played by Sonia Manzano. After an on-screen courtship, the characters got married in a widely watched episode in 1988.

the marriage was cause for celebration among young viewers learning the numbers and letters — and mundane concepts like death and diversity — from “Sesame Street.” Parents were known to dress their children in fancy clothes for viewing parties, and many mothers wept as the ceremony unfolded.

The wedding, which followed five months of cuddling, serenading and sharing pizza, 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 began to change when they started caring for a sick kitten.

“Since kids see love in terms of physical things like kissing, hugging, giving flowers, we showed that Maria and Luis do a lot of that,” Ms. Manzano, who also wrote for the show, told the New York Times in 1988.

“We wanted to show a couple who are kind to each other and have fun together,” she said.

Mr. Delgado has had a long road to show business. After “pounding on doors in Hollywood” for nine years, he once got a call to audition for the show because he wanted a more diverse cast, Mr. Delgado said in a interview 2011 for the public television show “Up Close with Patsy Smullin”. He joined the cast in 1971, two years after “Sesame Street” premiered.

“I was so excited, but as an actor I knew it was work,” he said. “Maybe it would last a year, maybe two years. Maybe not even that long. But it was great. I had a job on TV, on a big TV show.

The program allowed her to show off her singing in addition to acting. In the 2011 interview, Mr. Delgado said music was his life. He would later perform with the Pink Martini band at venues like the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.

Her love for music developed during her childhood in Mexico. “I just remember falling asleep to the sound of mariachi music,” he said.

Emilio Delgado was born on May 8, 1940, in Calexico, California, on the Mexican border, to Emilio and Carmen Rodriguez Delgado. He had family members across the border in Mexicali, Carole Delgado said.

“He really lived biculturally,” she said, noting that he lived with his grandparents and extended family in Mexico. “Because he was an American citizen, he walked to Calexico every day to go to school. This was not today’s border policy.

As a teenager, Mr. Delgado moved to Glendale, California, where he explored his passion for music and acting. He served six years in the California National Guard in the 1960s before attending the California Institute of the Arts, where he was a student in its first theater class in 1970.

When he wasn’t performing in “Sesame Street”, two “Sesame Street” feature films and numerous live appearances, he starred in many popular shows including “Hawaii Five-O”, “Falcon Crest”, ” House of Cards”, “The Michael J. Fox Show” and “Lou Grant”.

In 2018, Mr. Delgado began starring in “Quixote Nuevo,” Octavio Solis’ reimagining of “Don Quixote,” performed at the California Shakespeare Theater, the Hartford Stage in Connecticut and the Alley Theater in Houston, his family said. .

In addition to his wife, he is survived by one daughter, Lauren Delgado; one son, Aram; and four siblings: Cesar and Edward Delgado, Martha Ledesma and Norma Vizcaino.

Bill de Blasio, who was then mayor of New York City, declared October 15, 2019, “Emilio Delgado Day” during a celebration honoring Hispanic heritage.

“At a time when, if you saw diversity on television, it was often with stereotypes, and not with the right stereotypes”, Mr. de Blasio said“Emilio was one of the people who broke the mould, created a positive role model, for everyone, but especially for kids who couldn’t see or hear people who looked like them and spoke like them.”

Christine Chung contributed report.

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