There is probably not a child alive in the United States that hasn’t been “touched” by MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. Maybe you couldn’t wait for the trolley to whisk you to the Neighborhood of Make Believe, got excited over Mr. Rogers tour of the local denizens, or maybe it was the “shoe toss” that gave you a thrill. For all the good memories you had from the show, let me dredge up some repressed horrors that you may have forgotten, but still haunt me and my wife years later.
The most nightmare-producing images from the show was when Lady Elaine Fairchilde was on screen. Did FRED ROGERS purposely pick a puppet design to scare children into his submission? Her phallic red nose, alcoholic-red cheeks, her creepy CHYNA-like man-pretending-to-be-a-woman voice, and an overall look that seems Fred pulled her out of the trash. If I was a child in IT, my fear would manifest itself as this puppet.
The next horror-vision on my tour of The Neighborhood is the amazing limping Chef Brockett. I know it’s not a politically correct thing to say, he had a physical disability, but hell, this guy gave me the creeps as a kid. He would be cooking and then all of a sudden lunge towards Mr. Rogers, scaring the crap out of me. I had to keep telling myself, it was only a limp, he does not want to eat Fred’s brains. While searching for information on DON BROCKETT, I found an eerie link to my fears. Did you know that he was the “Friendly Psychopath in Cell” in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS AND played a zombie, not only in GEORGE ROMERO’s 1985 classic DAY OF THE DEAD but in the 1990 remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by TOM SAVINI? Who knew that the chef with a perfect zombie gate had such ties to horror greats?
The last one almost made me crazy. When I was really young, I had the Mr. Rogers’ “long playing” record. It included the regular songs that everyone knew, but I also remember a song where Fred warns his young listeners that they can’t marry their mothers. Now, I don’t quite recall fighting the Oedipal complex as a child, but if I had an inkling to want to kill my dad and run away with my mom, Mr. Rogers was there to help.
No one I knew could remember this song, leaving me to look like some crazed lunatic, babbling something about Fred Rogers and my mother. But thanks to that series of tubes called “The Internets,” I was able to find this song and play it; confirming that I wasn’t nuts (Thanks to a blog called Dr. Forrest’s Cheese Factory). The song is available on-line, so you can be as appalled as I have been. While this song did not appear to damage me in any way when I was young, the memories of it as an adult has.
I’m sure there are other horrific memories from MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD (remember the rumor about him being a trained sniper? Look it up on Snopes)… but these are the few that scarred me. And speedy delivery to y’all.
EARLIER: Walt discusses the unsolved, possibly GHOULIES-induced death of his childhood Cockatiel.