Steve Burns, pictured today at 43, was the first host of the Nickelodeon children's show Blue's Clues until he suddenly left in 2002. One of the reasons he left was because he was going bald and he didn't want to lose all his hair on children's TV
That was 15 years ago. Gone are the rugby shirt, the pleated pants and especially the boyish haircut. At 43, Steve is bald, which is one of the reasons he left the show.
Steve, pictured with his cartoon costar Blue, was the host of the beloved show for seven years. He was the only human on the show, surrounded by cartoons like Blue, and he spoke directly to viewers
'I was going bald and I kind of looked around and I'm like – the people who decided that I should wear these pants are not going to choose a wig with any dignity for me. It's just not going to happen,' Steve told DailyMail.com, laughing.
But for the children who watched and loved Blue's Clues, Steve's goodbye from the show seemed sudden. It was such a big deal that people are still talking about it 15 years later.
'Everyone wants there to be a dramatic answer and there's not. I wish I had a cool answer for this, but I just - I did it for like seven years and it just seemed like time to go. It just seemed like the right time,' he said.
'I was just getting older and I kind of occupied this weird older brother space on that show. Like I was sort of an adult, but not really.'
He added: 'It just really felt like a good, comfortable time to go and I felt like this show is awesome - and it felt like a very comfortable thing. There wasn't any weird dramatic or more interesting answer than that.'
His leaving the show was also surrounded by some less-than-pleasant rumors. Hoaxes saying he had died from a drug overdose or was killed in a car accident were prevalent for years. After hearing some of the first rumors, Steve's mom called him crying, to make sure he was okay.
Of course he was okay, Steve had just stepped out of the spotlight to go back to his career as a voice over artist. Working on-screen with Blue's Clues was 'kind of the anomaly' and he didn't really want to continue down that path.
'To be honest with you, I was just really burned out. I was in every take of every show every day for all those years on a blue screen, so I was like, I just didn't have any more performance left in the show business land.'
When Steve left in 2002, producers made sure it was well structured. They brought in Steve's 'younger brother Joe' played by Donovan Patton to meet the children as they eased Steve out so he could 'go to college'
For seven years, Steve played the only live-action character on Nickelodeon's hit animated series, Blue's Clues. Created for children in preschool, Blue's Clues was unlike most other television shows of its time in the mid-90s.
Steve, who was replaced by Joe, spoke directly to viewers and asked them for help to solve games and puzzles that their animated dog Blue would lead them through. She would leave her blue paw print on objects throughout their cartoon house and Steve would draw or write down each clue in his 'handy dandy notebook'. At the end of each 30 minute episode, he would sit in his 'Thinking Chair' to figure out what Blue's message was.
In every episode of the show, Steve, pictured right, wore the same iconic striped green rugby shirt and the same pleated khaki pants, which he wasn't too thrilled with. When he explained leaving the show, he said: 'I was going bald and I kind of looked around and I'm like – the people who decided that I should wear these pants are not going to choose a wig with any dignity for me. It's just not going to happen.' Steve is pictured with the other cartoon characters and his 'younger brother Joe', left, right before Steve 'left for college'
'It was a really incredibly made show,' Steve said. 'I was just a guy on it. But Angela Santomero, who invented Blue's Clues was a genius and she did a lot of crazy risks that are now normal. Now every TV show talks to you.'
The entire show, from the colors that were used for the animation to the short songs and dances, was specifically designed to help with early childhood development. It eventually became one of the highest-rated television shows for preschoolers in America and there were off-shoots of the show all over the world.
Even Steve's goodbye in 2002 was planned strategically so that young viewers wouldn't be shocked or too upset. They made sure to find a good match to play Steve's 'younger brother Joe', played by Donovan Patton.
Producers also eased Steve out in 'baby steps'. They had a three-part special where Joe came to the house to learn to play Blue's Clues, Steve told viewers he was going to college and Steve packed and left. Joe took over playing 'Blue's Clues' with the children and Blue and when Steve said goodbye, he was sure to thank the children for helping him grow.
Show creators compared the transition to meeting a new babysitter or going to school for the first time and they wanted to be sure that the children would be happy for Steve.
Even though he 'left for college', Steve hasn't gone too far from his Blue's Clues roots. He still has the rugby shirt – though he says it doesn't fit anymore – and he even has the original Thinking Chair in his Brooklyn apartment, which the show producers gave him in 1999 for his 25th birthday.
Steve was given the original Thinking Chair for his 25th birthday by the Blue's Clues producers. Steve's boxer dog Mickey, pictured, loves to sit in it
He also still has a Dog, though this one isn't animated. Burgess Meredith is a boxer dog named after the actor, though Steve calls him Mickey, after Meredith's character in the Rocky movies. And Mickey loves to sit in the Thinking Chair.
One of the more dramatic changes in Steve's life is his appearance. Today people hardly believe he was once the beloved children's host who danced, sang and 'wailed' every time he got the mail. With his glasses and lack of hair, Steve looks nothing like he did when he hosted Blue's Clues 20 years ago.
Even though Steve looks nothing like he used to when he was the host of Blue's Clues, pictured right, his social media pages have thousands of followers plenty of comments from fans - parents and their now grown-up children - telling him how much they loved him on the show
'It's sometimes a bit of a struggle to convince people that I was, in fact, that friendly man-child, but I usually just say, why would I lie about that? What a weird lie, to try to tell someone. Why would I lie about that?
'If I was going to lie about it, I'd say: Actually, I'm Ryan Gosling,' he laughed.
Even with the convincing, Steve's Blue's Clues fans – the parents and their now grown-up children – constantly comment on his social media pages about how much they love him. Even though the attention is constant, Steve was almost offended at the suggestion that he might be tired of it. More than anything, he's humbled by his fans.
