In spare moments around the office, I like to Google "Mister Rogers" and other variations just to see what pops up. A few weeks ago a found seven hours of interviews with him. And few days ago, the following result was returned from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
A bronze statue of Fred Rogers, the late icon of children's television, is nearly finished but doesn't have a neighborhood to call home.
The statue is being sculpted by Long Island artist Robert Berks. It is based on a photo of Mister Rogers, in his trademark sweater, sitting and putting on a sneaker, said his widow, Joanne Rogers, 78, of Oakland. The project is being paid for by an anonymous donor.
"The statue, as far as I know, is almost done," Joanne Rogers said. "But they have not located it in any spot yet."
I asked Mister Rogers' former assistant, Elain Lynch, about the dedication ceremony yesterday in my bi-weekly call to Family Communications. She said it wasn't happening anytime soon.
"It's become veeeeeee-ry political."
"Everybody wants a piece of him, huh?" I asked.
I imagine that this is part of the reason I'm having such a tough time getting FCI's official (ie: written, not just verbal) approval. Everybody wants a piece of his legacy, or at least that's how it seems. My persistence, then, demonstrates some sort of intent. My follow-through seperates me from the wingnuts. I hope.
Yes, I want to be a filmmaker. But this project is not about hitching my star to Mister Rogers. If he hadn't leaned in and whispered, "Spread the message, Benjamin," then this whole story would be just that -- a story on my website. But he gave me an assignment, he left me an inheritance. It's my responsibility to follow through.
Regarding the statue, well, I have mixed feelings. For starters, I'm not crazy about how it looks. It's rough and jagged, not soft like the Mister Rogers I knew. The whole thing also makes me sad, for some reason. I guess because is really drives home the point that the man himself is gone.
But he loved Richard S. Caliguiri's work. And he should be remembered in as many ways as possible: paintings, books, songs, and documentaries.
To that end, Chris and I will attend the ceremony -- whenever it is.