Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for 25 years, has published a new memoir in which he reveals that the popular kids show host urged him to stay in the closet and possibly marry a woman after Rogers learned Clemmons was gay.
“One day he was called into Rogers’ office at the studio,” People reports.
Clemmons wrote in his new memoir Officer Clemmons, that Rogers told him he had to stay in the closet: “Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd. 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: “I could have his friendship and fatherly love and relationship forever. But I could have the job only if I stayed in the closet. I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer. 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 reportedly told Clemmons that it would ruin his dream as a kids’ show host if Clemmons came out and said he needed to stay in the closet to safeguard his own job, suggesting Clemmons marry a woman, which he did. He later divorced her and came out.
But Clemmons said he forgives Rogers and calls him “the spiritual love of my life.”