25 Rich Facts About Beverly Hills, 90210

Fox Network
Fox Network

Dust off your scrunchies and bust out your babydoll dresses: the original gang from Beverly Hills, 90210 is back! Fans of the retro teen soap have reason to celebrate this summer as the hit series, which ran from 1990 to 2000, is officially back and rebooted. On August 7, 2019, BH90210 made its triumphant return to Fox with most of the original cast members—including Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, Shannen Doherty, Brian Austin Green, and Gabrielle Carteris—in tow. 

Anyone who was alive during the 1990s probably watched at least one episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. A precursor to Gossip Girl and The O.C., 90210 (which ran for 10 seasons) depicted the not-always-so-fabulous lives of mostly fabulous teens living in the world’s most fabulous zip code. It's time rev up your Bimmer and take a ride behind-the-scenes of the definitive 1990s teen drama.

1. The Walshes didn't live in Beverly Hills.

Contrary to the show’s title, and its storyline, the Walsh family doesn’t move from Minneapolis to Beverly Hills—at least not judging by the exterior shots of their home. That house is located at 1675 East Altadena Drive in Altadena, California, about 30 miles away from Beverly Hills. But Altadena, 91001 just doesn’t have the same panache.

2. It was inspired by John Hughes, and Thirtysomething.

Beverly Hills, 90210 creator Darren Star was just 27 years old when Fox came to him and told him they wanted to create a series about teenagers in Beverly Hills, and already had Aaron Spelling signed on as producer. Star was interested, particularly if the series could focus on real issues facing teenagers. “The one show I really liked was Thirtysomething,” Star told The New York Times. “The issues were so small and particular to that group, and I wanted teenagers to examine their own navels, in a sense. It would be their point of view, like the John Hughes movies that were very popular at the time, like The Breakfast Club."

3. Ian Ziering thought it was all pretty superficial.

Actor Ian Ziering attends an event
George De Sota, Newsmakers/Getty Images

Ian Ziering had moved back to his home state of New Jersey when he got the call about 90210—and had a very specific reaction to the script. “When I read the script for 90210, I thought, ‘Boy, this is very superficial,’ and it was,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I mean, the pilot was all about the glitz and the glamour of Beverly Hills, the obnoxious kids, and the fish-out-of-water story of Brenda and Brandon Walsh. I couldn’t discern from that first script that the show would become very issue-oriented.”

4. Shannen Doherty's audition was "horrible." (It didn't seem to matter.)

It didn’t take Shannen Doherty long to determine that, after reading for the part of Brenda Walsh, there was no way she’d be landing the role. “My audition was horrible,” she told The New York Times. “I actually remember walking out and saying: ‘I lost that job. I blew it.’ And the casting director came out and sort of winked at me and said, ‘I wouldn’t count yourself out yet, kiddo.’ And I was like, ‘O.K., whatever.’”

5. Brandon Walsh was the last role cast, and Jason Priestley had a single weekend to prepare.

If Jason Priestley seemed like a natural fit for the role of Brandon Walsh, it’s not because he had a lot of time to discover his character. “Everybody had been cast except for Brandon,” Priestley told The New York Times. “I read for Aaron on Thursday. I got the job Friday afternoon, and on Monday we started production.”

6. Dylan McKay wasn't supposed to be a recurring character.

Actor Luke Perry attends an event
Newsmakers/Getty Images

Dylan McKay was originally written as a bit player with a story arc that would last just a few episodes. But Aaron Spelling was so pleased with Luke Perry’s performance that he decided to expand the part. “I was a guest star, and Aaron wanted to make me a regular,” Perry—who tragically passed away in March 2019—told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “The studio didn't want to pick up the deal, and he used that instance to illustrate an important principle: He gets to pick who's on the show. He didn't want me to have to go in the room with the network, but he calmly looked at me and said, ‘Go get 'em, kid.’” (It’s also worth noting that Perry initially auditioned for the role of Steve Sanders, which went to Ziering.)

