This story is a bit emotional as I write it out. The details are going to be left off my blog for the most part because I am aware now that both of my children read my blog.
I worked for WQED for 9 months. I gave up my life and job to work for the television station to which Fred Rogers had his start…because I believed so strongly in his mission to help children. Much like Miss Judy for WNEP. WQED and KDKA are connected to the same union (IATSE local 820) to which I am a member. I gave up an opportunity to work for CBS and WPXI to come home to Northeast PA for my children. Now that I’m being blocked from seeing my children, having access to my clothing, and my blocked from my house in general, I AM A BIT UPSET.
I mic’d Mister McFeeley and met Joanne Rogers (his wife). She’s lovely, however, I won’t be if I’m not allowed to get my clothes and mail before I start my new job. I won’t drop the mic. I am placing it down politely. I don’t do that to good equipment.
Let’s explore the garden of my mind…..
Mister Rogers has been playing on my mind a lot lately. I went to see the documentary at the Pittsburgh Mills mall and both laughed and cried. Mister Rogers was a true American Hero and not all heroes wear capes.
PBS was under the threat of losing its funding through the CPB under the Nixon administration. Fred went to Capital Hill to testify in front of John Pastore who wanted to cut funding in favor of the military funding. Thanks to Fred’s testimony, funding was restored to 20 million afterwards. Again, not all heroes wear capes.
Did you know that Fred often portrayed himself as Daniel Striped Tiger and Lady Elaine was based on Fred’s sister? I’m going to guess no.
Fred was a man of the cloth. He was not gay despite rumors otherwise. He was happily married to his wife Joanne for many years. He was accepting of other’s lifestyles though he didn’t necessarily believe in it himself. Officer Clemons was a gay black choir singer that Rogers met at a church. Later on, Fred had to remove Clemons from the show as sponsors were threatening to cut funding. 5/9/69 was the episode where Officer Clemons and Fred dipped into the wading pool together.
Fred “religiously” swam laps every morning. His weight was always 143 pounds. This was a symbolic number. Here’s why:
(Apologies for the incorrect oriented jpg, my WordPress installation has decided to be wonky today and image uploads are not working)
Mister Rogers used to do “theme” weeks in the 1980s. He covered superheroes, death and divorce. Ironically, I just recently purchased the book about divorce.
Fred learned that a lot of kids were unknowingly trying to commit suicide by “flying” off their decks, porches or windows pretending to be superheroes. Mister Rogers spoke to the children that explained superheroes are not real, the real heroes are first responders.
Some of my personal favorite episodes featured the Flying Zoocheni Brothers – 3 of which I had the privilege of working with at QED. I can’t imagine some of the outtakes that exist in archives, but the band of misfits whom I love. The Zoochenis also play a big part of WQED’s fundraising. Chris Cook collects recipes from viewers and then creates a cookbook. The funding collected from the cookbooks goes toward the public television initiative.
Mister Rogers treated every child as if they were special. In this day and age most parents assume millenials are entitled or have an entitlist personality. Its not true. Special does not equal entitlement. Special people do not do anything sensational for people to love them. Special people can abound and share love in many different ways. Fred Rogers’ mother made him every cardigan he wore on the show. That’s one way of showing love, I suppose. Additionally, people accused Mister Rogers of being gay, and a perv, and a sniper in Vietnam. None of this is true. Don’t believe everything that you read! Snopes is your friend. If you don’t like it or believe what you are reading there’s one solution.
Or turn it on and be greeted to the most lovely kindness imaginable.
Mister Rogers had a fish tank with real fish in it that he fed on every episode. Once a young viewer wrote a letter that he was afraid the fish would die because he never mentioned them. This was before the advent of closed captioning and SAP. The young boy was hearing impaired. THIS IS WHY I GET SO ANAL RETENTIVE ABOUT CLOSED CAPTIONING. Period. Eventually one of the fish did die. Mister Rogers coordinated with cellist Yo Yo Ma to create a special song for the fish dying. This comes into play later when Mister Rogers was himself dying of cancer — Yo Yo Ma played the dying fish song he had previously written over the phone. He peacefully died with his hopes intact after 9/11 took such a toll on his mental health.
Speaking of 9/11, Fred made some promos for the station on 10/23/01. He talked about the repairs of creation, finding joy and light and of course, being a good neighbor.
Fred was picked on a lot as a child. He was called “Fat Freddy.” Accept and expect mistakes. They happen as long as you learn from them. Think of them in the way curious Daniel Tiger would.
Mister Rogers often invited guests on the show to demonstrate he was “with” the times. He invited children to show him what rap was and how to moonwalk. He wanted to grow alongside his audience. Eddie Murphy was a comedian who notoriously spoofed Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on SNL. It didn’t bother Fred. The two met and shook hands. Fred would only get upset was if “spoofs” were exploiting children for personal gain.
Mister Rogers went into repeats on 2/20/1976 in favor of an adult talkshow “Old Friends, New Friends”. The concept bombed.
Everyone longs to be loved and that that he or she be capable of loving. We all could do a little better to interact in the nature of Mister Rogers. When you face a challenge or adversity ask yourself “What would Fred Rogers do?”