Fred Rogers was my real-life neighbor
July 27, 2018 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Rogers was my actual neighbor. He was everything he was on TV and more. (Adam Eisenstat, Vox)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (48 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have shared this story before, am sharing it again:

An actor colleague who grew up in Pittsburgh once shared this photo on Facebook of himself, at the age of four, sitting next to Mr. Rogers as Mr. Rogers was pointing something out to him. He explained in the comments:
i was in preschool with the daughter of the actor who played Mr McFeely. This was from a field trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art that my preschool took. We came around the corner and there was Mr. Rogers. We weren't expecting to see him, and he wasn't expecting to see us, but we were completely awestruck and he spent the rest of the afternoon with our class, hanging out and talking with us about the art.
His father later got a job at the local PBS studios and sometimes he'd run into Mr. Rogers there. He reports that "his office had various Emmy awards unceremoniously dumped in a dark corner, but he went to the trouble of having two precise replicas of his own office chair made to scale for small children, so when kids came to his office they would have an equally important looking place to sit."

Mr. Rogers really was exactly like he was on TV.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:01 PM on July 27, 2018 [115 favorites]


I have never and will likely never refer to anyone this way other than Fred Rogers - he was an angel on earth. He was just so good.
posted by 41swans at 2:11 PM on July 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


Man anytime I read something about Fred Rogers my allergies start acting up.
posted by evilDoug at 2:16 PM on July 27, 2018 [16 favorites]


The antidote to the poison we call current events.
posted by darkstar at 2:23 PM on July 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Fred Rogers truly did live by the campsite rule: leave the place better than how you found it. I'm grateful to have had a childhood that included his show. What a remarkable man.
posted by acidnova at 2:36 PM on July 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


I grew up on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, but hadn't thought of the show in years, until a couple of months ago, this interview with Morgan Neville about his recent documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor, came on the radio while i was driving home from something. I seriously took a fifteen-minute detour so I could listen to the whole thing.
posted by platitudipus at 2:36 PM on July 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


My parents and I are really struggling with current events, and whenever we reach a breaking point, we ask ourselves, what would Mr. Rodgers do if he were still here? We think he would tell us: look for the helpers, be helpers yourselves if you can, and if it feels comfortable for you to do so, pray about what troubles you the most and give it to the universe for help, too. I am not religious, but this is my gospel. He will always be a source of tremendous hope for me, and I am glad to know that so many other people feel the same.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:37 PM on July 27, 2018 [21 favorites]


I'm not sure if this made the movie, but even the time Mr. Rogers flipped the bird (double barrelled!) turns out to have been entirely wholesome and innocent.
posted by Nelson at 2:48 PM on July 27, 2018 [14 favorites]


I was soliciting donations, going door to door on a grand boulevard — rows of mansions with emerald lawns, right up the street from Mellon Park, the onetime estate of Andrew Mellon. It was the heart of old-money Pittsburgh, yet on the day I came calling, no one seemed to have a dime to spare. One after another, they turned me away from their sprawling compounds and pseudo-manors with faux-plantation facades.

Huh, I park my car right there for work every morning; I didn't realize that Rogers lived on Beechwood. It still looks exactly as described.
posted by octothorpe at 3:08 PM on July 27, 2018


can we have a shout-out to Captain Kangaroo?
posted by thelonius at 3:10 PM on July 27, 2018 [13 favorites]


Y'all, I have a confession to make. As a kid, I loved TV. It helped raise me. Electric Company and Zoom were my jam.

I thought "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" was boring. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Maybe I was too old for him? I mean, I don't in any way think I was correct in this opinion. It just pains me every time this man is praised, and I completely love and respect who he was, but I cannot share in the love for the show. Makes me feel shallow. I want him to have actually flipped the bird, in fact. Sigh.

Captain Kangaroo? LOVED IT.
posted by allthinky at 4:30 PM on July 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


I want him to have actually flipped the bird, in fact.

Sure, there's a part of everyone that always wants to drag down the profound and make it as ordinary as we are.
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:37 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Mr. Rogers was ordinary, though. That’s the whole point!
posted by Automocar at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


can we have a shout-out to Captain Kangaroo?

Yo Clarabell (the clown) !!
posted by humboldt32 at 4:45 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, nothing in my experience of ordinary people has convinced me of that. Entirely the opposite, in fact.
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:45 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


The point about being a kind person--like Mr. Rogers--is simply to choose kindness. Everyone is capable of doing that. It is a decision that can be made by the most ordinary person, because it is not an emotion: it is a choice.

There is nothing extraordinary about choosing to be kind.
posted by sciatrix at 5:01 PM on July 27, 2018 [37 favorites]


Sure, there's a part of everyone that always wants to drag down the profound and make it as ordinary as we are.