7. Allegedly, no one knew that Tori Spelling was Aaron Spelling's daughter.

It’s long been rumored that the casting directors had no idea that Tori Spelling, who auditioned under another name, was Aaron’s daughter. But even Tori has admitted that there may have been some nepotism at play. I heard about the show from my agent,” the actress told Entertainment Weekly. “She said, ‘Your dad is doing it.’ I was like, ‘I haven’t heard anything about it.’ I popped into his briefcase when he got home, and I was like, cool. I really wanted to play Andrea. I went in under a different name, then I got the part of Donna—which I’m sure had something to do with my dad.”

8. Aaron Spelling kept a close eye on Donna's storylines.

It’s probably no coincidence that Aaron Spelling’s daughter was the most naive character in the crew, and that her commitment to abstinence was a major plot point throughout the series. “The thing that was always at play in the Donna story was that Donna was played by the daughter of Aaron Spelling,” writer/executive producer Larry Mollin told Vulture. “The minute we’d go in to pitch stories about an episode, he’d ask, ‘What’s Donna doing this week?’ Even though Donna wasn’t one of the main characters in the inner-circle—she was a supporting character, really, in the beginning—you always had to start what the episode was about with, ‘What was Donna doing?’ That’s what the old man wanted to hear. It was sweet. It was actually very endearing, his admiration for her. Tori was really out there. She was just enjoying herself. So even though the old man couldn’t control her, he could control Donna Martin.”

“Maybe at first [he was being protective],” Spelling said of Donna's virginity storyline. “I’m not sure. When I was first cast, Donna was a just a smaller side character. She was a friend of Kelly and Brenda’s. So there was never a discussion about her character staying a virgin. I think she stayed a virgin because once we established that she was a fan favorite, people really started relating to her. Teens constantly would approach me and tell me that they were virgins and they had times where they were scared that being a virgin would make them seem uncool, but then Donna made it okay.”

9. Gabrielle Carteris lied about her age to play Andrea.

Former cast members Jennie Garth, Brian Austin Green, Ian Ziering, Jason Priestley and Gabrielle Carteris arrive at the Beverly Hills 90210: The Complete First Season DVD Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel November 3, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Not many of the “teens” at the center of 90210 were actual teenagers. Gabrielle Carteris was the oldest cast member; she was 29 years old when she was cast as 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman. Worried that she would be considered too old, she lied about her age. “They didn’t know, I lied,” Carteris later admitted. “I actually talked to a lawyer about how could I sign these contracts and lie about my age and still be able to do the show. ‘Is it OK?’ And, ‘Yes it is, as long as you just say you’re over 21.’” It was the press that eventually outed her. “Then a magazine—that I won’t say—did an interview on the show with somebody else and they went and asked my agent [my age], I said, ‘I don’t talk about my age,’ or whatever, they found it in the DMV, illegally. So, then they were printing it and I thought, ‘This is it! I’m gonna lose the job, there’s no way.’ By that time, the show had been on long enough, so it was OK.”

Ziering was just one year younger than Carteris; “I was 28 years old playing a 16-year-old,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I just kept my mouth shut. I never talked about it. And I wasn’t the oldest in the cast either. I just thought, if they’re going to buy, I’m going to sell it."

10. It wasn't an immediate hit, but summer episodes changed that.

Beverly Hills, 90210 made its debut on October 4, 1990, but it was far from an overnight success. All that changed thanks to two key moves: a season one finale that saw Brenda lose her virginity to Dylan, and the decision to begin airing the show’s second season in the summer. “By the end of season two,” according to Entertainment Weekly, “90210 nearly double[d] its audience (from 9.5 to 17.4 million viewers), and [was] pulling in an astonishing 52 share of teen TV-watchers. Then came the hysterical fans, the mall riots, the action figures …”

11. The season one finale didn't sit well with Fox affiliates.

About “Spring Dance,” that season one finale that saw Brenda and Dylan consummate their relationship? Well, it didn’t make everyone happy. “The affiliates were scandalized,” Star recalled to The New York Times. “Not because they had sex, but because Brenda was happy about it, and it didn’t have any dire consequences. I was strongly advised to write a show that would address the consequences of that sexual experience. So the first episode of the second season Brenda broke up with Dylan because their relationship had gotten too mature.”

12. Jennie Garth knew the show was a hit when they received a bomb threat.

Jennie Garth in 'Beverly Hills, 90210'
Fox Television

When discussing the show’s huge bump in popularity, Jennie Garth recalled how, “We got a bomb threat once. While we were filming a graduation scene, someone hid a bomb underneath the bleachers. It was like, ‘Ooh! We hit it big!’”

13. Beverly Hills High School wanted nothing to do with the show.

West Beverly High School is a fictional place; the series takes place there because Beverly Hills High School would not allow the production to use its name. Filming for the school-set scenes took place at Torrance High School, about 20 miles away. If the school looks familiar to you beyond the 90210 gang, that’s because it has made lots of film and television appearances over the years; She’s All That, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the 90210 reboot all shot there as well.

14. Donna Martin was originally Donna Morgan.

“Donna Morgan Graduates?” Though Donna’s role grew as the show continued, it seems as if she wasn’t always Donna Martin. In a season one episode where she auditions to be the school’s resident DJ, her name is given as Donna Morgan. It must run in the family: also in the first season, her mother’s name was Nancy and she was played by Jordana Capra; in season two, her name was Felice and Katherine Cannon took over the role.

15. Those students were not yelling "Donna Martin graduates."

A still from 'Beverly Hills, 90210'
Fox Television

In his 2014 memoir, Jason Priestley: A Memoir, Priestley let his readers in on a little secret: During that famous protest in which Donna’s West Bev classmates face off against the administration to make sure that she receives her diploma right alongside them, they’re not actually yelling, “Donna Martin Graduates.” At the urging of Priestley, they were yelling, “Donna Martin Masturbates.” “I knew they were going to go back and reloop this dialogue anyway," Priestley explained, "so it was pretty irresistible.”

16. There was a lot of tension behind the scenes.

It was hardly a secret that not everyone was BFFs behind the scenes. “There were times when it was worse than high school,” Garth told The New York Times. “The environment there was like: Are you kidding me? There was a lot of tension and unnecessary drama on the set, a certain amount of competition, and a certain—probably—anger about different salaries as the years progressed. People would find out how much someone was making, and then they’d be angry and want that, or if you got days off in your contract, they’d want that. Nobody was brave enough to step in and set us straight, and have a serious talk with us about it.”

17. There was plenty of romance behind the scenes, too.

According to Priestley, not all of the backstage antics were anger-driven. “Various combinations of people slept with each other over the years," he wrote in his memoir, noting that his own “first full-fledged adult relationship”—with Christine Elise, who played bad girl Emily Valentine—began on the show.

18. Tiffani Thiessen and Brian Austin Green were a real-life couple when she was cast as Valerie Malone.

Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling and Tiffani Thiessen at a VIP reception for the reopening of the newly renovated Chanel Boutique on Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills, Ca. 9/14/00
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

In the fifth season, Tiffani Thiessen joined the cast as Valerie Malone, ostensibly replacing Shannen Doherty. At the time, Thiessen and Brian Austin Green were a real-life couple, which led to some awkward moments. In her first episode, she shared a kiss with Luke Perry. “That was probably the more awkward thing," Thiessen said. "Literally having your boyfriend on the show and then literally kissing another man, 'I get paid for this, honey. I don't know what to tell you.'"

19. Thiessen needed a hand double in her first episode.

Valerie Malone was immediately painted as the show’s “bad girl,” which was illustrated by her smoking a joint at Casa de Walsh. The role didn’t come all that naturally to Thiessen. “They wanted me to roll a joint with one hand so I looked like some kind of pro,” the actress told Entertainment Weekly. “I couldn’t do it. The person you see is actually somebody else’s hand rolling a joint.”

20. There was a "no sunglasses" rule. And hair could be a problem for Aaron Spelling, too.

Apparently, few things ticked off Aaron Spelling more than a cast member coming back from a break with a new hairstyle. “If someone came back after hiatus with a completely different haircut, Aaron would go crazy,” Spelling’s publicist, Kevin Sasaki, told The Hollywood Reporter.

“Hair was very important to my dad,” Tori confirmed, adding, “And if you watch, there are never sunglasses on 90210. He'd always say, ‘Let them see it in your eyes before they hear it in your words.’ Luke Perry's famous squint was probably because my dad wouldn't let him wear sunglasses.”

21. Hilary Swank was fired from the show. (Then went on to win two Oscars.)

Hilary Swank in a publicity shot for 'Beverly Hills, 90210'
Getty Images

Today, Hilary Swank is known as a two-time Oscar winner. But from 1997 to 1998, she was known as Carly Reynolds, a single mom and Steve Sanders’s love interest during 90210’s eighth season. Though she was originally contracted for two years, she was fired after just 16 episodes—and, in a 2014 interview with Conan O’Brien, she admitted that she was “devastated” when she was let go. Of course, things turned out pretty well for Swank; shortly after losing the gig, she was cast as Brandon Teena in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, the role that netted her her first Oscar statuette.

22. Ziering once trashed his dressing room.

During the show’s fourth season, Ziering had a bit of a rock star-style breakdown. In an episode that saw him wrongly accused of rape, Ziering was given some serious material to work with while attempting to clear his good name. “But, they edited out so much powerful stuff,” Ziering said. “That was like the first time I really got some great words to say and I workshopped them and I studied. I brought game, and it never even made it through the edit.”

Feeling betrayed, “I tore the dressing rooms apart," Ziering admitted. "We all work so hard for our characters and to not even get a heads up ... I’m not a volatile person, I have a very long fuse, but after working so hard on this particular episode, I just didn’t feel like they were with me on this one.”

23. When Priestley left the show, it was with zero fanfare.

In addition to his starring role, Priestley also served as a producer and director on the series. But when he made the decision to leave toward the end of the show’s run, no one really acknowledged his departure. In an interview with The Guardian, Priestley was asked about his most memorable experience from working on the show. “When I left the show, it was so anticlimactic, it just left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. "It was the fourth episode of the ninth season. I did the first scene of the morning—literally with this actor who was brought in to replace me—and that was it. I hugged the crew, picked up my box of stuff, went to my car and drove away. There was no party, no nothing. I felt like I'd wasted nine years of my life."

24. Luke Perry was Team Brandon.

Though they were best friends, Brandon and Dylan spent much of the series battling for Kelly Taylor’s affections. And while the end of the series saw Kelly attempting to reignite her relationship with Dylan, Luke Perry thought that Brandon was the smarter choice. "My guy was a lot of things, [but] stable wasn't one of them," Perry told Bill Simmons."If you're looking out for her in the long term, which is what you wanna do, then you gotta do that thing and fall on the sword and let your best friend have her and that's what my guy would do."

25. Over its 10-year run, the show received just one Emmy nomination.

Firing a future Oscar winner may be one of Beverly Hills, 90210’s closest brushes with award recognition. Though it received four Golden Globe nominations during its run (two for Jason Priestley, two for Best Television Series – Drama), it only ever received one Emmy nomination: Milton Berle got a nod for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for the season five episode, “Sentenced To Life.”

Anthony Blunt: The Art Historian/Russian Spy Who Worked at Buckingham Palace

Samuel West portrays Anthony Blunt in The Crown.
Samuel West portrays Anthony Blunt in The Crown.
Des Willie, Netflix

*Mild spoilers for season 3 of The Crown on Netflix ahead.

Viewers of the third season of The Crown on Netflix will likely have their curiosity piqued by Anthony Blunt, the art historian who is revealed to be a spy for the Russians during his 19 years of service to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Instead of getting the boot once he was discovered, however, Blunt went on to remain under Her Majesty's employ for eight more years—until his official retirement. While treason never looks good on a resume, the royal class had good reason to keep him on.

Blunt, who was born and raised in England, visited the Soviet Union in 1933 and was indoctrinated as a spy after being convinced of the benefits of Communism in fighting fascism. He began recruiting his university classmates at Cambridge before serving during World War II and leaking information about the Germans to the KGB. Blunt was one of five Cambridge graduates under Soviet direction. Two of them, diplomats Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, relocated to the Soviet Union in 1951. Another, Kim Philby, went undetected until 1961. John Cairncross escaped notice, too, but was eventually outed.

However, it was Blunt who had a post at Buckingham Palace. After being tipped off by American intelligence, MI5 interrogated Blunt. He confessed to his treachery in 1964 and was granted immunity from prosecution. Why was he able to remain employed? One theory has it that British intelligence was so embarrassed by Blunt's ability to circulate in the upper levels of the monarchy that firing him would have raised too many questions. Another thought has Blunt having knowledge of some bizarrely congenial wartime correspondence between Adolf Hitler and the Duke of Windsor (a.k.a. King Edward VIII, whose abdication led to Elizabeth's eventual ascension to the throne).

Whatever the case, the Queen was advised by MI5 to keep Blunt around. In his role as art curator, he had no access to classified information. Blunt was at the Palace through 1972 and spent another seven years roaming London giving lectures. His actions remained a tightly guarded secret until Margaret Thatcher disclosed his treason in 1979.

As for that speech seen in The Crown, where Olivia Colman's Queen Elizabeth makes some not-so-subtle digs at Blunt at the opening of a new exhibition, there's no record of such a takedown ever happening. While the two reportedly kept their distance from each other in private, according to Miranda Carter's Anthony Blunt: His Lives:

“Blunt continued to meet the Queen at official events. She came to the opening of the Courtauld’s new galleries in 1968, and in 1972 she personally congratulated Blunt on his retirement, when the Lord Chamberlain, knowing nothing of his disgrace, offered him the honorary post of Adviser on the Queen’s pictures—inadvertently continuing his association with the Palace for another six years.”

Stripped of his knighthood as a result of the truth about his actions being made known, Blunt became a recluse and died of a heart attack in 1983. His memoirs, which were made public by the British Library in 2009, indicated his regret, calling his spy work "the biggest mistake of my life."

41 Wonderful Facts About Mister Rogers

PBS Television, Getty Images
PBS Television, Getty Images

Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. Just ahead of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a new biopic in which Tom Hanks stars everyone's favorite "neighbor," here are 41 things you might not have known about Fred Rogers.

1. Fred Rogers was bullied as a child.

A publciity image of David Newell (L) and Fred Rogers (R) from 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' is pictured
Focus Features

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Massachusetts's Nantucket island—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and was regularly taunted by his classmates.

"I used to cry to myself when I was alone," Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano."

2. Rogers left Dartmouth College after one year.

Rogers was an Ivy League dropout. He spent his freshman year at Dartmouth College, then transferred to Rollins College, where he pursued a degree in music.

3. He was an accomplished musician.

Fred Rogers in a still from 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' (2018)
Focus Features

Rogers transferred to Rollins College in order to pursue a degree in music and graduated Magna cum laude. In addition to his talent for playing the piano, Rogers was also an incredible songwriter.

4. He wrote the music for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Need proof of Rogers's songwriting prowess? He wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

5. Playing the piano was his favorite stress-reducer.

Whenever Rogers began to feel anxious or overwhelmed, he would play the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood theme song on the piano as a way to calm his nerves.

6. He had a strict daily routine.

Rogers was a stickler when it came to his daily routine: He started his day at 5 a.m. and made time for a prayer as well as some studying, writing, phone calls, swimming, and responding to his fan mail.

7. He weighed himself daily.

Mister Rogers
Getty Images

Another part of Rogers's daily routine included a daily weigh-in. He liked to maintain a weight of exactly 143 pounds.

8. His weight had a special meaning.

Rogers's regular weight of 143 had special meaning to him. "It takes one letter to say I and four letters to say love and three letters to say you," Rogers once said. "One hundred and forty-three."

9. Pennsylvania celebrated 143 day in 2019.

In 2019, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf declared May 23 to be 143 Day in the state. Rogers was born near Pittsburgh and lived his whole life in the area. By honoring Rogers with his own holiday, the individuals behind the 143 Day campaign wanted to encourage people to be kind to their neighbors on May 23—and every other day of the year.

10. Rogers responded to every fan letter he received.

Rogers took time out of each day to respond to his fan mail, and he responded to each and every letter he received—approximately 50 to 100 letters per day. "He respected the kids who wrote," Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

11. No feeling was too big—or small—for Mr. Rogers to talk about.

A promotional image of Fred Rogers for 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' is pictured
Amazon

Over the many years he worked with children, Rogers spoke very openly about his and their feelings on every sort of topic, from why kids shouldn't be afraid of haircuts to divorce and war.

12. He spent five episodes talking about nuclear war.

Since its inception on Pittsburgh's WQED in 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had informed its young audience about topical issues in subversive and disarming ways. When civil rights were discussed, host Fred Rogers didn’t deliver a lecture about tolerance. Instead, he invited a black friend, Officer Clemmons, to cool off in his inflatable pool, a subtle nod to desegregation.

Rogers conceived and taped a five-episode storyline on the subject in the summer of 1983, which wound up being prescient. In November 1983, president Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada to topple a Marxist regime.

“Little did I know we would be involved in a worldwide conflict now,” Rogers told the Associated Press. “But that’s all the better because our shows give families an opportunity for communication. If children should hear the news of war, at least they have a handle here, to assist in family communications.”

13. Rogers had a special way of talking to kids.

Mr. Rogers knew children well. He knew how they thought, what they liked, what they feared, and what they struggled to understand—and he went to great lengths to ensure he never upset or confused his devoted viewers.Mr. Rogers knew children well. He knew how they thought, what they liked, what they feared, and what they struggled to understand—and he went to great lengths to ensure he never upset or confused his devoted viewers.

Maxwell King, author of the forthcoming book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, wrote in The Atlantic that Mr. Rogers carefully chose his words while filming Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He understood that children think in a literal way, and a phrase that might sound perfectly fine to adult ears could be misinterpreted by younger audiences.

Rogers was “extraordinarily good at imagining where children’s minds might go,” King said, adding that Mr. Rogers wrote a song called “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” because he knew this might be a fear shared by many children.

14. Rogers used King Friday to make Friday the 13th less scary for kids.

King Friday XIII, son of King Charming Thursday XII and Queen Cinderella Monday, is an avid arts lover, a talented whistler, and a former pole vaulter. He reigns over Calendarland with lots of pomp and poise, and he’s usually correct.

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood may also remember that King Friday XIII, who reigned over Calendarland, was born on Friday the 13th, because his birthday was celebrated on the program every Friday the 13th. Though the math isn’t perfect—according to Timeanddate.com , Friday the 13th sometimes happens two or three times a year—the reason behind it absolutely is.

Rogers explained that he wanted to give children a reason to look forward to Friday the 13th, instead of buying into the negative superstitions that surround the dreaded date. “We thought, ‘Let’s start children out thinking that Friday the 13th was a fun day,’” he said in a 1999 interview. “So we would celebrate his birthday every time a Friday the 13th came.”

15. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Rogers was an ordained minister who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a 6-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

16. Rogers was not a fan of foul language.

If Rogers used the word mercy, it probably meant that he was feeling overwhelmed. He was typically heard saying it when he sat down at his desk in the morning and saw the mountain of fan mail awaiting him. But mercy was about the strongest word in his vocabulary.

17. Rogers was not a fan of television, which is why he gravitated toward it.


Rogers’s decision to work in television wasn’t out of a love for the medium. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

18. There's a reason why the stoplight is always yellow in the opening sequence to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

In the opening sequence of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the stoplight is always on yellow as a reminder to kids—and their parents—to slow down a little.

19. Rogers believed that patience was a virtue—even if it meant dead air time.

Rogers wasn't afraid of dead air: He once invited a marine biologist onto the show and put a microphone into his fish tank, because he wanted the kids at home to see (and hear) that fish make sounds when they eat. While taping the segment, however, the fish weren't hungry so the marine biologist started trying to egg the fish on. But Rogers just sat there, waiting quietly. The crew figured they'd need to re-tape it, but Rogers didn't want to. He thought it was a great lesson in teaching kids the importance of being patient.

20. Rogers always made sure to announce that he was feeding his fish for a very specific reason.

Rogers always mentioned out loud that he was feeding his fish because a young blind viewer once asked him to do so. She wanted to know the fish were OK.

