Koko’s Farewell to Mister Rogers

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As many of you know, Fred Rogers (TV’s Mister Rogers)—who’s been a friend and mentor to children for several decades—passed away recently. You may not be aware that Koko was one of those “children” who watched Mister Rogers regularly on TV, and was a great admirer of Fred Rogers (as was Koko’s late companion, ***Michael, who referred to Mister Rogers as “head boy.”) On July 28, 1998, Koko was featured on an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. The show was part of a week-long series entitled “You and I Together,” addressing the fears that young children often experience when faced with a new situation or a person who is different. The lesson is that there is more to people–and gorillas–than what you see on their “outsides.” The images of Koko with Mister Rogers, like the images of her cradling tiny kittens, have had an impact on viewers young and old. The following excerpts are from the videotape transcription of the visit. (You can also view a special 43 second video clip, entitled Koko’s Farewell to Mister Rogers, on the ***KokoTV section of our website.) Penny enters Koko’s kitchen, followed by Mister Rogers. Ron Cohn is already inside with the camera. Penny: Hi, Koko. We have a visitor. Koko: Koko-love. Mister Rogers: Hello Koko. Hi Koko… Mr. Rogers Chats with Koko Koko purrs and signs Koko-love and hurry as Penny unlocks her room gate, and she opens the gate herself as soon as it is unlocked. Koko first looks in the tote bag Mister Rogers brought and finds a stuffed Daniel Tiger toy. She puts the bag and toy down, holds Mister Rogers’ hand to her lips, and smells his hand. She pulls him close and touches his face gently. Then she unceremoniously unzips Mister Rogers’ trademark cardigan sweater. P: You know how to work a zipper. Very good. Koko holds Mister Rogers’ hands, studies his tie, and then takes him by the hand and leads him into her room. P: Show Mister Rogers your room. Oh, good idea. Koko removes Mister Rogers’ sweater, checks his mouth for gold teeth, and then invites him to “chase” her around the room. She blows a few notes on the harmonica he brought, and spends quite some time taking pictures with his camera. P: You seem to want to do pictures today. K: Come. (To Mister Rogers.) She takes his hand and he sits down. MR: How do you say love for sign language? P: Can you show him how to say love? How do you say love? Koko is busy exploring Mister Rogers’ fingers with her lips. K: What that, flower? (Touching Mister Rogers’ cufflink.) P: She’s asking you about your cufflink, is that a flower. MR: That’s a sun. And my grandfather gave me these. P: It’s a sun. It looks like a flower though…. K: Hurry… P: Can we talk a little bit about love? K: Frown. P: Frown? Oh, honey! What? Love? K: Love you visit… (To Mister Rogers.) MR: Love. (Trying the sign.) K: …Koko-love. MR: Oh, thank you, Koko. P: That’s very nice, she loves her visitor. MR: Well, I love visiting with you. At the end of the visit Mister Rogers is in the kitchen sitting on a chair, and Koko is on the floor with the camera. She takes a picture. P: Oh, Koko fixed the camera! You’re so smart! MR: Should we give it to Penny? He attempts to take the camera from her, but Koko keeps using it. She blows on the lens to clean it. P: Yes, good girl! (Penny takes the camera and winds it. ) P: I think we’re almost to the end. Got one more left. (Penny gives Koko the camera and Koko takes a picture and hands the camera to Mister Rogers.) MR: Good! Thank you. Mister Rogers and Koko exchange “blow greetings.” Koko, Mister Rogers and Penny say Their Goodbyes MR: Thank you very much, Koko, for the visit. I hope that we’ll meet again. K: Foot. She takes his hand and pulls it toward her. K: Hurry sit on. MR: OK, we will. OK. I hope we have another visit soon again,