I don't think that's necessarily the case. I didn't like the Mr. Rogers show when I was a kid, and when I was first really discovering music in my teens I always skipped (on tape, even, which is a much harder proposition) Octopus's Garden on Abbey Road.

But today, I appreciate Mr. Rogers far more for his simple authenticity, such profound gentle authenticity that seemed to go to his very core, which is uncommon in people, and vanishingly rare in people who pursue and achieve any sort of celebrity (which makes it seem more rare than it is in my opinion). I also appreciate Octopus's Garden now for its unironic childlike escapism for similar reasons. Somehow I seem to be becoming less cynical as I age, at least when it comes to art and entertainment.
posted by tclark at 5:16 PM on July 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


The fact that Fred Rogers and Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) both never made the Forbes 400 absolutely disproves the claim that wealth is a result of virtue. (BTW, if you didn't know, Keeshan was the first Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody; several others wore the greasepaint after he left to do the much less frenetic Captain on another network... Buffalo Bob Smith had a less wonderful reputation. Also, among the local kiddie show hosts are many others who were as good people off-camera as on-. L.A.'s 'Sheriff' John Rovick was a far better example than local law enforcement deserved.)
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:25 PM on July 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Right - for those of you who wanted to see a little of Fred Rogers Feet Of Clay, there is a story someone tells in the movie that humanizes him a little in that way - but still manages to be very much a Fred Rogers way of doing things. I will put it in the comment right below this one, so if you don't want to be spoiled you can just skip it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:29 PM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


So: there was a stagehand that they talk to in the documentary that was the practical joker on set. And one of his favoritest tricks he loved to play on his fellow crew members was: if he saw that someone had brought in a camera to the set, he'd wait until they'd left it behind somewhere, then secretly take it, sneak into a side room, and take a picture of himself mooning the camera. Then he'd put it back. This was in the days when you sent your film away to be developed, so it was usually a couple weeks before they knew anything happened - then got the pictures back and be going through them "oh, there's Timmy's birthday, and there's Aunt Nan, and - oh good Lord, it's Nick from work's ass." And they'd come to work the next day "good God, Nick...." and he'd laugh and laugh.

And one day was the jackpot - Fred Rogers had brought in his camera and left it around. Nick siezed his chance - grabbed the camera and went into a broom closet with it. Got a full-head mask of KIng Friday for good measure. And put on the mask, pulled down his pants, and mooned Fred Rogers' camera and took the picture. Then he put it back.

A week went by. Mr. Rogers said nothing. Two weeks. Nothing. Three. Four. Six. A month. Two months. Nothing.

By the time Christmas rolled around Nick had completely forgotten about it. They were at the staff party, and Fred Rogers came to him with a long thin present, saying "this is for you, Nick." He might have noticed the twinkle in Mr. Rogers' eye if he'd been more observant. He opened the package and saw -

.....His own ass. Fred Rogers had blown that picture up into a poster for him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 PM on July 27, 2018 [92 favorites]


The man was a secular saint. I mean, obviously he was a deeply religious man, but still. Man, we need him more now than ever.
posted by brundlefly at 6:23 PM on July 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Fred Rogers had blown that picture up into a poster for him.

TIL there's a Pittsburgh Fotomat ex-employee who's been dining out for years on the most outlandish Mr. Rogers story.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:40 PM on July 27, 2018 [34 favorites]


I also did not appreciate Mister Rogers until adulthood - possibly I learned cynicism early. I love what sciatrix said above -- my parents weren't evil people, or abusive or anything like that, but they did not, in their actions, particularly choose to be kind. It wasn't until I grew older and left home that I began to really deeply work at that, and ditch the cynicism that saw Mister Rogers as out of touch or corny.

(Punnily/Funnily enough, I feel approximately the same way about Steve Rogers -- that he is a lesson in choosing kindness and choosing good.)
posted by kalimac at 6:49 PM on July 27, 2018 [22 favorites]


I also did not appreciate Mister Rogers until adulthood - possibly I learned cynicism early.

Yup, me too, born in 1971. I loved Sesame Street and The Electric Company, and thought Mr. Rogers was boring and babyish. It wasn't until I had my own child that I recognized the value of the kindness and love that Mr. Rogers brought to the screen.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:00 PM on July 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


I actually also did not grow up with Mr. Rogers, although I did grow up with Sesame Street. I recall being vaguely aware he existed, but the most coherent memories I have of him as a child are discussing his death as a teenager and internet meme humor in the early oughts.

Everything I learn of him as an adult I admire, though. It's good to have people to hold in admiration, and by their good works shall ye know them.

posted by sciatrix at 7:09 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Electric Company, Zoom, Big Blue Marble, New Zoo Revue, 3-2-1 Contact, and I'm probably forgetting maybe 3-5 others... I was a definite PBS TV kid. Born in '68, basically grew up while all these programs deliberately directed at my age group were release right as I was that age. I even got into The Letter People when I was much older, sort of as a fascination in strange body horror and fascinating teaching methods.