21. Rogers was not a fan of ad-libbing.

Rogers was a perfectionist, and very much disliked ad-libbing. He felt that he owed it to the kids who watched his show to make sure that every word on his show was thought out.

22. Kids who watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood retained more than those who watched Sesame Street.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

23. Animals loved Rogers as much as people did.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understood 2000 English words, was an avid fan, too. When Rogers visited once her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

24. Rogers's mother knitted all of his sweaters.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he said.

25. One of rogers's sweaters lives in the Smithsonian.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

26. Rogers's sweater collection was actually challenging to maintain.

Fred's mother, Nancy Rogers, died in 1981. Rogers continued wearing the sweaters she had made for years ... until it became obvious that they wouldn’t endure many more tapings of the show. Replacements were sought, but art director Kathy Borland quickly discovered that the search was not unlike trying to replace Superman’s cape. A Fred Rogers sweater needed a zipper with a smooth operation so it wouldn’t snag on camera. It also needed to be vibrant.

Nothing fit the bill until Borland saw a United States Postal Service employee walking down the street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—where the show taped—and took note of his cardigan. Borland phoned postal supply distributors and was able to secure a fresh inventory of sweaters (which she bought white, and then dyed) that kept Rogers looking like himself through the show’s final episode in 2001.

27. Rogers changed into sneakers as a production practicality.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a production-related consideration. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

28. He invited the driver who took him to a PBS dinner to eat with them.

While being transported to a PBS executive's house, Rogers heard his limo driver say that he was going to have to wait outside for two hours while the party dined—so Rogers insisted that the driver join them for dinner.

On the ride back home, Rogers sat in the front of the car with the driver, who mentioned that they were passing his house on their way back to Rogers's home. So Rogers asked if they could stop in to meet the family. According to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life: Rogers played piano for the family and chatted with them until late into the night.

29. No, Rogers was never a sniper.

The internet has stirred up all sorts of bizarre rumors about Rogers, including one that he served in the army and was a sniper in Vietnam and another that he served in the army and was a sniper in Korea. As exciting as that might make an upcoming biopics, these are both untrue.

30. Rogers was partly responsible for helping to save public television.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

31. Rogers also helped to save the VCR.

Years after he appeared before the Senate, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement. Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

32. At least one professor believes that rogers's impact on kids wasn't all that positive.

LSU professor Don Chance is one of the few people who isn't 100 positive about Rogers's legacy: He believes that Rogers created a, "culture of excessive doting" which resulted in generations of lazy, entitled college students.

33. He was regularly parodied—and loved every second of it.

Rogers was regularly parodied, and he loved it. The first time Eddie Murphy met Mr. Rogers, he couldn't stop himself from giving the guy a big hug.

34. Rogers was colorblind.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

"Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup."

35. Michael Keaton got his start on MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

36. Rogers gave George Romero his first paying gig, too.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Night of the Living Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made."

37. Rogers paid a visit to Sesame Street in 1981.

Though Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street were both PBS shows, they were technically competitors—though the show’s producers didn’t exactly act like it. As a result, Rogers made an appearance on Sesame Street in May 1981.

The video opens with Rogers wearing a suit and tie instead of his usual cardigan sweater. He's standing outside of a storefront when Big Bird approaches and asks if he’ll judge a race between him and Snuffy. (The theme of the segment was competition and, more importantly, maintaining friendships whether you win or lose.)

38. He made a guest appearance on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, too.

Rogers once played a pastor's mentor on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

39. Many of the characters on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were named after people in Rogers's life.

McFeely, for example, was Rogers's grandfather's name; Queen Sara was named for Rogers's wife.

40. Rogers got his own stamp in 2018.


USPS

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp with Rogers's image on it. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

41. He was turned into a Funko Pop!

Also in honor of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 50th anniversary, the kindest soul to ever grace a television screen was honored with a series of Funko toys, including a Funko Pop! figure.

Ready to learn more about Fred Rogers? Watch the video below, where John Green brings you a whole pile of things you should know about everybody's favorite neighbor.

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