did Jim Henson die of AIDS?

I remember that Jim Henson suddenly “dropped dead” of pneumonia with little-to-no previous symptoms of health problems. It always struck me as bizarre at the time, but it seems even weirder in retrospect - how can a completely normal man suddenly drop dead of a relatively common, not-usually-fatal disease?

Did Jim Henson have AIDS? Was he a closeted homosexual that contracted the disease in the eigthies? Is there any speculation of this, or was it just a freak occurence of someone dying of what would normally be a minor illness?

These rumors spread when he died, but I never saw any credible evidense. Basically, he was a workaholic who pushed himself past endurance when he had a case of walking pneumonia.

Not that it proves anything, but Henson was married for over thirty years and had five children.

Per this chart pneumonia was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States for the period of 1990-94, accounting for about 36 deaths per 100,000 people. So while deaths by pneumonia are unusual, they aren’t unheard of my any means.

Expanding on Khadaji’s post, at the time, Henson’s friends said that when he started to get sick they urged him to go to a doctor, but he didn’t think he had the time.


Jim Henson died from Group A streptococcus bacteria, which occasionally is extremely virulent and can overcome the organs of the body and kill even a healthy man in his 50s. It’s not common but it does happen.

Richard Hunt, a Muppeteer who performed Scooter, Statler, Beaker, and others, did die of AIDS.

It can even overcome & kill a healthy, athletic man in his late 20’s/early 30’s. (A friend of mine 8 years ago.) This bug is dangerous stuff.

I had two friends who almost died this way. Started out the same, with a bad cold/flu-like episode. Both refused to see a doctor, thinking it was nothing special. Both were brought to the hospital by other friends “just in the nick of time”. It’s a very nasty disease.

Streptococcus is a nasty bitch.

I had one invade my defense system 2 years ago and my body turned on itself. I ended up with Rheumatic fever.

I thought Rheumatic fever was some extinct plague from ages gone by…nope.
Streptococcus… :mad: :mad:

He did not have walking pneumonia. Walking pneumonia is caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae. It is rarely fatal. See JillGat’s post.

M. pneumoniae is rarely fatal, but it damn near killed my father earlier this year - he was in intensive care for 8 days with it. Dad is otherwise quite healthy.

Um… where did you ever get the notion that pneumonia is a MINOR illness? Because it isn’t, and never has been.

Pneumonia is a serious disease that, without the benefit of modern medicine, was frequently lethal in the bad old days, and still is where medical care is scanty. If you get sick and refuse to see a doctor you are denying yourself the benefits of modern medicine that makes pneumonia a disease people routinely survive instead of die from. There is nothing “freak” about neglecting yourself.

There is ZERO evidence/indication that Henson was homosexual. People contracted and died of pneumonia before HIV ever left Africa. Not everyone who gets or dies from pneumonia is gay.

I had never hard any rumour that Jim Henson was gay or died of AIDS, so I am absolutely convinced that any such rumour was based instead around Richard Hunt, who died soon after Henson, and as Thudlow mentions, of AIDS. Though I have no idea if Richard was gay.

Streptococcus nearly destroyed my kidneys when I was nine.

The only time I ever heard of this story was immediately after he died. Ted Koppel, in his “Nightline” program said something like, “. . . and people want to know. . . if it was AIDS.”

However. . . Remember that this was not that long after Rock Hudson died and Liberace died. In both their cases, there was a cover-up. Rock was suffering from “liver cancer,” and Liberace died from “pneumonia,” which, although possibly true, was a complication from his AIDS. I think there was a general suspicion at the time that if any celebrity died suddenly, the first thought was AIDS (unless it was a rock star, then you’s assume OD).

*Pneumocystis carinii * pneumonia is pathognomic of AIDS, and henson didn’t die of that.

People get confused because while viral pneumonias are usually mild illnesses, bacterial pneumonias (and especially hospital-aquired bacteria or virulent strains) can be life-threatening.

Once you’ve seen one healthy 20 year old in ICU because he thought that his pneumonia was “bronchitis” or “flu” you don’t underestimate it.

AIDS isn’t an illness in and of itself, the S is for “syndrome,” in this case an inability to fend off one or more of a series of component diseases. In the case of AIDS at least one variety of pneumonia is one.

Essentially anyone in the US who tests positive for HIV (and even especially in the early years some people who had a “presumptive diagnosis” thereof) and dies of a CDC-recognized component disease gets added statistically as an ‘AIDS death,’ although the more proximal cause of death will always be something more specific.

So … how’s an amateur to know the difference between “stay home, drink juice and get plenty of rest” flu-like symptoms, and Group A streptococcus bacteria “get thee to a hospital” flu-like symptoms?

RIP Jim. We miss you.

IANAD, but if you stay home, get rest, drink lots of fluid, take aspirin (or some other fever-reducing drug) and you find yourself getting worse, then I would go to the doctor.

Spoken as someone who called in sick to work yesterday with a fever and body aches. They’re mostly gone (especially the fever) and I’m back to work.

Minor hijack–if you haven’t seen the new Jim Henson and the muppets stamps, get thee to a post office. They are really great. When you put them on a white envelope, the muppets seem to be breaking through the envelope.

This is a bit of a hijack, but when Yasser Arafat died, there were rumors going around that he died of AIDS. Supposedly, his symptoms (what little we saw of them, at least) were consistent with late-stage AIDS. Specifically, he was losing weight rapidly, and by the time he died he was quite gaunt and sickly-looking. Plus, they were being very secretive about his illness, to the point of flying him to Paris for treatment. These same rumors claimed that Arafat was known to be gay, and probably caught AIDS from one of his bodyguards.