Fred Rogers is definitely one of my saints. I should do some collage and make a Santos candle to him, actually. He deserves that.
posted by hippybear at 7:31 PM on July 27, 2018 [5 favorites]



Sure, there's a part of everyone that always wants to drag down the profound and make it as ordinary as we are.

the idea of Mr. Rogers being above other people, in such a way that classing him as a regular person would require dragging him down, would have sickened him to his core if he was even half as good as everyone says he is, which I expect he was. his television show, which formed no part of my childhood but which I have nevertheless seen bits of over the years, was about the most humble and ordinary activities and sensations of being alive. if you are too good for the ordinary, you are too good for Mr. Rogers.

comments about "humanizing" him I don't even know what to do with, they are too depressing. he was a nice man who made a career out of putting on his shoes and sweater and speaking slowly and kindly to children. he was not only nice to people but good at being nice to them. people think that most human of talents needs humanizing? I suppose refined gold needs gilding, too. jesus fucking christ. he would probably not say that, but I would. and it's not because he was a plaster saint too good to say Fuck with his holy inhuman face, it just wasn't his style.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:09 PM on July 27, 2018 [18 favorites]


The instant I learned about the Tzadikim Nistarim, my mind immediately jumped to Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers told me he cared about me, and that I was a special person, and I felt like I could believe him.. I wasn't getting those messages anywhere else. I will always love him for that.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:55 PM on July 27, 2018 [16 favorites]


Mister Rogers matters so much to me and people who know me know this so well that so far I have received four copies of different editions of The World According To Mister Rogers, a book of things he said. Two of them are from my mother, who still doesn't know she's sent me two of them, because not embarrassing someone like that unnecessarily is what Mister Rogers would do.
posted by hippybear at 9:02 PM on July 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


Please release all the 1970s Zoom episodes kthxbi
posted by Melismata at 9:11 PM on July 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Melismata: if this were twitter I would retweet that
posted by hippybear at 9:15 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


What a nice story.

Having just spent a bunch of time with my nephews, I’ve been thinking what kids need, and I think the great thing about Mister Rogers is that he could teach kids, but there was always an emphasis on emotions. That’s always what people talk about. It’s not the time he released a weather balloon, it’s that he helped kids process things in a kind, nonjudgmental way. I wonder if some of the nostalgia for him now is a result of our society having become more focused on other stuff.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:24 PM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


I thought "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" was boring. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Oh, same. Kid me hated him. Adult me loves him. If I knew then...
posted by greermahoney at 3:04 AM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


TIL there's a Pittsburgh Fotomat ex-employee who's been dining out for years on the most outlandish Mr. Rogers story.

They show you the poster in the movie. It's awesome. (Because remember: full-head King Friday mask as well.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:51 AM on July 28, 2018 [13 favorites]




They show you the poster in the movie. It's awesome. (Because remember: full-head King Friday mask as well.)

Going into the movie, my wife asked me how a documentary about Mr. Rogers could be rated PG-13. This is why.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:11 AM on July 28, 2018 [14 favorites]


I never really liked Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I think I was too old for it's target audience when it came out, I was about 10, even though I was too old for Sesame Street as well but loved it anyway.

Especially, I didn't like the puppets. They creeped me out.

But, every once in a while I'd be flipping through the channels and I'd stop on some really great live jazz band that I just had to watch and it turned out to be on Mr. Rogers and I would hang around while he talked to the band afterward.

Then those puppets, I couldn't change the channel fast enough.

Anyway, I always thought Mr. Rogers himself was pretty genuine.
posted by lordrunningclam at 5:55 AM on July 28, 2018


From the article: A lot has happened in the 50 years since Rogers’s show went national; so much atrocity has poured through the minds of successive generations. What would Rogers, a lifelong Republican who died in 2003, make of today’s experience of childhood, pocked with school shootings, social media, and a bully-like president? I’m not sure if his brand of empathy could survive this climate.

I am.
He did a beautiful job speaking about 9-11 and it is one of my most vivid memories of that time - look for the helpers. Timeless advice.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:40 AM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


I was more a Friendly Giant/Mr. Dressup/Uncle Bobby kid, and I only backlearned Mister Rogers through parodies on SNL, but looking at old recordings, I have to say that Henrietta Pussycat sure would have been annoying.
posted by pracowity at 8:44 AM on July 28, 2018


TIL there's a Pittsburgh Fotomat ex-employee who's been dining out for years on the most outlandish Mr. Rogers story.

They show you the poster in the movie. It's awesome. (Because remember: full-head King Friday mask as well.)


