you can’t live in mister rogers’ neighborhood if you’re gay

MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, from left: Francois Clemons, Fred Rogers, 1972 photo, 1966-2001

i lovvvved watching “mister rogers’ neighborhood” as a kid.
i was a big fan of that and sesame street.
believe it or not,
those shows had some good life lessons on them.
i never heard anything bad about the fred rogers,
the man who played the title character,
but this following story might not paint him in the best light with the gays.
officer clemmons,
played by francois clemmons,
was told not to come out the closet by mister rogers.
this is what i read today on “daily mail“…

Francois Clemmons, best known as Officer Clemmons on children’s TV series ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’, has said that TV star Fred Rogers told him to not come out as gay and to marry a woman because if he didn’t, it would ‘threaten his dream’.

Clemmons, 75, described Rogers as both ‘my executioner and deliverer’ in his upcoming memoir ‘Officer Clemmons’ as he recalled the late children’s TV host telling him he could not be a ‘member of the Neighborhood’ if he was openly gay.

Francois Clemmons’ book: Officer Clemmons

The performer said Rogers confronted him about his sexuality in his studio one day during filming for the show.

‘Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd,’ Clemmons said Rogers told him, according to People magazine. 

Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the Neighborhood, you can’t be out as gay.’

Clemmons told People magazine he broke down in tears at Rogers’ reaction – who he had come to see as a father figure. 

‘I could have his friendship and fatherly love and relationship forever. But I could have the job only if I stayed in the closet,’ said Clemmons. 

I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer,’ said Clemmons.

‘But, at the same time, I knew that he would know how to comfort me. I didn’t have another mother or father to comfort me. I had no one to go and be a boy with. I was just vulnerable. He got in a few slaps, some tough love, a good spanking. But I was not kicked out of the family.’

Rogers then allegedly said: ‘The world doesn’t really want to know who you’re sleeping with — especially if it’s a man. You can have it all if you can keep that part out of the limelight.” 

He also allegedly told Clemens he should marry a woman to keep up the disguise.  

‘By the time I left his office, I had made up my mind to marry La-Tanya Mae Sheridan,’ Clemmons writes in his memoir. 

At the wedding reception, Fred and [his wife] Joanne approached me and my new wife. It felt as if Fred and I were sealing some kind of secret bargain.’ 

Clemmons divorced Sheridan in 1974 and begin living as an openly gay man

He told People magazine he doesn’t have any resentment toward his mentor Rogers.  

personally,
i don’t see a problem in what mister rogers said.
it was his show and dream.
those times were not like these times.
people are still trying to accept gay characters on kid’s tv these days.
mister rogers’ neighborhood would have been evicted and renovated if he came out in the 80s-90s.
look at what ellen faced when she came out on her tv show back in the 90s.
it’s not like officer clemmons was fired or holds resentment as well.
why should i be mad if he isn’t?
he had a very long and prosperous career on the show.
now my question is…

Did he tell his wife he was gay?

that’s the only part in the story i’m like uh…?”.
if not:

if she was a beard who understood her role,
like many in hollywood have due to their careers,
then this is pretty much a non-issue.

article cc: daily mail

Author: jamari fox

the fox invited to the blogging table.

9 thoughts on “you can’t live in mister rogers’ neighborhood if you’re gay

  1. Shocking, but yes those were the times and society was not accepting with the likes of Anita Bryant who scold gays of the 70s. Boy, now I’m more sympathetic of the older generation gays that divorced.

  2. If this was in 2010 era it would be a problem but back then even associating with a gay person ended your career so it wasn’t saying you can’t be gay just while you on the show you are straight so we don’t get pulled off the air. His show definitely did not focus on sexuality at all so I can see where he came from. To some that may be offensive but in 1970’s being gay was definitely a secret. We all know somebody in our family who lives with a “roommate” in a one bedroom apartment.

  3. I remember when they made a movie about this and the first thing I said was “please don’t ruin my childhood” and right after I said it, the lady said the same thing.

  4. Given when this happened that was actually a pretty progressive response from Mr Rogers. Let’s not forget that it’s still legal in many states to fire an employee for being gay.

  5. Although we might see it differently with our “2020” vision, Mister Rogers was giving him what he thought was good advice. In terms of having a career in the 70s, his advice was sound.

  6. Mr. Rogers did him a favor. Those times were hard for a black man let alone a gay black man. Now I would have been disappointed if Rogers had fired him and outed him.

  7. While I disagree with his recommendation I understand where Mr. Rogers was coming from. What’s missing here is the fact that Mr. Rogers himself was allegedly bisexual and had same-sexual attractions, but married a woman and lived his life as a straight man.

    When Francois Clemmons was first on the show it was around the time of Stonewall (1969), and Fred Rogers, like many mainstream liberal people, may have personally accepted gay people (and many liberals and very few conservatives did not) privately, but publicly, homosexuality was still considered a “disorder.” (Gay sex was criminalized in a number of US states until Lawrence v. Texas, in 2003, I think.)

    By the mid-1970s, when Clemmons came out, gay culture had begun to enter the US mainstream, and you start to see lots of gay representation in the US media, sometimes in ways that you don’t even say today. So their story parallels a lot of what was going on in the wider culture. I’m glad Clemmons survived whole, and is now able to tell his story. This talented, beautiful soul deserves a documentary of his own.

  8. For the time, I can understand why Mister Rogers said that. Being associated with anyone gay was career suicide and sadly so many gays & lesbians had to make up their mind as to how they were gonna lives in order to keep their careers. And one thing that no one has mentioned is that Francois divorced the woman in 1974 and then began to live as an openly gay man. He stayed on the show until 1993 so that says something right there.

    If you haven’t already, I HIGHLY recommend everyone of you reading this watch the documentary on Mister Rogers called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. It deals with this subject and the film is AMAZING. It will tug at your heartstrings HARDCORE so you NEED Kleenex by your side but it is so worth it.

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