Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Steve Burns of TV's Blue's Clues died of a heroin overdose.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: Steve Burns, host of Blue's Clues, the popular television show for preschoolers broadcast on Nickelodeon, is exceedingly healthy and not the slightest bit dead. He's neither been run over by a car nor done himself in by a heroin overdose, the two most popular paths this particular rumor has taken. (Another version claims he was arrested for heroin possession. That too is false, as is the rumor about his being a porn star.) More elaborate versions of the tale claim that he's been replaced on the show by a look-alike.
Rumors about Steve's demise began surfacing early in December 1998, much to the distress of Steve and his family. To help refute the whispers, Burns guested on The Rosie O'Donnell Show on
Some parallels have been drawn between the rumors of this TV show's host's demise and equally specious claims that Paul McCartney died and was replaced with a look-alike while with the Beatles. At least half-jokingly, some viewers point to various items on the show or behaviors of the host as "clues" to Burns' death. Though not exactly yet on par with the 'I buried Paul' "proofs," things are getting there.
Rumors of very-much-alive celebrities being dead are not uncommon. French movie star Isabelle Adjani battled the rumor of her demise in 1987, when whispers of her languishing on a deathbed and finally kicking the bucket swept France. In common with Burns' experience, a wealth of detail was often provided by those passing along the story. Some versions specified the hospital where she had supposedly been cared for and even the number of the hospital room where she drew her last breath. To combat the rumor, Adjani made heavily-publicized appearances on the national evening news, accompanied by the president of France's Ordre des Medicins (comparable to the American Medical Association), who certified her to be in the pink of health. Even so, there were still those who believed the rumor. In a poll taken only one month after her debunking blitz, more than two million people expressed their unshaken conviction she was ill.
However, the impact of such a rumor is not quite the same when applied to a children's host:
"It's very different from Paul McCartney," said Angela Santomero, the show's chief writer and one of itsThe easy answer about why this rumor is circulating is to pin it on society's distrust of children's hosts, as expressed in rumors about these nice, smiling men not being all they seem. (Such a theme shows up in the
In January 2001, Steve Burns announced he was leaving Blue's Clues after a five-year run as its host, and Blue's Clues producers announced his character would be replaced on the show by Steve's "brother" Joe, played by actor Donovan Patton. (Episodes featuring Steve Burns continued to air, however, as Donovan Patton did not make his Blue's Clues debut until April 2002.)
Barbara "stiff competition" Mikkelson
Additional information: The RealAudio sound clip below is from Steve Burns' 1998 appearance on Rosie O'Donnell's show, as he tells the host that he's not dead and is feeling fine.
Steve Burns on Rosie
Last updated: 5 August 2007
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