It’s a Mister Rogers moment.
Fred Rogers, the late and much-beloved host of PBS’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, is the subject of a new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, that’s being acclaimed by critics as one of the best movies of the year.
Tom Hanks is slated to play Rogers in a biopic, You Are My Friend, set to begin production in September.
And on Thursday evening, when the documentary begins its multi-week run at Tampa Theatre, the movie palace is celebrating with a party in its neighborhood.
The Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Franklin Street Block Party, co-sponsored by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, is a free-admission, family-friendly event featuring samples from local restaurants, artists live-painting Mr. Rogers-themed canvases and lots more. It take place from 5-7 p.m., right before the movie gets its Tampa premiere at 7:30.
How well do you know Mister Rogers? True or False?
To make sure you’re a well-informed citizen of the ‘hood, here’s a True/False quiz to test your Mister Rogers mettle.
He was a Navy SEAL.
FALSE. This is one of the most persistent rumors about Rogers, whose sweet nature seems so suspect to some observers that they’re certain there had to be a badass underneath. Nope: He never even served in the military.
He was a reformed criminal with gang tattoos concealed under those cardigans.
FALSE. Same phenom: As snopes.com and many other sources have pointed out, he had no criminal record and for that matter, no time for crime: He went straight from college into TV work, graduated from seminary in 1963, and hosted Neighborhood from 1968 until 2001, two years before his death at the age of 74.
He was the victor in a Congressional smackdown.
TRUE. He may not have been a macho man, but his quiet eloquence and empathy for the needs of children vanquished a powerful opponent in 1969: His testimony before a congressional subcommittee convinced its tough-as-nails chairman, U.S. Senator John Pastore, that PBS deserved a multi-million-dollar bump in federal funding.
He graduated from Harvard.
FALSE. He did graduate, however, from the “Harvard of the South,” Rollins College in Winter Park, FL., and received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities (including Yale).
He and Bill Cosby had more in common than a fondness for sweaters.
TRUE. Along with Cosby and Art Linkletter, Rogers served as one of the three grand marshals of the 2003 Tournament of Roses Parade.
There’s a planet named after him.
FALSE. But he did get his name on an asteroid: 26858 Misterrogers, named after Rogers in 2003 by the International Astronomical Union.
A Sweater & Sneaker Drive in honor of Mister Rogers
Throughout the run of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Tampa Theatre will be conducting a Sweater & Sneaker Drive, seeking donations of “new and gently used” sweaters and sneakers to benefit adults and children using the services of The Spring of Tampa Bay and Metropolitan Ministries.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St., Tampa, June 14-27. Tickets $11 ($8 Tampa Theatre members), 813-274-8981, tampatheatre.org.