Wednesday, February 20, 2008

His Name is Fred.

But if you called him "Fred Rogers", no one would know who you were talking about.

Mister Rogers, though, well.... Everybody knows him!

This was too good not to share. From Tom Junod’s famous 1998 Esquire profile of Mr. Rogers, courtesy of Peter Sagal's Blog:

Once upon a time, a little boy with a big sword went into battle against Mister Rogers. Or maybe, if the truth be told, Mister Rogers went into battle against a little boy with a big sword, for Mister Rogers didn’t like the big sword. It was one of those swords that really isn’t a sword at all; it was a big plastic contraption with lights and sound effects, and it was the kind of sword used in defense of the universe by the heroes of the television shows that the little boy liked to watch. The little boy with the big sword did not watch Mister Rogers. In fact, the little boy with the big sword didn’t know who Mister Rogers was, and so when Mister Rogers knelt down in front of him, the little boy with the big sword looked past him and through him, and when Mister Rogers said, “Oh, my; that’s a big sword you have,” the boy didn’t answer, and finally his mother got embarrassed and said, “Oh, honey, c’mon, that’s Mister Rogers,” and felt his head for fever. Of course, she knew who Mister Rogers was, because she had grown up with him, and she knew that he was good for her son, and so now, with her little boy zombie-eyed under his blond bangs, she apologized, saying to Mister Rogers that she knew he was in a rush and that she knew he was here in Penn Station taping his program and that her son usually wasn’t like this, he was probably just tired … Except that Mister Rogers wasn’t going anywhere.

Yes, sure, he was taping, and right there, in Penn Station in New York City, were tings of other children wiggling in wait for him, but tight now his patient gray eyes were fixed on the little boy with the big sword, and so he stayed there, on one knee, until the little boy’s eyes finally focused on Mister Rogers, and he said, “It’s not a sword; it’s a death ray.” A death ray! Oh, honey, Mommy knew you could do it … And so now, encouraged, Mommy said, “Do you want to give Mister Rogers a hug, honey?” But the boy was shaking his head no, and Mister Rogers was sneaking his face past the big sword and the armor of the little boy’s eyes and whispering something in his ear–something that, while not changing his mind about the hug, made the little boy look at Mister Rogers in a new way, with the eyes of a child at last, and nod his head yes.

We were heading back to his apartment in a taxi when I asked him what he had said.

“Oh, I just knew that whenever you see a little boy carrying something like that, it means that he wants to show people that he’s strong on the outside.

“I just wanted to let him know that he was strong on the inside, too.

“And so that’s what I told him.

“I said, ‘Do you know that you’re strong on the inside, too?’

“Maybe it was something he needed to hear.”

Are you teary-eyed yet?

If not, watch this: it's 6-and-a-half minutes, and the last half is terrific. at about the 5-minute mark, it really kicks in.


becca said...

Wow. I'm really surprised the senator reacted so well. Mr. Rogers had such a good message but such a wimpy delivery. He's not threatening to a child, but not very strong to an adult, either.
As a child who grew up watching Mr. Rogers, I'm very glad the senator got the point better than I would have.

Frank Gibson said...

Also, It should be noted that, later on in the proceedings, Mr. Rogers vehemently denied taking Human Growth Hormone, or Steroids.

Hee Hee...