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22 Fun Facts About Saved by the Bell

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When I wake up in the morning… I turn on my TV and watch Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski and Screech get into crazy shenanigans. From 1989 to 1993, Saved by the Bell captured the hearts and minds of America's youth. And now, still airing in syndication more than a quarter-century later, the once-critically panned teen sitcom has become a cultural phenomenon. Here are 22 things you might not know about Saved by the Bell.

1. SAVED BY THE BELL BEGAN AS A DISNEY SERIES STARRING HAYLEY MILLS.

In 1987, NBC aired the pilot for Good Morning, Miss Bliss, a teen sitcom featuring Hayley Mills (star of The Parent Trap and Pollyanna) as sixth grade teacher Miss Bliss. In the pilot, which only aired once on NBC, the main students were played by Brian Austin Green (who would go on to star with Tiffani Amber Thiessen on Beverly Hills, 90210), Family Matters' Jaleel White, and seaQuest DSV’s Jonathan Brandis.

NBC ultimately decided not to pick up the series, but the Disney Channel agreed to air Good Morning, Miss Bliss for one season. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris), Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle), and Dustin Diamond (Samuel “Screech” Powers) joined the cast. Good Morning, Miss Bliss ran for 13 episodes before being dropped by Disney and picked back up by NBC. NBC gave Good Morning, Miss Bliss a significant facelift—aging up the students, adding Tiffani Amber Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano), and Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater) to the cast, and shifting the focus away from the teachers to create the Saved by the Bell audiences came to know and love.

2. MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR, MARIO LOPEZ, AND DUSTIN DIAMOND ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO APPEAR IN ALL 86 EPISODES OF THE SHOW.

If you include the episodes formerly known as Miss Bliss, only Gosselaar and Diamond hold this distinction. Diamond is also the only original cast member to appear as a regular in all Saved by the Bell spinoffs and movies.

3. ELIZABETH BERKLEY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF KELLY KAPOWSKI. 

Elizabeth Berkley was in the running to play Kelly Kapowski, Zack Morris' dream girl. While the role ultimately went to Thiessen (because, of course it did), the producers liked Berkley so much they created the character Jessie Spano specifically for her.

4. BERKLEY WASN'T ALWAYS THRILLED WITH HOW HER CHARACTER WAS PORTRAYED.

Despite having the role of Jessie written expressly for her, Berkley wasn't always a fan of her (literally) buttoned-up persona. In a 2013 interview on Bethenny, Berkley said of her character's wardrobe, “I didn't like it because I felt like as a young woman, just because you are a feminist, why can't you also dress in things that make you feel girly and empowered?" Especially when Kelly and Lisa got to romp about in next-to-nothing. “Right the bikinis,” Berkley said. “They used to put me in a one piece. I'm sorry, but at 16 you don't want to be the girl in the one piece with baggy shorts.”

5. MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR AND LARK VOORHIES DATED FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE SHOW'S RUN.

While Kelly Kapowski held the keys to Zack Morris' heart, Lark Voorhies had Mark-Paul Gosselaar's on lock. The couple dated for three years, including during the filming of Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style. In 2009, Gosselaar told People that “All of us dated at one point or another—it was incestuous!"

6. GOSSELAAR HAD TO DYE HIS HAIR EVERY TWO WEEKS DURING FILMING.

Gosselaar, a natural brunette, became well acquainted with bleach during his years on Saved by the Bell. He admitted to People that, “Getting back to my natural color took a while! I haven't dyed my hair since 1997.”

7. MARIO LOPEZ CREDITS SLATER’S DO (OR DON’T) TO MEL GIBSON.

“I liked my hair long because I wanted to look like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon," Lopez told People. “I didn't even know I had a mullet! Looking back, I guess it does qualify.”

8. THERE WAS NO SWEARING ALLOWED ON THE SET.

In order to maintain the show’s wholesome feel, executive producer Peter Engel put a moratorium on cursing on the set. In an interview with MarkPaulGosselaar.net, Gosselaar expressed his relief at being able to let loose a bit while filming the 1998 movie Dead Man on Campus. “It was nice to actually swear on the set,” Gosselaar said. “It was like, 'Ooh, I can say that?' We weren't allowed to swear on the Saved by the Bell set. We were very restricted. It had to be a very clean show, all the way around.”

