Simon Shelton, the British actor best known for his role as Tinky Winky on the preschool children's show Teletubbies, passed away on Jan. 17 at the age of 52. According to the Daily Mail, the cause of death was hypothermia.
Shelton played Tinky Winky from 1998 to 2001, taking over for original performer Dave Thompson. Tinky Winky was at the center of one of the '90s weirdest cultural controversies in 1999, when conservative commentator Jerry Falwell denounced the show for promoting a gay agenda because Tinky Winky carried a handbag, "is purple, the gay pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle: the gay pride symbol." This prompted producer Ken Viselman to respond, "He's not gay. He's not straight. He's just a character in a children's series."
Shelton was born Simon Barnes on Jan. 13, 1966 in London. He started his career as a ballet dancer and a choreographer, and was initially reluctant to take the kids' show role.
"I didn't know it would be as big as it was, but I did know as soon as I started working on it that it had something special," he told the BBC in 2008.
He was not involved in the 2015 reboot, which is still airing.