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Elmo’s world rocked by claim of underage relationship

NEW YORK NY - SEPTEMBER 19:  Puppeteer voice 'Elmo'  KevClash attends 'Let's Rock Elmo' Toy Launch Empire Hotel

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Puppeteer and voice of "Elmo" Kevin Clash attends the "Let's Rock Elmo" Toy Launch at the Empire Hotel on September 19, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

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Updated: December 14, 2012 6:15AM

While charges and counter-charges were flying in the wake of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash’s leave of absence from “Sesame Street,” sources close to those controlling both the iconic children’s character and its multi-million-dollar products told this column Monday it was “highly unlikely” Clash would ever return as Elmo’s alter ego.

“In fact, unless things suddenly move in Kevin’s direction right away, and he is proven to be a victim of an ugly smear — rather than an adult sexual predator of a minor — he is finished in the world of children’s entertainment,” said a source close to the situation.

As for Clash, 52, it should be noted that while the usually gregarious Muppet mainstay admits to a relationship with a younger man (now age 23), he vehemently denies it began when the man was 16, as the accuser alleged in communications with Sesame Workshop executives back in June.

A second source speculates — based on information he has received by several close Clash associates — that this whole incident may be traced to a possible “lovers’ quarrel … something that turned very ugly and possibly may have involved a demand for money from Kevin in order to make this whole thing go away.”

It’s clear Sesame Workshop and its attorneys took the charges very seriously — having met twice with the unidentified accuser.

Interestingly, following his initial meeting with Sesame Workshop, the young man hired Andreozzi & Associates — the firm recently in the press for representing convicted child molester

Jerry Sandusky — to represent him in his negotiations with Sesame Workshop.

Because Clash is insistent he is innocent of these charges, he has been given the leave of absence in order to take legal action to protect his reputation. Calling the allegations false and defamatory, Clash said in a statement, “I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.”

Sesame Workshop said in its statement that “Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street.” But there already has been fallout. WTTW abruptly pulled a scheduled Thanksgiving night airing of “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” an upbeat documentary about Clash, and replaced it with “Biking the Boulevards.”

BIEBER BORED? First of all, the hoopla over Justin Bieber’s supposed split with girlfriend Selena Gomez should be seen for what it is: romantic drama not untypical of any teens — famous or not!

That said, the duo were spotted over the weekend spending some time together at a New York hotel over the weekend.

One good Bieber insider said Monday, “A lot of it is about Justin getting kind of bored with Selena. After all, he’s 18 years old. He can have any chick on the planet. He has a lot of things happening in his life. … But don’t make a big deal about him going to ‘The Lion King’ with that Victoria’s Secret model

[Barbara Palvin] . … That’s not going anywhere.”

FUNNY FOLKS: Second City has been doing its annual round-the-clock, 24-hour improv and music marathon for a long time — but this year’s lineup of talent is really star-packed. Along with a strong team of local comics, the confirmed improvisers are Fred Armisen, new “Saturday Night Live” ensemble member Tim Robinson and veteran “SNL” cohort Jason Sudeikis, who will be teaming up with his lady love, Olivia Wilde — who apparently is as funny as she is beautiful!

As for musical contributors,

Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, Kim Deal of the Breeders and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco will be among those on hand for the fun fete — running from 6 p.m. Dec. 18 all the way through 6 p.m. the next day at the Second City e.t.c. theater, 1608 N. Wells. The event will raise funds for Chicago’s Onward Neighborhood House. For ticket information go to

ADS PAY OFF: William Shatner’s decision to hook up with the folks at has sure paid off. The actor, long the TV commercial face of the online travel agency, has been paid in company stock now reportedly worth some $600 million. It all is making headlines as Priceline buys its biggest competitor, Kayak.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Veteran broadcaster Geraldo Rivera was spotted at the Palmer House and seen lunching at the Loop hotel’s Lockwood restaurant, carefully reading a history of the famed hotel given him by Lockwood server Tony Riaz. … “The Mob Doctor” co-stars Jordan Spiro and Zeljko Ivanek lunched at RL — while Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek separately ate nearby. … Gov. Pat Quinn was among those at a packed Yoshi’s Café for a election recap event hosted by Sun-Times columnist and WLS-Channel 7 political commentator Laura Washington. … No question about it, William H. Macy and his “Shameless” cast had one heck of a good time while dining at Roka Akor over the weekend. … Speaking of casts, the actors from “Chicago Fire” — including Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Eamonn Wlaker, Monica Raymund and David Eigenberg — took a fun break from local filming to be hosted by Michael Reinsdorf in the Bulls prez’s suite for the Bulls-Minnesota game. All were thrilled to meet Bulls legend Scottie Pippen. … Atlanta Braves pitching icon and two-time Cy Young award winner Tom Glavine dined at Harry Caray’s on Kinzie. … “Project Runway” winner Christian Siriano dined with pals at Cru Café & Wine Bar while in town last week. … Margaret Pelligrini — one of the last surviving Munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” — was spied dining at Luigi’s House in Aurora, one of the eateries that’s part of Dick Portillo’s restaurant empire. … The Bears’ J’Marcus Webb and his sports manager Kendall Cooper were spotted at Eddie Merlot’s in Lincolnshire.

Bill Zwecker reports regularly on “Good Day Chicago” and “Fox Chicago News at 9” on WFLD-Channel 32.

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