9. KELLY AND JESSIE MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED IN THE FINAL SEASON … UNTIL GRADUATION DAY.

After filming Saved by the Bell's final season, but before the episodes aired, NBC decided to double their episode order, a move that would require re-signing the entire cast. While the majority of the cast renewed their contracts, Thiessen and Berkley refused. Enter, Tori Scott.

To solve the lack of female lead—and love interest for Zack—problem, the show introduced a new character, tough girl new student Tori Scott (played by Leanna Creel). With no explanation, Tori joined the gang and Kelly and Jessie were never mentioned again. Until graduation, that is.

The show's finale, which featured the crew's high school graduation, was filmed before Thiessen and Berkley's exit. So Kelly and Jessie appear in their caps and gowns alongside their best buds. Conspicuously missing? You guessed it: Tori.

10. CHUCK KLOSTERMAN CALLS THIS "THE TORI PARADOX."

In his 2003 essay collection, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, writer Chuck Klosterman addresses the appearance/disappearance of Kelly, Jesse, and Tori, explaining that what began as "a desperate move" on the part of the show's producers actually became one of the most realistic things about the series. Dubbing it "The Tori Paradox," Klosterman explained:

On paper this seems idiotic, borderline insulting, and—above all—unreal. But the more I think back on my life, the more I've come to realize that the Tori Paradox might be the only element of Saved by the Bell that actually happened to me. Whenever I try to remember friends from high school, friends from college, or even just friends from five years ago, my memory always creates the illusion that we were together constantly, just like those kids on Saved by the Bell. However, this was almost never the case. Whenever I seriously piece together my past, I inevitably uncover long stretches where somebody who (retrospectively) seemed among my closest companions simply wasn't around. I knew a girl in college who partied with me and my posse constantly, except for one semester in 1993-she had a waitressing job at Applebee's during that stretch and could never make it to any parties. And even though we all loved her, I can't recall anyone mentioning her absence until she came back. And sometimes I was the person cut out of life's script.

11. ERIC DANE, DENISE RICHARDS, TORI SPELLING, AND OTHERS GUEST-STARRED.

Eric Dane (whom you probably know best as Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Mark Sloan) appeared as a volleyball opponent at the Malibu Sands Beach Club in a 1991 episode. Denise Richards also made an appearance at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, as a girl infatuated with Slater. Tori Spelling (whose dad, Aaron, was one of the show’s producers) had a recurring role as Violet Anne Bickerstaff, a love interest for Screech. Christine Taylor, Scott Wolf, Leah Remini and others also had guest-starring roles.

12. THE SHOW’S SET IS ALIVE AND WELL, AND STILL BEING UTILIZED BY THE DISNEY CHANNEL.

Following Saved by the Bell's cancelation, the set was never completely struck down. You can catch glimpses of Bayside High School in reruns of That's So Raven (where the school is also named Bayside High) and Nickelodeon's iCarly (where it's redubbed Ridgeway Middle School).

13. THERE'S A SAVED BY THE BELL MUSICAL.

And it's a total joke. In September 2013, Bayside! The Musical!—which is described on its website as “the unauthorized, hilarious, and raunchy musical parody of TV’s Saved By The Bell,” premiered at New York City's Theater80 to surprisingly positive reviews. The “tacky, wacky and totally Zacky” show consists of 17 musical numbers and answers such burning questions as: Will Zack and Kelly break up? Will Slater quit wrestling forever? Who will develop an incurable caffeine addiction? And, Will Screech die?!

Bayside! The Musical! is still running, but only through August, so get your tickets today!

14. IT’S ALSO A COMIC BOOK.

In 2014 Roar Comics released a comic book prequel that sent Zack, Kelly, Jessie, Slater, Lisa, and Screech "back to freshman year in all-new comic book adventures at good ol' Bayside High! Mid-terms, hangin' at The Max, getting that first date, escaping Mr. Belding's detention hall... Experience all the ups and downs of high school in the year 2014 with some old familiar friends.”

15. MR. BELDING’S CATCHPHRASE WAS PARTIALLY DENNIS HASKINS’ OWN INVENTION.

When asked about his “What is going on here?” catchphrase during a recent Reddit AMA, Dennis Haskins shared that, “The catchphrase ‘Hey! Hey! Hey! What is going on here?’ was written with only three hey's. Simply a line to be delivered. Our director, Don Barnhardt, used to tease the kids, and go ‘Heyheyheyheyhey’ in a descending tone of voice, like ‘everybody settle down.’ So in rehearsal, when I got that line, and to have fun with our director, I did it in the way that you hear it. The way I did it was a little different. And everybody laughed hard in rehearsal—and the rest is history.”

