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'Sesame Street' actor Michael Jeter dies

LOS ANGELES, April 1 (UPI) -- Michael Jeter, the Emmy- and Tony-winning actor known to "Sesame Street" viewers as Mr. Noodle, has died at his Los Angeles home. He was 50.

Jeter -- who won an Emmy in 1992 for the comedy "Evening Shade," and a Tony in 1990 for the musical "Grand Hotel" -- was found dead on Sunday by his life partner, Sean Blue, apparently of natural causes.

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The actor's publicist, Dick Guttman, said Jeter had been ill, but the cause of death had not been determined. Jeter disclosed in a 1997 interview with "Entertainment Tonight" that he was HIV-positive.

Jeter -- whose film credits included "Waterworld," "Air Bud" and "Mouse Hunt" -- had been working on "The Polar Express," a movie based on the popular children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. Filming on the project was suspended Monday out of respect for Jeter's death.

The project reunited Jeter with Tom Hanks. The two had previously acted together in "The Green Mile," with Jeter as a condemned murderer who befriended a mouse.

Jeter told the Los Angeles Times in 1993 that viewers loved Coach Stiles because he was not perfect.

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"He doesn't have a model's face," said Jeter. "He is not perfect in any sense of the word. Everyone is a Herman on some level."

After Jeter won the Emmy for his performance as assistant coach Herman Stiles in "Evening Shade," he went on to earn two more Emmy nominations -- for guest-starring roles on the drama series "Picket Fences" and "Chicago Hope."

In addition to the Tony, his song-and-dance performance in "Grand Hotel" also brought him an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award and the Clarence Derwent Prize.

Jeter was born on Aug. 26, 1952, in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. He studied medicine at Memphis State University, where he also became interested in theater. After graduation, he pursued a career on the stage in New York.

He made his film debut in 1979 as Sheldon in Milos Forman's movie version of the Broadway musical "Hair." He went on to appear in such movies as "Ragtime," "The Money Pit," "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit," "The Fisher King" and "Jurassic Park III."

Jeter's stage credits included "Alice," "Cloud 9," "Greater Tuna," "Once in a Lifetime" and "Waiting for Godot." He joined the cast of "Sesame Street" in 1998 as the lovable but mistake-prone Mr. Noodle.

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In addition to Blue, Jeter is survived by his parents, Dr. William and Virginia Jeter, a brother and four sisters.

Memorial contributions may be directed to AIDS Project Los Angeles, an organization with which Jeter had been active for more than 10 years.

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