August 14, 2007

Mister Rogers' Nakedhood

Tom Junod profiled Mister Rogers for Esquire in November 1998. The result is something of a tour de force of "Hold my hand, Tom" journalism, which the magazine for some reason deleted from its website:

The old navy-blue sport jacket comes off first, then the dress shoes, except that now there is not the famous sweater or the famous sneakers to replace them, and so after the shoes he's on to the dark socks, peeling them off and showing the blanched skin of his narrow feet. The tie is next, the scanty black batwing of a bow tie hand-tied at his slender throat, and then the shirt, always white or light blue, whisked from his body button by button. He wears an undershirt, of course, but no matter--soon that's gone, too, as is the belt, as are the beige trousers, until his undershorts stand as the last impediment to his nakedness. They are boxers, egg-colored, and to rid himself of them he bends at the waist, and stands on one leg, and hops, and lifts one knee toward his chest and then the other and then...

Mister Rogers has no clothes on.

Nearly every morning of his life, Mister Rogers has gone swimming, and now, here he is, standing in a locker room, seventy years old and as white as the Easter Bunny, rimed with frost wherever he has hair, gnawed pink in the spots where his dry skin has gone to flaking, slightly wattled at the neck, slight lily stooped at the shoulder, slightly sunken in the chest, slightly curvy at the hips, slightly pigeoned at the toes, slightly as wing at the fine bobbing nest of himself... and yet when he speaks, it is in that voice, his voice, the famous one, the unmistakable one, the televised one, the voice dressed in sweater and sneakers, the soft one, the reassuring one, the curious and expository one, the sly voice that sounds adult to the ears of children and childish to the ears of adults, and what he says, in the midst of all his bobbing-nudity, is as understated as it is obvious: "Well, Tom, I guess you've already gotten a deeper glimpse into my daily routine than most people have."

Can you say ... "Hero"? []

1 Comment

I actually attended Rollins College, Mr. Rogers Alma Mater. Over the course of my college career I was greeted on several occasions with a, "Hello Neighbor" as I passed him walking around the grounds of campus (seriously, that's what he would say to us instead of a simple hello). It never got old for anyone - we all loved it when we had a Mr. Rogers moment. It was pretty awesome - it was like you were 5 the second he said it. And, since Mr Rogers loved to swim in our pool, I have also been greeted by the sight of Mr Rogers in a speedo many an early morning (not so awesome but hey, you gotta give the guy credit for staying in "shape")

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