16. DUSTIN DIAMOND'S FIRST ATTEMPT AT A TELL-ALL MEMOIR WAS DROPPED BY HIS PUBLISHER.

Diamond secured a deal with Gotham Books to write a “salacious” tell-all memoir about his time on Saved by the Bell in 2009, for which he was awarded a six-figure advance. However, Gotham backed out after a series of unfortunate events. According to the New York Observer, Diamond's ghostwriter, Alan Goldsher, was first taken off the project due to “scheduling issues.” Then, Gotham allegedly deemed the completed manuscript unpublishable—something Diamond's literary agent, Jarred Weisfeld, denies.

“That’s 100 percent bogus,” Weisfeld told the Observer, saying that scrapping the project was a mutual decision. “It wasn’t the right home for the book. Sometimes people don’t gel. There were no problems whatsoever—just, things didn’t gel. If things don’t gel, you stop and move on. I love Gotham Books and Penguin, and Patrick Mulligan is a great editor. I look forward to selling them books in the future. This one just wasn’t meant to be.”

17. DIAMOND'S BOOK EVENTUALLY SAW THE LIGHT OF DAY.

In September 2009, Behind the Bell became a reality after being picked up by the small, Montreal-based Transit Publishing. A casual reading (heck, a quick skim) reveals that Diamond did his best to take down his former cast mates. The book caused a lot of backlash, both with fans of the show and its former stars. “It is negative,” Gosselaar stated of Behind the Bell in 2014. “That I must say. Everything I've heard about his book is it is negative. I don't remember those things. My experience on the show was very positive.”

18. DIAMOND CLAIMS HE NEVER APPROVED THE BOOK.

In a 2013 interview with OWN, Diamond described Behind the Bell as “another disappointment of mine.” Though he admits that there are some truths in the book, he also says that many of the more salacious details were based on throwaway comments he made to his ghostwriter, which he says were “turned into factual trash-talking about everybody. I have nothing but good thoughts and memories towards everybody. I expected that I was going to be sent a copy to proofread and okay … and I was sent a copy, ‘Oh, this is done.’ What? Oh man, there’s going to be fallout from that.”

19. HASKINS WASN’T PLEASED ABOUT BEING LEFT OUT OF A 2009 REUNION.

In 2009, People gathered Gosselaar, Thiessen, Lopez, Berkley, and Voorhies for a Saved By the Bell reunion cover story, in which Gosselaar noted that “We're still very close for a cast that's known each other 20 years.” Well, all except for Screech and Mr. Belding...

In a 2013 interview with Parade, Haskins expressed frustration at being left out of the reunion. When asked about the possibility of a cast reunion, Haskins said, "People magazine did something with five cast members, but they didn’t even talk about Mr. Belding, and Screech was kind of exiled because of his book. That’s still not the seven of us. Whatever you want to talk about, that show was six students and the principal. They were the heart of the show.”

That same year, Haskins surprised Thiessen during a 2013 segment on The Today Show. The result was, well, awkward.

20. THE UNAUTHORIZED SAVED BY THE BELL MOVIE WAS A FLOP.

Though it generated plenty of headlines and “things we learned” stories after it aired, only 1.6 million people tuned into Lifetime last Labor Day to watch The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story (which Diamond produced, though both he and Lifetime denied that it was based on Behind the Bell).

21. A.C. SLATER GOT HIS OWN WEB SERIES.

Notice we said A.C. Slater and not Mario Lopez? In 2006, Lopez's Saved by the Bell character's storyline continued with a five-episode Web series titled 28 Day Slater. The premise? Every February, an implant in Lopez's brain would trigger him to believe that he was, in fact, A.C. Slater for a full 28 days. Mullet and tight-fitting Ts included. Former NBC President Brandon Tartikoff, who passed away in 1997, was the only person who knew how to disable the implant.

22. BERKLEY’S FAVORITE EPISODE IS “THE CAFFEINE PILL INCIDENT.”

When asked about her favorite memory from the show, Berkley didn’t hesitate in responding, “The ‘I'm so excited!’ episode [when Jessie uses 'caffeine pills']. It was so extreme. We made a music video; we were thrilled!"

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, 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. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “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.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-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.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "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."

7. 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.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT 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 explained.

9. HE 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.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

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

12. 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 Dawn of the 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. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED 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.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, 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 (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). 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.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

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

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