Mister Rogers told co-star Officer Clemmons not to come out as gay and to marry a woman because if he didn’t, it would ‘threaten his dream’
- Francois Clemmons, 75, recalled an incident where Fred Rogers told him he could not be a ‘member of the Neighborhood’ if he was openly gay
- Clemmens, who played Officer Clemmens in children’s TV series ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ for 25 years, makes the claims in his new memoir
- He described the late children’s TV host as both ‘my executioner and deliverer’
- Rogers also allegedly told Clemens he should marry a woman
- Rogers died in 2003 from stomach cancer
Francois Clemmons, best known as Officer Clemmons on children’s TV series ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’, has said that TV star Fred Rogers told him to not come out as gay and to marry a woman because if he didn’t, it would ‘threaten his dream’.
Clemmons, 75, described Rogers as both ‘my executioner and deliverer’ in his upcoming memoir ‘Officer Clemmons’ as he recalled the late children’s TV host telling him he could not be a ‘member of the Neighborhood’ if he was openly gay.
The performer said Rogers confronted him about his sexuality in his studio one day during filming for the show.
‘”Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd,”‘ Clemmons said Rogers told him, according to People magazine.
Francois Clemmons (left), best known as Officer Clemmons on children’s TV series ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’, has said that TV star Fred Rogers (right) told him to not come out as gay and to marry a woman because if he didn’t, it would ‘threaten his dream’.
‘”Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the Neighborhood, you can’t be out as gay.”‘
Clemmons told People magazine he broke down in tears at Rogers’ reaction – who he had come to see as a father figure.
‘I could have his friendship and fatherly love and relationship forever. But I could have the job only if I stayed in the closet,’ said Clemmons.
‘I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer,’ said Clemmons.
‘But, at the same time, I knew that he would know how to comfort me. I didn’t have another mother or father to comfort me. I had no one to go and be a boy with. I was just vulnerable. He got in a few slaps, some tough love, a good spanking. But I was not kicked out of the family.’
Rogers then allegedly said: ‘”The world doesn’t really want to know who you’re sleeping with — especially if it’s a man. You can have it all if you can keep that part out of the limelight.”‘
Clemmons and Rogers on ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’. Clemmons 75, described Rogers as both ‘my executioner and deliverer’ in his upcoming memoir
Rogers, who died in 2003, also allegedly told Clemens he should marry a woman
Clemmons memoir ‘Officer Clemmons’ is released on May 5
Rogers said Clemmons coming out as gay would ‘threaten’ his dreams for the show, Clemmons added.
‘”You must do this Francois because it threatens my dream,”‘ Rogers reportedly said.
He also allegedly told Clemens he should marry a woman to keep up the disguise.
‘By the time I left his office, I had made up my mind to marry La-Tanya Mae Sheridan,’ Clemmons writes in his memoir.
‘At the wedding reception, Fred and [his wife] Joanne approached me and my new wife. It felt as if Fred and I were sealing some kind of secret bargain.’
Clemmons divorced Sheridan in 1974 and begin living as an openly gay man.
He told People magazine he doesn’t have any resentment toward his mentor Rogers.
‘I relied on the fact that this was his dream. He had worked so hard for it. I knew ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was his whole life,’ he said.
Clemmons was a regular fixture on American TV for 25 years as Officer Clemmons on the popular children’s show from 1968 to 1993.
The show stopped airing in 2001 and Rogers died two years later from stomach cancer.