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Mr. Rodney (Burger King)

In the spring of 1984, a commercial campaign was lauched by fast-food chain Burger King which featured a very familiar character. Dressed in a sweater and sneakers, "Mister Rodney" displayed a flashcard to viewers showing the word "McFrying." Going on to explain that this is what McDonalds does to their burgers, Mister Rodney was clearly more in favor of Burger King's flame-broiled option.

Taking issue with the parody, Fred Rogers contacted the Senior Vice President of Burger King, Don Dempsey, who agreed to pull the advertisement. "To have someone who looks like me doing a commercial is very confusing for children," Fred Rogers said at the time.

Mr. Dempsey pulled the commercial without question: "Mister Rogers is one guy you don't want to mess with, as beloved as he is. So that particular commerical goes on the shelf. Hopefully now we have peace in the neighborhood."

The $150,000 commercial aired only a few dozen times before being removed from the airwaves.


From long-time Neighborhood director, Paul Lally:

More background... fast forward a month later: we're in NYC to film the Dance Theater of Harlem. Fred and the film crew are on foot, waiting to cross a busy intersection of Fifth Avenue and 152nd Street.

The light turns, we take off. Halfway across, a man shouts, "Hey, Mister Rogers!" We're used to that happening all the time. But what happens next is that the guy says, "I was the actor on that Burger King spot."

Fred comes to a complete stop and smiles to beat the band. "You did a marvelous job. I'm proud of you."

The actor grins, "Thanks, Mister Rogers." Then frowns. "Look I'm sorry it made fun of you."

Fred says, "I am too, but more importantly, I'm sorry you won't be getting any residuals. (FYI, the more the spot plays the more the actors get paid).

The actor shrugs. "There's always another day."

"Exactly, and you're going to do just fine."

I'm watching the lights... they turn from green to yellow.... the traffic's getting ready to roll...

Just as I get ready to play traffic cop, Fred and the actor shake hands. He wishes him the very best, and we make it safely across to the other side of the street.

For more about the Mister Rodney commercial, visit the following links:

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