'I'm actually quite touched by it,' he said. 'That feels like several lifetimes ago for me and the fact that it's still relevant at all or that there are still children who watch it or that there are young adults who remember it so fondly is a real honor and really really nice.'
Steve, pictured as a unicorn, said he is flattered by all of the attention from his Blue's Clues fans and feels honored that the show had such an impact on people who still remember it today
What's not so nice are the death rumors that surrounded him when he left Blue's Clues and still persist today. Some rumors said that Steve had been arrested for heroin possession or was actually a adult movie star.
Rumors of his death were more prevalent. The two most popular being that he was run over by a car or had died from a heroin overdose.
Steve was also surrounded by rumors when he was on Blue's Clues, but they escalated when he left in 2002 and still persist today. The worst ones said he died either in a car accident or from a heroin overdose. Of course none of the rumors are true
'It's awkward. It's not pleasant,' he said. 'It's bizarre and surreal. I think that perhaps Blue's Clues and that rumor kind of started in the age when the internet was really kind of becoming a place where people sought news,' Steve said. 'So I think it was a little extra sneaky because of that. But other than that, I couldn't tell you where it started or why it started or why it persists. I really couldn't.'
The rumors have even been tackled by urban myth-busting websites that suggest another of Steve's television appearances is what launched the rumors.
In 1995 Steve appeared on an episode of Law and Order where his character, Kevin Jeffries, died in police custody after police thought he was on drugs. They later discovered he was autistic.
For a young child who might have seen the episode and been unable to distinguish Steve from Blue's Clues and his Law and Order character, his 'death' might cause confusion and be an easy place to start a rumor.
Steve and Steven Drozd created their children's album, Foreverywhere, starting in 2005. It took them 12 years to release the album because 'we just did it whenever we had free weekends', Steve said. He is pictured at his album release show in February
And the rumors continued, even getting worse.
In 2015 a fake news site posted a report saying Steve had died in a car accident after wrecking a Dodge Charger. That was Steve's least favorite because he 'would never drive a Charger,' he told Business Insider.
The rumors were so persistent that he made both his Instagram and Twitter account handles SteveBurnsAlive, showing he does have a sense of humor even about the death rumors.
'Sometimes I wonder if it's true,' he joked. 'I'm reasonably sure that it's not.'
There was another rumor that went around after he left the show. This one less sinister, saying he left the show so he could pursue a career in music. Though that wasn't exactly why he left, Steve has since released three albums.
His first album, Songs for Dustmites, was released in 2003, a year after he left Blue's Clues. Then in 2009 he released Deep Sea Recovery Efforts. Steve worked with members of the Flaming Lips on both albums and soon became fast friends with Steven Drozd, the rock band's drummer.
Together, as SteveNSteven, the two have just released another album together, this time for kids.
Foreverywhere was released on February 24, 12 years after the two started working on it. It all started in 2005 when Steve was asked to write a song for Nickelodeon's children's TV show Jack's Big Music Show. He invited Drozd to work on it with him.
'That was just so much fun when we did that that we kind of in the moment said, whenever we get enough free time, we need to make a children's album. And then we just did it whenever we had free weekends over the next however many years.'
The album has 11 songs and three follow the story of a unicorn and a rocker rainbow princess. The two came up with the idea after someone in children's entertainment advised them to write songs 'for girls'.
'We kind of didn't like that. We were like, why isn't this song about a meteorite for a girl?' Steve said. 'We just, we kind of balked at that. And then I had the idea like, okay, sure. I'll write a song about rainbow princesses and unicorns and I'll take all of these clichés, but we'll make it Ziggy Stardust and we'll really change these ideas and we'll make the rainbow princess a complete badass who plays guitar better than anyone in the universe.'
Their goal was to create a record that created 'a sense of quest' and was more expressive and meaningful than typical children's music. Using the narrative of the unicorn and the rainbow princess, they tackled emotions like longing, inspiration and sadness. They even wrote a song about courage through potty training called OK Toilet Bowl.
Steve said about Foreverywhere: 'The way we approached it was: it is music that is for kids, maybe. And maybe some of it is for adults. But it's all definitely both. We both believe that there's a huge amount of overlap between what makes music awesome for kids and what makes music awesome for adults'
'The way we approached it was: it is music that is for kids, maybe. And maybe some of it is for adults. But it's all definitely both. We both believe that there's a huge amount of overlap between what makes music awesome for kids and what makes music awesome for adults.'
He added: 'If it's a funny song, it had to make us laugh. And if it's an inspirational song, it had to inspire us. And if it's a sad song, it had to move us. That was our criteria in the studio.'
What's funny is that Steve, now a famous children's entertainer, never thought this is where his life was going.
'I never intended to be in children's entertainment at all,' he said. 'I didn't even know any kids when I started Blue's Clues. And I think that was part of the success, if I had any success as the host of that show, I think it's because I was coming at it from a very different angle… I was kind of doing it the way that I was comfortable with.'
He added: 'But the show itself, with the way that the internet now works and things live forever, it was a very iconic thing, but we did that on purpose. I wore the same shirt every day. And it becomes like a very indelible character.
Steve, pictured with Steven Drozd for their album release, said: 'I think I will always be known as the possibly dead guy from Blue's Clues and I'm very proud to have been on that show. It's always going to be something I'll be associated with, but that's a pretty good thing, I think'
'I think I will always be known as the possibly dead guy from Blue's Clues and I'm very proud to have been on that show. It's always going to be something I'll be associated with, but that's a pretty good thing, I think.'
Next up, Nick Jr. host Face opens hipster Times Square coffee shop!*
* Just kidding! :P
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Additional sources: Wikipedia (I, I), Blue's Clues Wiki.
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