March 20: Mr. Rogers

mr-rogersIt’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, because today marks what would have been Mr. Fred Rogers’ 85th birthday. Mr. Rogers was perhaps the most decent, humble and kind man to ever work in entertainment. He was a deeply sincere teetotaler that could somehow warm the hearts of even the most sarcastic hedonists like yours truly.

On his beloved Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood he never talked down to his television audience. While many kids tv hosts might condescend, Rogers spoke as if he were directly talking to a child, speaking in a low key manner that would help the home audience better understand what he was talking about. Rogers employed this style to explain everything from fun topics like how cookies are made to more serious topics like how to deal with divorce and war.

The way Fred Rogers appeared on camera was no different from how he acted off camera. The man was a living saint. He personally answered all of his fan mail. He even took the many parodies of his style in stride. In fact, he found Eddie Murphy’s often dark Saturday Night Live sketch “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” amusing.

His most impressive talent was his ability to use his sincerity to cut through others pomposity while doing it in the most polite manner. In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications to express his support for funding PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. By all accounts, John O. Pastore, the chairman of the subcommittee was an impatient man, but he patiently sat through Rogers’ impassioned six minute testimony, and promptly gave PBS its $20-million funding. He’d later say the testimony gave him goosebumps. Even when he was presented with a lifetime achievement Emmy in 1997, he made the award about everyone but him, bringing an auditorium of entertainment industry figures to tears. It’s only fitting that a man this warm and sunny was born on the Spring Equinox.

It’s a little odd to pay tribute to a legendary teetotaler with an alcoholic beverage, but the last thing Mr. Rogers would want us to do is ignore our mission statement. So, since Mr. Rogers is so associated with his cardigan sweaters, many of which were knitted for him by his mother, today we are mixing a Cardigan Cocktail. It’s a savory cocktail that was created by the fine folks at Thursday Happy Hour as a drink for the transition from Winter to Spring.

Cardigan Cocktail

  • 2 1/2 ounces Gin
  • 1 teaspoon Royal Rose Cardamom–Clove Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
  • 1/2 ounce orange juice
  • 1/3 ounce lemon juice

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass with cracked ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

Tomorrow: A rock concert that stopped before it started. We’ll explain.

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