February 28, 2003
The Death of a Wise Man

Anyone who heard Davy Rothbart's extraordinary interview of Mr. Rogers as broadcast on This American Life can now relive it in his op-ed piece in the New York Times today, A Friend in the Neighborhood. A comparison of the pics from the episode (showing Davy meeting Mr. Rogers when Davy was 3 and again 20 years later reveals that Davy dyed his hair blonde when he was three. If you listen to the actual interview (at the This American Life website -- just find the episode "Neighbors" from May of 2001), you'll hear how Davy initially could not believe that Mr. Rogers really invited his family -- based on the receipt of a fan letter -- to spend a day of Mr. Rogers's vacation with him. He wondered if he had imagined it, or if Mr. Rogers did this all the time. Turns out Mr. Rogers invited scads of his fans -- all of these young kids -- to visit him, and he would give each family the royal treatment. Sounds like he spent his every waking minute -- including his vacations -- catering to others. The main impression you get from the interview is -- hard to believe about a guy who meticulously changed his shoes and put on his comfy sweater at the beginning of every show -- a wise and enlightened person. If only Fred Rogers had had a show for adults. I guess he did.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:12 AM in Commentary