Did Mr. Rogers sign it?

I missed out on Mr. Rogers because we didn't get a tv until all the good kids' shows like Mannix and Barnaby Jones came along. But I came to appreciate him later. Music was integral to his show. He got a degree in composition before going to seminary and wrote most of the songs.

Have we all forgotten Pre-Teen World and Battle of the PBS Stars?
posted by lagomorphius at 10:44 AM on July 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is such a US phenomenon... Mr. Rogers is virtually unknown outside the US... I can't really think of an example from my youth growing up in the Netherlands.

I had totally different TV shows growing up... Theo & Thea (NSFW) and Rembo & Rembo (NSFW). Yes, those were real TV shows for kids.
posted by Pendragon at 11:27 AM on July 28, 2018


It's interesting to read all the comments (and the brief mention in the article) from people who didn't much like Mr. Rogers's show. I wonder how much of it comes down to the age at which you were introduced to him. The golden age, for me, was something like 3-4 years old. (Same as Sesame Street.) By kindergarten, I had completely lost interest and moved on to Reading Rainbow and Mr. Wizard instead.

My spouse's mother - who was a punk rock loving counter-culture lady in her early twenties during the early 80s - talks about how she absolutely hated Mr. Rogers and thought of him as an example of everything treacly and stupid in pop-culture. Then she had a kid and saw their reaction to the program and it changed her mind completely.

I didn't have access to the Electric Company or Zoom. I never really enjoyed Captain Kangaroo or PeeWee's Playhouse. They always felt like adults pretending to be kids, which I found infuriating as a child. (Talk to me in the high voice you use with dogs once again, and I'll set your shoes on fire under the table, uncle jerk face!) The shows that caught my attention always felt more like adults being adults while talking to kids about kid things. But, I was also much too young for Kangaroo and a bit too old for PeeWee when they originally aired.

Also, a really interesting story. The snapshot is tiny, but the attention given to the child's agency is remarkable.
posted by eotvos at 11:30 AM on July 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I had totally different TV shows growing up... Theo & Thea (NSFW yt ) and Rembo & Rembo (NSFW) yt . Yes, those were real TV shows for kids.

Those clips have a real Kipper Kids for kids vibe to them.
posted by lagomorphius at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2018


"This is such a US phenomenon... Mr. Rogers is virtually unknown outside the US... "

Speaking from experience, he is a cultural icon of goodness in Canada.
posted by joelhunt at 7:38 AM on July 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


What I think of reading this is the outpouring I saw from my friends when he passed away. So many of us were fairly isolated as kids, didn't have great support systems, and then - there was Mr. Rogers, letting us know we were okay, that not everything in the world was messed up and unstable.

He got what it was to be a minister, which to my cynical atheist eye is rare: he never made his show about his religious beliefs, but he picked a population he wanted to help, and did what he could to help them.

It's cool to know that he was a similarly kind and thoughtful person in his personal life, that that part of his tv persona wasn't an act.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:14 AM on July 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Please read Tom Junod's "Can You Say... Hero?." It was the cover story for Esquire's November 1998 "Heroes" issue. It's among my favorite long reads, and it'll help you appreciate Fred Rogers (and Tom Junod) even more.

Esquire: Tom Junod explains how his iconic 1998 Esquire profile inspired You Are My Friend.
In the late 1990s, journalist Tom Junod found himself in a crisis about his work. He'd just come over to Esquire from GQ and had written a then-controversial story about Kevin Spacey. "People hated the story and quite suddenly hated me," Junod tells me. Then he was offered a chance to profile iconic children's TV personality Fred Rogers. "I took the story definitely not knowing that Fred would recognize in me a person who kind of needed a little bit of help."

The result was Junod's now-essential profile of Mr. Rogers, which is the inspiration for an upcoming biopic called You Are My Friend from TriStar Pictures.
Previously on MeFi.
posted by conscious matter at 1:46 PM on July 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Mr. Rogers is the only good person I can think of in history, maybe even in myth. Jesus is my go to "good guy" mythological figure, but even he, by virtue of having supernatural powers is by comparison evil. I think if Mr. Rogers had all the powers of God, he would have done more for the world than Jesus did.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:35 PM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


A few random thoughts from seeing the movie:

Joanne Byrd (who was Mr. Rogers's wife) is really charming and seems like a very interesting and thoughtful person.

My favorite Mr. Rogers quote, "Look for the helpers," is actually from his mom. I'll bet his parents were worth knowing about and I'm sorry the documentary didn't have much to say about them.

King Friday XIII is a genius name for a character that I totally didn't appreciate as a kid. So good.
posted by straight at 3:39 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


« Older "Color ... betwixe yelow and reed"   |   Motherhood in the age of fear and judgment Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments