A sad day in the neighborhood.
February 27, 2003 2:17 AM   Subscribe

Mr. Rogers Dead. Fred Rogers of "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" died of stomach cancer at age 74. To be honest, his was never my personal favorite PBS kid's show growing up (I preferred off-brand shows like "Zoom" and "3-2-1 Contact"). But my appreciation for him when I was an adult was pretty high. Anyway, it's a sad day in the neighborhood.
posted by jscalzi (129 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
There goes the neighborhood. ;(
posted by mischief at 2:51 AM on February 27, 2003

Aw geez. I preferred Zoom, too, but... I think most of us who grew up at the right time have a soft spot in our hearts for Mr. Rogers.
posted by litlnemo at 2:56 AM on February 27, 2003

"I got into television because I hated it so," he said. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

posted by hama7 at 2:57 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

aw crap.

i feel so much older right now...
posted by joedan at 3:00 AM on February 27, 2003

When I was younger, mom would take me over to grama's before work if I was too sick to go to school. I can remember watching Mr. Rogers and The Young and the Restless with her.
posted by ArsncHeart at 3:01 AM on February 27, 2003

Wow, this is a much bigger downer than I imagined it would be. My wife and I were talking about how positive this guy was just last month.
posted by cachilders at 3:13 AM on February 27, 2003

posted by Holden at 3:40 AM on February 27, 2003

this is sad
posted by chymes at 3:44 AM on February 27, 2003

A wsie frined once told me that Mr Rogers was liked by the kids because unlike other shows for kids he did not preach morality from a grownup's perspective but instead reassured the kids that They Were All Right and to be happy with who they are. And that gentle soft voice...
posted by Postroad at 3:50 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

We lose yet another.

Goodbye Mr. Rogers. I never thought I'd witness this day. Goodbye adult friend as a kid.
posted by crasspastor at 3:55 AM on February 27, 2003

So long, neighbor.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:05 AM on February 27, 2003

Fred, you rocked.
posted by shoos at 4:13 AM on February 27, 2003

these are sad times we live in, now it seems even sadder.
posted by mkelley at 4:18 AM on February 27, 2003

A sad day indeed. In addition to playing himself on the show, he was also the voice for most of the puppets in make believe land. Probably the most influential puppeteer this side of Jim Henson.

And how cool was picture picture? I remember when he visited the crayon factory. He had an uncanny ability to ask the questions that children would ask, but that wouldn't occur to adults. At the factory he asked employees what their favorite color was . . .

Fred Rogers will be missed.
posted by aladfar at 4:24 AM on February 27, 2003 [2 favorites]

At my hypercompetitive high school an adult asked me (years ago) "If you become successful as an adult, what will your goals be then?" I said to her "I want to get a hug from Mr. Rogers before one of us gets old and dies."

Remember, it is good to be honest.
posted by Tystnaden at 4:35 AM on February 27, 2003 [2 favorites]

bye old friend
posted by CrazyJub at 4:47 AM on February 27, 2003

geez. how sad. I imagine i'll go my entire life and never hear one bad thing about mr. rogers, he just seemed like a great person.

the most recent memory of mr. rogers that I have is from the superbowl (i think), where they had him flip the coin at the beginning of the game. I remember thinking that he looked exactly the same except for the white hair.

also, just like everyone who they elect to do the coin toss, he didn't really know how to flip a coin, just kind of tossed it up there with his hand. i guess he was only human. he'll be missed, now kids are stuck with teletubbies.
posted by untuckedshirts at 4:49 AM on February 27, 2003

The Neighborhood of Make-Believe will not be the same without him. Thanks for a beautiful life, well-spent, neighbor.
posted by terrapin at 4:52 AM on February 27, 2003

I will miss him. My mother, who died many years ago, also loved him.

I remember once I heard him on the radio, and he was talking about uncomfortable silence made people, and how sometimes it was nice just to be silent with a friend. And then he stopped talking and there was a few seconds of dead air where neither he nor the interviewer talked. Those few seconds of silence are the single most memorable moments of radio I ever experienced.
posted by alms at 5:02 AM on February 27, 2003 [8 favorites]

God bless you, Fred, and thank you.

Here's hoping he stays around in reruns for many years to come; I'd hate to see kids TV turned over to Barney, Pokemon and other forms of marketing.
posted by Zonker at 5:04 AM on February 27, 2003

I saw an interview with him a few years ago. I was interested to see what he would be like behind the television persona. And there was no difference. He talked about how he was well aware of the fact that many children have no reassuring adult presence in their lives, and he hoped that he could play that role for them, television being better than nothing for a lot of kids. He had very precise and thoughtful ideas about what he was trying to do on his show, but he was just as clear and simple in his way of expressing himself as when he was talking to 4-year-olds.

Maybe Fred Rogers was the last genuinely sincere man.
posted by fuzz at 5:10 AM on February 27, 2003 [4 favorites]

the world needs more like him...
posted by amberglow at 5:18 AM on February 27, 2003

I don't think that I quite believed the news when I'd heard it.

I remember growing up a latch-key child and having very little to look forward to on TV. Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was one thing, as was 3-2-1 Contact, Reading Rainbow, and Sesame Street (long before its overhaul). What would I have done without the local PBS stations back in the day?

Goodbye Mr. Rogers.
posted by SentientAI at 5:35 AM on February 27, 2003

This is sad. I think he had the only children's show that was really honest with kids. He didn't try to have everybody be happy and smiling on the show, his characters had problems they had to deal with. And let's not forget his musical talent: not only did he write all the songs, but when they had the Neighborhood of Make Believe "Operas", he wrote them too. (Who can forget Wicked Knife and Fork!)
posted by unreason at 5:48 AM on February 27, 2003

I imagine i'll go my entire life and never hear one bad thing about mr. rogers, he just seemed like a great person.

Here's one, just to break the streak: His lawyers rattled their sabers to shut down a Mr. Rogers Web parody.

The thing that amazed me about Fred Rogers was his ability to be completely sincere. There wasn't an ounce of sarcasm or irony in his performances on that show, my favorite program as a young child and one I can never get my children to watch today.

Considering that most of our television shows are dripping with ironic humor, mocking self-deprecation, and sarcasm -- a kingdom ruled by David Letterman -- it was a real feat for Rogers to remain so square for all those years.
posted by rcade at 5:49 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

joedan said: i feel so much older right now...

Oddly, I feel like a kid again. The loss of Mr. Rogers feels like the loss of a personal friend, and my sadness strips me of my adult veneer of control and safety.

And yet, even as these feelings overtake me, in the back of my mind I hear a familiar, calm, gentle voice reassuring me, telling me that it's okay to be sad and that everything will be alright.

Goodbye, Mr. Rogers, and thank you.
posted by GreyWingnut at 5:53 AM on February 27, 2003

This American Life has a great little story about him on a show called "Neighbors" which aired May 11, 2001. (Episode 184) Terry Gross interviewed him twice on "Fresh Air".
I am so struck by the effect he's had on so many american kids; I think it's because of the extreme respect he paid to kids, and to their feelings.
posted by pomegranate at 6:05 AM on February 27, 2003 [5 favorites]

I met Fred when I was a child; he was a kind and wonderful man filled with a peaceful reflective soul. He taught at both of the schools I attended: Pitt and St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

I keep hearing him singing : "You'll never go down the drain."

So very sad...
posted by mfoight at 6:27 AM on February 27, 2003

Mr. Rogers' slo-o-ow moving show was so refreshingly different than the rapid-fire pummel-your-senses MTV-style shows aimed at kids today.

Rest in peace, dear neighbor.
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2003

I also met Mr. Rogers when I was a child in Pittsburgh. It was at a Chinese restaurant. I was wearing my trolley t-shirt at the time. It's one of the few clear memories I have from childhood.

It's so sad that he's dead, but what a great life the man had. And as he taught so many of us:

"It's such a good feeling to know you're alive."

I think that's what I'll try to hold onto today.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:38 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

OK I liked Mr. Rogers too, and I'm not trying to rain on the love fest, but I sure dug Eddie Murphy's "Mr. Robinson's Hood" parody.

What's today's word boys and girls? Extortion!
posted by vito90 at 6:39 AM on February 27, 2003

What a gloomy day.

My mother heard the news and wrote me an email because she knew I would be sad! She wrote, "Our beloved Mr Rogers has passed away. He was an important part of your childhood and he will surely be remembered with much fondness. You used to love his show, I don't think you ever missed it."

Kind of a strange feeling to hear your mother comforting you for the death of your favorite baby sitter... Thinking about it now, she really depended on him and Sesame Street (missing Jim Henson today too) to bring me and my sister up, while she was away at work.

Ah, memoirs of a yet another latch-key kid...
posted by mooseindian at 6:44 AM on February 27, 2003

I watched that show everyday and grew up with Mr Rogers.

A loss for children everywhere.

Bye Fred.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:58 AM on February 27, 2003

I just found out, in the process of writing his obit, that Mr Roger's Neighbourhood was initially developed and broadcast on my semi-employer, the CBC. That gave me a little early-morning pride.

I also learned he thought that Eddie Murphy's famous -- and hilarious -- spoof on his show was "funny and affectionate." What a telling response -- Mr Rogers was obviously a fine, generous, wonderful fellow.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:02 AM on February 27, 2003

Rogers? Always found him weird and creepy, plus he taught me gentleness and caring and it wasn't fucking useful in an abusive home. They should have a show that teaches kids how to fight back.
posted by johnnydark at 7:02 AM on February 27, 2003

I meow already miss Henri-meow-etta Pussycat meow... Meow honest meow do.
posted by waxpancake at 7:03 AM on February 27, 2003

I echo the words of those who are surprised at how saddening this is. I wouldn't have expected it - I don't tear up at celebrity deaths. But now that he's gone, it's as though Fred Rogers can be seen in perspective and the view is breathtaking.

I was a little too old when his show started and so, like most kids my age (and johnnydark, apparently), simply thought of it as "that lame kiddie show with the slow-talkin, sweater-wearin' wimp." Later I had conversations with someone who knew him pretty well and started to revise my opinion. When I became a parent and started to think seriously about what kind of influences would be positive or negative, my long-encrusted cynicism about him completely melted away.

I still don't think young children should be watching TV, but if they're going to, well, the Neighborhood's the place to be.
posted by soyjoy at 7:04 AM on February 27, 2003

posted by Cyrano at 7:05 AM on February 27, 2003

First Pioneer 10, now this. The world really IS coming to an end.
posted by 40 Watt at 7:06 AM on February 27, 2003

posted by Plunge at 7:07 AM on February 27, 2003

Like jscalzi I was never really into Mr.Rogers when I was a kid - me, I was Sesame Street through & through at that age - but still, aw.
posted by furiousthought at 7:16 AM on February 27, 2003

Mr. Rogers
Mr. Dress-Up
The Friendly Giant
Jim Henson

That's a great kids show going on "up there".

What got me really teary-eyed was the message on the PBS website providing hints to parents on how to explain the passing of Mr. Rogers to their kids.
posted by grum@work at 7:17 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

I sort of feel like I just lost a family member. I watched his show every day when I was a kid (and still do watch it, when I come across a rerun). He was such a good, caring person... I always wanted to meet him in person.
posted by sarcasticah at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2003

posted by grabbingsand at 7:30 AM on February 27, 2003

King Friday has decreed that today is a day of mourning in the land of make-believe.

posted by DragonBoy at 7:31 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

posted by jazon at 7:36 AM on February 27, 2003

Now I feel kind of bad about a comment that I posted a few days ago. I didn't mean it!
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2003

i loved mr. rogers and found myself in tears reading your posts. like most of you, he wasn't my very favorite but i have found myself appreciating him more and more throughout the years. adieu my old friend.
posted by katy_ at 7:43 AM on February 27, 2003

sign of the times?

bum deal.
posted by specialk420 at 7:44 AM on February 27, 2003

Mister Rogers Explains The RS 232 Pinout.
what a great guy. i'm so damn old.
posted by quonsar at 7:50 AM on February 27, 2003

God Damn It. Goodbye, Neighbor.
posted by owillis at 7:53 AM on February 27, 2003

Mr. Rogers
Mr. Dress-Up
The Friendly Giant
Jim Hanson

That's a great kids show going on "up there".

these 4 men plus Helene allergen (ache Helene cc 60's - 70's) are the reason why i went into children's programming/entertainment. i adored them as a child and knew that if i followed in their footsteps i might not ever have to really grow up. now with all of them gone i feel like my childhood has been put to rest *sigh*

all your comments have made me emotional and wanting to give everyone a hug... could someone quickly post a really contentious ugly free for all of a thread so i can go back to despising you all...? thanks...! ;)
posted by t r a c y at 8:02 AM on February 27, 2003

posted by condour75 at 8:03 AM on February 27, 2003

holy weird, i guess mefi doesn't like my french 'cause it totally twisted chez helene's name: helene baillargeon. not to mention taking the b out of c b c. what is up with that...?
posted by t r a c y at 8:05 AM on February 27, 2003

I really loved that show. Today, is indeed, a sad day.
posted by wondergirl at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2003

Man, this made me a lot sadder than I would have thought.
posted by GriffX at 8:13 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

From the PBS Link:
Find out what your child knows, has heard, or imagines. Some children may ask, "Who killed him?" Killings are so prominent in the news that they may naturally become linked to any death.
Oh, man. Now is the time we need Fred Rogers the most.

posted by anastasiav at 8:16 AM on February 27, 2003

Awful news, especially how he died. Mr. Rogers should have died peacefully, in his sleep, at age 98. Like some of the other posters, I'm surpised at how upset I am about it. Well, it's OK to cry, just like he said.

When I sing his songs to my young son at bedtime, I keep in mind his method: "The whole idea is to look at the television camera and present as much love as you possibly could to a person who might feel that he or she needs it."

Rest in peace my friend.
posted by Scoo at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2003

I was an intern at MRN in 1987 for about 8 months. As a lifelong fan of Fred's, I was so pleased to find that he was even better in person. Such a terrifically kind and loving man with a fantastic sense of humor. He had the ability to laugh at himself but he was very sincere about what he was doing; he truly loved children and could really speak to him. He was a minister, this was his life's work. He had the same small office full of people for years. His PR Director, David Newell (who plays Mr. McFeely on the show), is so brilliant and talented and devoted. Such a sharp person in real life. And the cast -- I was lucky enough to be there for filming -- their hearts were really in the right places, right down to the pianist. They had a lot of fun and they really were a family. I even got to hold the original Daniel Striped Tiger, which was a big deal for me. My heart goes out to Fred's family -- both his wife and kids, and the family who worked with him for so many years.
posted by sparky at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2003 [4 favorites]

What many don't know is How Mister Rogers saved the VCR
posted by unreason at 8:21 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

At first I thought the story had to be a hoax. There is something so eternal about Mr. Rogers that I couldn't imagine him dying. That PBS site really got to me, too. I appreciated Fred much more as an adult than as a child -- even his kindness couldn't penetrate the ugliness I grew up in. But it gives me hope today to know how genuine he was.
posted by elgoose at 8:23 AM on February 27, 2003

ah, sad sad. MRN was not as flashy and fun as The Electric Company (my personal ultra-trippy fave), but it was very comforting --- the routine of the show, his mellifluous voice, and especially that tinkling, haunting piano...i just have to hear that song and i feel all homey and nostalgic, just like Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas music. i think part of his appeal was his neutrality: he was not an authority figure, like most men in kids' lives (father, teacher, doctor, etc.), and he seemed to enjoy the activities just as a kid would, and that never seemed odd to me. i didn't realize he did the puppet voices until i was much, much older --- i was so wrapped up in the illusion...and fascinated by the little model of the neighborhood! it's sobering to think how much he accomplished in such a low-tech way.

my trolley t-shirt

dude, i had one of those too! with the cool script-y font of the show's name on it....siiigh. :-(

most of our television shows are dripping with ironic humor, mocking self-deprecation, and sarcasm

(warning, slightly OT) not just TV either. we have Disney to thank for what i like to call "kiddie Borscht Belt" humor these days -- starting with Aladdin and The Lion King, they cast these over-the-top, adult comedians like Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (granted, they were both very funny to me, but...) and ushered in this era of fast-talking, sarcastic, impression comedy, with lots of insults and double entendres. every single kids' animated film now has these anachronistic references and catchphrases, and just generally coarse humor...i always stop and think, "When did this become What Is Funny?" it's like some Hollywood exec's idea of humor, foisted all over the place. with the exception of 'Lilo & Stitch,' and alt-animation like Wallace & Grommit, it's all pretty non-kid-friendly, in my view...the opposite of the Mr. Rogers approach. (/rant)
posted by serafinapekkala at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.
So in all that you do, in all of your life, I wish you the strength and the grace to make those choices which will allow you and your neighbor to become the best of whoever you are.

Mr. Rogers' Dartmouth commencement speech.
posted by condour75 at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2003 [8 favorites]

From the testimony linked to by Unreason: Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach ... has always been 'You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.' Maybe I'm going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.

I don't think there's anything I can add to that. Beautiful sentiments... Rest in peace, neighbor.
posted by wanderingmind at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2003

Mr. Rogers was the best of us, in so many ways. Like others who posted, I appreciate him so much for what he wasn't; he wasn't patronizing, wasn't sarcastic or ironic, wasn't playing a role for ratings.

He used television to reach out to children like me who were often left alone. I don't know how he had such a hold on what it was like to be a small child.

posted by answergrape at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

Hey, don't be said at your loss, celebrate what is the gentle close toa great and productive lifespan that was Fred Rogers. And his shows will clearly live on, not only as a window back on a gentler era in American history.

Now, can we all join in and say Egg McMuffin?

I knew we could!
posted by BentPenguin at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2003

Who needs a hug?

May we all emulate his gentleness and kindness with our own children.

Thanks for all that you taught us.
posted by onhazier at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2003

:: very, very sad ::
Daniel Tiger has stopped his clock.
posted by metrocake at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2003 [2 favorites]

I was watching his show just the other day, no kiddin'. He was visiting the music shop and met this man who could play the glass harmonica. I had never heard one played. Beautiful, mystical.

The Land of Make Believe (is that what it was called?) always kind of freaked me out though.

Thanks Fred!
posted by Witty at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2003

Awhile ago I bought my grade-school teaching mom a book called Dear Mr Rogers. I remember reading bits of it before I gave it to her, and the letters I'll never forget reminded me of the reasons he did the show:

- How did you get to be on the penny? You are on the front and Trolley is on the back.

- My daughter is very worried about your fish. She's blind and can only listen to your program, and you don't say every day that you are feeding them so she wants to be sure that your fish are doing well.

Now you know why he mentions it every time he feeds the fish! And the penny letter is the kind of thing I would have asked when I was a kid.

I heard this story years ago (I think it's true): Michael Keaton worked on the Neighborhood and the crew's favorite things to do was try to crack him up. Mr. Rogers came in, opened the closet to hang up his jacket, and there was Michael Keaton, completely nude, holding the hanger with his sweater. Mr Rogers didn't miss a beat, but apparently the take was ruined anyway because the crew couldn't stop laughing. When I got older I was curious if he ever had outtakes...

RIP, Your Majesty. Thanks for being part of my neighborhood.
posted by verso at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2003 [8 favorites]

This is just so sad. His message was always so positive, he was so accepting and honest, and he was one of the few people who could use the word "special" sincerely - telling his viewers that every day was special, just because they were in it. Today is a lot less special because he's gone, but I'm so glad I had the chance to grow up with him.
posted by biscotti at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2003

verso, those stories were beautiful.

The first words I heard this moring on the radio were Paul Harvey's.. "Mr. Rogers is dead."

I stayed in bed, silent, for a long time.

Too sad.
posted by Shapiroa at 9:12 AM on February 27, 2003

Thank god for videotape and reruns so my to-be-born child can benefit from his wisdom and kindness.

SentientAI: What would I have done without the local PBS stations back in the day?

Indeed. Probably 75% of people in the age bracket of about 40 to 20 right now likely benefited immensely from public broadcasting. There were a whole lot of us "latchkey kids" out there in the 80's. Of course now about 1/2 of them think it's not worth a few paltry pennies of their tax expenditure each year.

The worst thing is, the perfect person to explain this situation to children is Mr. Rodgers himself. Without sounding morbid, I almost wish he had videotaped a "farewell" or "goodbye" that they could show, with him explaining what had happened and wishing everyone well.

He talked in small words for 30 minutes a day and improved millions of lives. What the hell am I doing? And why aren't I doing more? He taught me better than that.

Goodbye Mr. Rodgers. I hope he was comforted in his last days knowing how genuinely loved he was by millions of people, young and old.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

Shortly after September 11-- and I think this says a lot about the nation's general mindset at the time-- one of the morning talk shows my father likes to watch had Mr. Rogers on as a guest. He had a piano and sang a song about how we need to be nice to one another. I almost started crying. Thinking about it now, I'm there again. With all the war talk I just want Mr. Rogers to come back on and sing that song again.
posted by kevspace at 9:22 AM on February 27, 2003

I once read an essay that quoted Mr. Rogers as saying he wanted to impart a quiet center from which kids could deal with the problems of the world. I am so grateful for that message.

Here's the Mr. Rogers Song List
posted by eatitlive at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

posted by scottandrew at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2003

My eyes keep filling with tears. Mr. Rogers was such an important part of my childhood. He was so real and you could feel it through the tv.
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2003

I've mailed esquire.com to ask if they can post Tom Junod's wonderful feature on Fred Rogers from their Nov. 98 issue on heroism. I thought I had saved my copy, but I haven't been able to find it and I really need to read it again.
posted by maudlin at 10:10 AM on February 27, 2003

Does good children's television programming even exist any more? I remember Mr. Dressup and Friendly Giant and original Sesame Street, and as an adult I came to really appreciate the calm and loving Mr. Rogers.

They were all high-quality, kid-oriented shows with good morals and uplifting messages.

My impression is that today most kids programming is adult-oriented crapola that's all about epilepsy-inducing flash and killing.

What happened to teaching our children well?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2003

You'll have things you'll want to talk about. I. Will. Too.

Huh. The pbs version doesn't have that line, but misterrogers.org does.
posted by jaden at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2003

" Does good children's television programming even exist any more?"

As the parent of a four-year-old, I've gotten rather exposed to the stuff. Sure, it exists. Most of the "Nick Jr." slate of shows is pretty good in terms of moral and messages (tellingly, much of it is produced in Canada, which subsidizes production), and there are a couple of "Playhouse Disney" shows which are not wholly rancid; various "Sesame Street" iterations exist on PBS and on cable stations like Noggin.

There is a lot of animation that wink-nods to adults later in the day (the best examples being SpongeBob and the Fairly Oddparents), but to be honest, I'd rather have my daughter watch that than, say, the Care Bears and Thundercats from when I was a teenager, or the truly awful Hanna-Barbera and Sid and Marty Kroft "Supershows" that littered the landscape when I was a tyke.
posted by jscalzi at 10:39 AM on February 27, 2003

Maybe Fred Rogers was the last genuinely sincere man.

Not the last, I hope, but certainly genuine. And in such a soul-destroying business as TV, too! A rare good example for all of us, and I'm heartened that this cynical, squabbling bunch mostly seems to agree.

I was finishing high school when his show came on the air, so I never knew him as a kid. One of my classmates a few years later worked in the art department on his show, and one day, when no one else was around, she led me through the Land of Make-Believe set. It was interesting, but not the same without him there.

Just like the state of the nation this week.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2003

I love you, Mr. Rogers.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:51 AM on February 27, 2003 [3 favorites]

The life of Fred Rogers was truly well lived. He brought happiness and comfort to those around him and added to the sum of good in the world. While I weep for his passing, I rejoice that such an outstanding role model graced all of our lives. We can celebrate his life by trying to emulate the things he did that we thought were positive, not just today, but for the rest of our lives.

Bless you, Fred Rogers.

Mayor Curley: Now I feel kind of bad about a comment that I posted a few days ago. I didn't mean it!

Your comment was completely fine. It was gentle, humorous, and appropriate to the thread.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:51 AM on February 27, 2003

I have nothing to say but I cant let this thread go without saying something.

Mr. Rogers was the anti-cynic, a reminder that you can live your life truly and honestly and do well in this world. If he had not existed, we would have yearned to create him. But, I am glad he existed.
posted by vacapinta at 11:22 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

Totally agree with this post. I went through a period in my college days where we thought Fred Rogers was the epitome of, well, of something we wanna be hipsters thought was ironic and weird. I had a Neighborhood Trolley T-Shirt that I proudly wore to punk shows for its cool value. Now that I'm a parent - I have truly learned to appreciate Fred's non-ironic tone. I loathe shows that speak over the kids heads in order to reach adult sensibilities - my three year old does not need to know how to be ironic and make obscrure pop culture references just yet. He's got 15 years or so to accomplish that - I'd like him to be a kid for awhile. I'll miss Mister Rogers ability to make that happen.
posted by dhacker at 11:32 AM on February 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine worked with Fred Rogers on his show for many years. When he found out what a big fan I was (am), he was kind enough to pass on my greetings to Mr. Rogers and to get me a trolley t-shirt and autographed photo. I was star-struck! This was right around Sept. 11 and, in addition to the anxiety/grief prompted by that, I was going through a lot of difficult upheavals in my personal life. A while later, my friend passed on an email (yep, Mr. Rogers used email!) from Fred asking how I was doing and to pass on his good wishes. And I have to say, there have been a few long, dark moments over the past year or so when knowing that Mr. Rogers cared enough to ask genuinely helped strengthen me to get me from one moment to the next.

My hope -- my commitment! -- is that I will try to give my nephews (and my own kids, if I ever have any) the sense of safety, warmth, and complete acceptance that Mr. Rogers gave all of us.
posted by scody at 11:41 AM on February 27, 2003 [6 favorites]

Damn, another grim reminder of my passing youth. Mr. Rogers, Zoom and the Electric Company got my latchkey ass through childhood.
posted by beatnik808 at 11:47 AM on February 27, 2003

The memories will always be great.

posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 11:52 AM on February 27, 2003

Incidentally, the Mr. Rogers Web site (I know! Whoda thunk) has a rather touching article about how (and if) to tell your children about Mr. Rogers' passing, and how they or you might deal with it.

posted by jscalzi at 12:01 PM on February 27, 2003

Maudlin: Here you go, via (believe it or not) AICN.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2003

The link above is a excerpt from Tom Junod's Esquire interview. I have a rough, unformatted, Word copy of the entire article. Since I don't want to get sued, I can't post it, but I'll happily e-mail it to anyone who wants to read it. Just drop me a line.

Damn. I just saw him at the Rose Parade this year.
posted by Optamystic at 12:18 PM on February 27, 2003

posted by whatnot at 12:27 PM on February 27, 2003

posted by ncurley at 12:59 PM on February 27, 2003

I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet, perhaps it goes without saying.

I plan on using this as a reason to make a donation to my local PBS station, beyond any normal or yearly gift. If you ever saw Mr. Rogers you have your local PBS station to thank.

Perhaps if you have moved away from your childhood home, a gift to your hometown PBS might be considered, especially if you grew up in a small market.

I would encourage you, in the spirit of sharing, to do the same.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:02 PM on February 27, 2003

My girlfriend and I were having a conversation the other day about "what celebrity death would make us cry".  I said, without even having to think, Mr. Rogers.  I've been reading the obits all day and it didn't bother me until I read the PBSKids.Org guide to talking to your children about his death.. Everyone's tributes above are just as moving.

Rest in Peace. I'll miss you Mr. Rogers.
posted by m@ at 1:03 PM on February 27, 2003

Tom Glazier who wrote On Top of Old Spaghetti also died. He was apparently a serious musician (via the Tribune, reg. required) who also happened to pen a children's song that still gets much pint-sized play today. It's a very sad day.

posted by answergrape at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2003

posted by elwoodwiles at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2003

Thanks for the link to the excerpt, grrarrgh00.
posted by maudlin at 1:26 PM on February 27, 2003

I was handling it til BarneyFifesBullet posted that picture. I spent most of my childhood in the Land of Make-Believe, and I remember getting very impatient with the rest of the show--"ARG! Can't you tie your shoes any faster? I want to see Daniel Striped Tiger! No, don't stop to feed the fish..." The episode that sticks in my mind the most is the time the royal family put on a play to "The Marriage of Figaro." Of course I didn't know that's what it was at the time, but looking back I'm impressed at how Mr. Rogers made classical music and science as much a part of his program as more "kid-like" things. The show was such a wonderful combination of variety and routine, all presented with marvelously comforting warmth.

I hope they have trolleys and castles in heaven.
posted by hippugeek at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2003

posted by goddam at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2003

onhazier, since no one else said anything, I need a hug. I bet a lot of others do, too.
posted by tommasz at 2:03 PM on February 27, 2003

Someone (not me) posted the full text of the Esquire piece over on the TWOP forums (scroll down a bit).

I see on the show's website that the theme of the episodes airing this week is Noisy & Quiet:
We all have a need for times of pace and quiet. Yet there are times when it's all right to be noisy. Learning when to be quiet and when we can be noisy is a part of growing up.
Today, I think, is a time to be quiet.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2003

I'm surprised by how sad I feel about it. I mean, I didn't know him, except that he's been a part of my life since I was a little kid, I guess. When things got really weird as my parent's marriage disintegrated, my sister and I would watch Mr. Rogers and wished we live in his neighborhood. I learned the value of make-believe and imaginary friends, the importance of believing in yourself and being a person that was worth believing in.

I really am sitting here crying like a little girl. I dunno why, but there it is. Mr. Rogers shouldn't die. That's just wrong. Probably the thing I remember him saying the most was, "There's only one person in the whole world like you." There was only one Mr. Rogers, and the world is much emptier, sadder, and less kind without him.
posted by dejah420 at 3:08 PM on February 27, 2003

Here's another NPR link. (Similar to pomegranate's post) The interviews at the bottom are worth a listen (despite being RA). You also get to hear his take on the parodies. Admittedly a bit hard to listen to today.

Not to take away from his death, but Steve, the original Blue's Clues host, is the only other figure I've seen to really seem to know how to talk to kids and educate without "teaching". So where do I sign up to bring him back, especially now that there's nobody left? He's no Mr. Rogers, but he's all my baby's got.
posted by jdiaz at 3:13 PM on February 27, 2003

I remember waiting with bated breath for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to come on every day.

I would change my shoes when he did.

I would put on a sweater. Even in the summer.

I loved Mr. Rogers.

Now that I'm a parent - I have truly learned to appreciate Fred's non-ironic tone.

It may not have been cool to like Mr. Rogers, but you hit the nail on the head. I sure hope they sell a DVD collection.

My daughter is almost a year old and I can't wait to introduce her. I wish it didn't have to be on video.

Goodbye, old neighbor.

posted by hawkman at 3:24 PM on February 27, 2003

posted by davros42 at 3:52 PM on February 27, 2003

Bring Mr. Rogers to DVD...
posted by Macboy at 4:16 PM on February 27, 2003

Esquire has posted the Tom Junod article.
posted by varmint at 4:20 PM on February 27, 2003

From the previously mentioned commencement address from Mr Rogers to Dartmouth, I think this is a good excercise for us now:

I'd like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Some of them may be here right now. Some may be far away. Some, like my astronomy professor, may even be in Heaven. But wherever they are, if they've loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you, they're right inside yourself. And I feel that you deserve quiet time on this special occasion to devote some thought to them. So let's just take a minute in honor of those who have cared about us all along the way. One silent minute.
Whomever you've been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you. It's not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our lives from which we make our choices is very good stuff.

I think Fred Rogers will be grateful for all of the thoughts being sent his way right now.
posted by jonah at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2003

Let us not forget that these people (yes, people) also died today:

King Friday XIII
Queen Sara Saturday
X the Owl
Henrietta Pussycat
Lady Elaine Fairchilde
Daniel Striped Tiger
Cornflake S. Pecially
Donkey Hodie
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2003

Mr. Roger's Emmy acceptance speech. (real video) The site's pretty slow today, but I think it's worth the effort to try to watch it.
posted by Optamystic at 5:15 PM on February 27, 2003

Watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is such an inextricable memory from my childhood, that even though I hadn't thought of him in years, my heart still dropped when I read the news of his passing; and I've been tearing up reading everyone's comments.

You will be missed, Mr. Rogers. Bless you and your family.
posted by eclectica at 6:54 PM on February 27, 2003

Just watched the memorial airing of the 1990 Mr. Rogers documentary on Ch.13 here in NY. Interesting how the program evolved from a local Pittsburgh show, and then a Canadian program.

A very sad day. I was just meowing to my wife last week...

And just remember: Unoriginal Eddie Murphy ripped off Uncle Floyd for his skit--and it was nowhere near as funny.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:08 PM on February 27, 2003

Mr. Rogers, Mr. Dressup, Friendly Giant, original Sesame Street, and I'm sure a few other programs are all timeless children's edutainment shows. They really should be released to DVD. They'll always be just right for our kids, and our kids really do deserve such wonderful quality programs.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:03 PM on February 27, 2003

The thing I found fascinating about him was the effect he had on babies and toddlers--he got their rapt attention when he spoke. That said volumes about the man.

(Well, somehow I don't think we'll hear from BubbaDude in this thread...)
posted by y2karl at 8:39 PM on February 27, 2003

So sad, but inevitable. I loved Mr. Rogers as a kid and will sorely miss him as an adult.

Strange coincidence: I was talking with my older sister yesterday and we were talking about our mistaken beliefs as children. I believed for a disturbingly long time that on a U.S. penny the front silouhette was Mr. Rogers and that the reverse was the Trolley.
posted by ttrendel at 10:59 PM on February 27, 2003

I can't express how sad I am . . .

About 12 years ago, when I was a full-time fire fighter & paramedic, I was hit by a car while on the job. Oddly, my local PBS station aired MRN at about 2 a.m. (in addition to the regular morning time), and I watched every episode for about a year while recovering from my injuries. I even wrote to him, just to tell him how much I had come to realize I appreciated the show looking back as an adult. I received a very nice reply from him, and my respect for him grew.

Three years ago I adopted my son from Romania. One of the first "American" TV shows he would watch was MRN: he would sit, transfixed, for the entire half-hour, even though he spoke only a few words of English. I decided to write another letter to Mr. Rogers, again to thank him for his work and his message to children, and the effect he had on my new son. I began my letter with, "You probably won't remember me, but...". To my amazement, he replied that he certainly did remember me, and he had thought about and prayed for me after receiving my first letter; he even recalled some details of what I had written, so I'm sure he really *did* remember me. [sigh] I'm looking for those letters right now, just to be able to touch something tangible that came from him, even though I'll always be affected by what he taught and how he lived . . .

Goodbye, neighbor. You will certainly be missed, but, as you said (from Jonah's excerpt, above):

I'd like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Some of them may be here right now. Some may be far away. Some, like my astronomy professor, may even be in Heaven. But wherever they are, if they've loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you, they're right inside yourself. And I feel that you deserve quiet time on this special occasion to devote some thought to them. So let's just take a minute in honor of those who have cared about us all along the way. One silent minute.

Whomever you've been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you.

::Many silent minutes...::
posted by wdpeck at 11:59 PM on February 27, 2003 [15 favorites]

sigh. this thread makes me wistful. the world needs more gentle, loving souls like his. we should all aspire to be a mr. rogers to some child. or, for that matter, some adult.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:57 AM on February 28, 2003

Rereading through this thread I noticed I made an odd misspelling of his name twice in my first post but spelled it correctly in my second post. I remember being very sad when I posted the first, but in better spirits when I posted the second.

At any rate, I feel ashamed of the misspelling. The man certainly deserves to have his name spelled correctly.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:04 AM on February 28, 2003

The Philly tab Daily News mentions this thread in its cover piece on Mr. Rogers. A few here are quoted but not by name.

And that Esquire article has many amazing anecdotes, one of which is this one:

Once upon a time, Mister Rogers went to New York City and got caught in the rain. He didn't have an umbrella, and he couldn't find a taxi, either, so he ducked with a friend into the subway and got on one of the trains. It was late in the day, and the train was crowded with children who were going home from school. Though of all races, the schoolchildren were mostly black and Latino, and they didn't even approach Mister Rogers and ask him for his autograph. They just sang. They sang, all at once, all together, the song he sings at the start of his program, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and turned the clattering train into a single soft, runaway choir.
posted by luser at 10:21 AM on February 28, 2003 [5 favorites]

sorry, here's the link to the Daily News article
posted by luser at 10:22 AM on February 28, 2003

I would really like one of those picture frames on my wall with the simple, handwriting-like words in it. Perhaps someone could create one for Metafilter as a FP graphic?

Actually, I'm going to look to put up such frame in my office or home....
posted by ParisParamus at 3:10 PM on February 28, 2003

posted by mzanatta at 12:59 AM on March 2, 2003

There are only two of us on Metafilter who hated Mr. Rogers?

I think it's sad when anyone dies, but I always felt like his slow-talking was nothing but incredibly condescending; give me Sesame Street or "Free to be You and Me" any day over watching that guy tie his shoes and asking me if I could pronounce an incredibly easy word. I always felt that Mr. Rogers, like Scooby Doo, was for the dumb kids.
posted by interrobang at 10:03 PM on March 2, 2003

posted by lazaruslong at 12:23 AM on March 3, 2003

...was for the dumb kids.

Count me in.
posted by Witty at 2:16 AM on March 3, 2003 [1 favorite]

posted by tr33hggr at 1:16 PM on March 3, 2003

Get your sad on.
posted by Vidiot at 9:23 PM on March 3, 2003

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