Book Review of The Good Neighbor – The Life and Work of Fred Rogers By Maxwell King

The Good Neighbor, a biography of Fred Rogers, the man in the cardigan who entertained and comforted us as children, reveals the fascinating background and history of this children’s TV pioneer who struggled a bit as a child himself.

An only child who was a bit chubby and absorbed in his own unique interests, it took Fred a while to learn how to fit in, but he eventually became one of the highest achieving citizens of his home town of Latrobe, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  

 As an adult, this man who valued authenticity above all else was a perfectionist regarding his own behavior and performance; sincerely focused upon improving the lives of young persons by viewing the world from their perspective and creating ways of assisting them in processing the challenging events we all face.

The life of this open minded Presbyterian minister and talented pianist who changed his direction to pursue a career in television is thoroughly and touchingly documented by Mr. King in this biography.

The narrative covers formative events from Fred’s childhood, the development of his career following college, his marriage and family, the creation and evolution of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

My takeaway from the story is how closely the real life persona of Fred Rogers comes to my ideal of a truly caring, thoughtful, non-judgmental person.

Perhaps that sounds trite, but Fred Rogers, though his wife stresses, and it seems he would have agreed, had a temper and was not a perfect person, seems one of a rare few of us who truly strived to be understanding and supportive of others from all walks of life.               

Maxwell King, prominent Pittsburgh citizen, former journalist, CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, seems the perfect person to pen this fitting tribute to a gentleman who made his home town proud by being the best possible neighbor, to those in the Pittsburgh area, near his New York City residence and in the TV neighborhood he created where everyone was welcome.   

Vintage GE TV in it’s Own Console

A friend who’s made his career the sales, care, and repair of television sets says this thrift shop find from a while back was likely manufactured in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Didn’t check to see if it still works, but it’s a great piece of history.

They don’t make ’em like this these days. Quality and workmanship have gone by the wayside. Today’s TVs are barely as thick as a piece of paper. Not to my taste. To me TVs should always be furniture pieces.

Growing up, we displayed photos and plastic floral bouquets on the expansive top of the television. At Christmas Mom and I arranged a display of deer and other creatures within a forest, complete with cotton ball snow.

Sure, the TV’s energy attracted dust, but back then there was more time. It was rather rewarding to move each individual display piece, and swipe a damp cloth across it.

(The shows were better back then too. Except for a few selections, screenplay craftsmanship has gone down the tube over the past few decades.)

Book Review of Twitch Upon a Star – The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery by Herbie J. Pilato

“We are quicksilver, a fleeting shadow, a distant sound.

Our home has no boundaries beyond which we cannot pass.

We live in music, a flash of color.

We live on the wind and in the sparkle of a star.”

— The Bewitched witches’ anthem

Finishing the last page of “Twitch Upon a Star”, I can imagine Elizabeth Montgomery’s spirit suspended in this afternoon’s rain, and in the earlier sunshine, a part of every aspect of the universe, doing her part to improve our existence.

Isn’t that what any good witch would do after death? And that’s how most of us remember “Lizzie”, as the author often refers to this thoughtful, talented, beautiful lady.

Of course, she was much more than Samantha Stephens, the witch trying to live a mortal life in TV Land.

Coming from a background of privilege, having multiple marriages, adoring her children, becoming a non-pretentious activist for the rights of others, starring in movies with serious themes. . .

Still, Lizzie’s own life paralleled that of her TV series character Samantha in so many ways. Both utilized their charm and magic for the good of all whenever possible.

The book details the many ways in which the personalities and lives of real life Liz and fictional Sam coincided. Perhaps some of this similarity was due to the fact that Elizabeth was married to Bewitched producer William Asher?

Herbie J. Pilato does a fine job of telling nearly every detail of the complex life of this bewitching actress.