Back to the Neighborhood

After my last post in which I talked about seeing Lou Ferrigno being made up as the Hulk on “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” I thought about that memory and wondered if I would be able to find the clip. Not surprisingly it took me about 90 seconds to find it online.

A quick Google search of “mr rogers hulk” took me to a website that catalogs all of the episodes of “MRN” and from there I was able to further search for that specific episode. And to my surprise it turned out to be an even better find than I could possibly imagine. As it turns out they did TWO episodes in which they visit the set of “The Incredible Hulk!” And further research shows that they set the visit up 2 episodes prior when Bill Bixby calls Mr Rogers!

The first part of the visit, episode 1468, has Fred and Mr. McFeely visiting the sound stage where they are greeted by Bill Bixby and later they watch a scene being filmed. And in the second part, episode 1469, they return to the studio and Mr. McFeely himself shoots the home movie of Lou being made up. It was astonishing. The home movie was just as I remembered it. But, truthfully, that wasn’t the part that resonated with the most as an adult.

Mr. Rogers and Bill Bixby spoke to each other in calm, pleasant tones about 2 important lessons that I think get lost on many fans of fantastical fiction like ourselves. One of them is that of anger. We don’t want to be defined by our anger because, like the Hulk, it can change us as people. And the other is to remember that movies, television, and everything like it is make believe. It can entertain us, it can inspire us. But we mustn’t let it interfere with our understanding of reality. Going forward I will refer back to these themes.

Another poignant moment came when Mr. Rogers and Mr McFeely spoke with Lou Ferrigno himself. Lou spoke of his hardships growing up and becoming deaf in his youth. It made me think of all of the times that Fred taught us about both empathy and determination. I don’t know if the lessons of anger management and empathy really sunk in while I was young. I certainly wasn’t graced with much natural empathy and try to develop it now. And as for anger? Well, I have had a transformation in that regard but I attribute the changes to therapy rather than gamma radiation.

Below are links to the episodes themselves if you want to, as they say, get the feels:
Episode 1468:
Episode 1469:

A Geek Is Born: Part 3

Did you watch “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?” I’m sure even if you didn’t you watched a documentary about it or have seen clips so you know who Fred Rogers was. But do you remember any of the other characters on the show? Do you remember the Speedy Deliveryman Mr. McFeely? He would bring props or letters to Fred and they could use it to teach some sort of lesson. Sometimes he would bring home movies.

In one of these home movies Mr. McFeely brought to Fred it was a trip to the set of the TV show “The Incredible Hulk.” It’s wild they even did this because I would think that “Hulk” was too adult for a lot of the kids watching but it was a huge show and even though I must have been 4 or 5 I remember watching it. There’s a lot for me to unpack about that show which I’ll get to another time but right now I want to talk about that home movie.

What I distinctly remember about this home movie was that it was silent and it was just Mr. Rogers and Mr. McFeely describing what they were watching. And what they were watching was the moment directed my future. They were showing Lou Ferrigno being made up as the Hulk. I vividly remember them gluing on his big forehead and his nose. I remember them painting him green and then applying powder to remove the shine. I remember them slipping on the green wig and Lou turning into the Hulk. I don’t remember anything else about that movie but I remember this: I just saw someone making a monster. I know that the technical term is “special make up effects” but for me it’s always going to be MONSTER MAKE UP. And it happened right there. From there on out I was hooked on the fantastic and I owe it all to “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

Flashback to me watching “Return of the Jedi.” As amazing as the story was to me, as compelling as the characters were to this 6-year-old boy, what latched onto my brain was that it was puppeteers and make up people making this fantasy a reality. In future posts I’ll talk about creators and creations. But I also want to talk about the world around them that we, the fans, created. And I want your input. I want you to engage with this site. Follow @better_geek on Twitter. Follow the “Be A Better Geek” Facebook page. And PLEASE tell other people about this site.