Tim Benz: Former WPIAL athlete at the center of the ‘Sexy Mister Rogers’ costume controversy | TribLIVE.com
Breakfast With Benz

Tim Benz: Former WPIAL athlete at the center of the ‘Sexy Mister Rogers’ costume controversy

Tim Benz
Dessie Mitcheson, a former Kiski Area athlete, models Yandy’s Nicest Neighborhood Costume.
Dessie Mitcheson, a former Kiski Area athlete, models Yandy’s Nicest Neighborhood Costume.

Is it a beautiful day in your neighborhood?

If Dessie Mitcheson is in your neighborhood right now, the answer is most assuredly “yes.”

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A post shared by Dessie Mitcheson (@dessiemitcheson) on

Told ya.

However, the former Kiski Area High School diver and golfer has found herself at the center of a controversy.

It’s one that—in the words of Mister Rogers—leaves me asking those who are complaining,

What do you think is important?

A lot of Pittsburghers have gotten wind of this story in recent weeks. It’s the debate over the “sexy Mister Rogers costume.”

What do you think? I’m not sure if it’s exactly Lady Elaine Fairchilde’s style. But I’m no fashion expert.

“Yandy Specialty Apparel & Costumes” created the “Nicest Neighbor” costume in time for this Halloween season. No doubt, it was an attempt to capitalize on all the hype surrounding the Nov. 22 release of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” That’s the Tom Hanks movie based on beloved children’s television host Fred Rogers.

Coincidentally, the woman modeling the outfit for Yandy is Mitcheson, who grew up 20 minutes from where Rogers was born in Latrobe.

“It’s super ironic that it happened to be me,” Mitcheson told me during a phone call from California. “Yandy is based out of Arizona. They had no idea that I was from Pittsburgh.”

The story is getting national attention. TMZ , Inside Edition, E! and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” even picked up on it.

Given that Rogers is one of the most beloved Western Pennsylvania natives ever, some are protective of his image and memory. To them, the outfit is a little too racy and revealing to be associated with a children’s TV host of Rogers’ saintly reputation.

You get the idea.

Mitcheson insists she likes the costume.

“I don’t even think it is as revealing as it could be,” she said.

There’s a joke about how it would look in the “Land of Make Believe” here, but I’m not going to try to make it.

In recent years, Mitcheson has appeared on SI.com, Maxim, CBS’ “Amazing Race” and Legends Football League broadcasts. She was also one of the ring card girls for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. And she was the face of MGM Grand.

But she claims she has never gotten attention like this. And a lot of it hasn’t been friendly.

“It’s funny to me how big this has gotten,” Mitcheson said. “I think it made it worse when people realized that a girl from Pittsburgh ‘would do this to Mister Rogers.’ But it’s been fun. I don’t regret doing it at all. It’s been entertaining to me.”

Mitcheson said she was even getting social media posts from Pittsburgh telling her she should never come back home.

Wait. Wasn’t one of Mister Rogers’ consistent messages to be nice to your neighbors? This seems a little counterintuitive, no?

In the age of social media, the only thing more important than getting a bag full of candy on Halloween is getting a bag full of likes and retweets when you post faux outrage over a costume deemed politically incorrect.

This year, it’s the Mister Rogers one. And Mitcheson is wearing it.

Every year, it’s a different debate. The difference is, this time no one’s race, religion or sexual orientation is being compromised. It’s not a Joe Paterno or Jerry Sandusky costume, capitalizing on a highly sensitive subject. It’s not sensationalizing a fatality, such as when Michael Jackson and Steve Irwin costumes were en vogue.

After all, Rogers died back in 2003.

But Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween if we weren’t offended by something. And Twitter would probably shut down if we went a week without whipping ourselves with a wet noodle over some phony societal catastrophe or another.

You know who isn’t offended? Rogers’ son, John.

He told TMZ “his dad probably wouldn’t have been upset or outraged at the costume.” He added that if his father had been alive today, “he’d get a chuckle out of it.”

But I know, I know. Twitter’s delicate sensibilities are much more important than the opinions of the family, right?

Pfft! What do they matter?!

Full disclosure, here. I’ve known Mitcheson for about 10 years. She did guest spots on “The X Morning Show” with me. Usually she’d come into the studio around this time every year as part of the “Costumes for a Cause” fundraiser, which benefited the American Heart Association. Specifically, funds went to the “Go Red for Women” campaign.

I’ll spare you the expected “she’s as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside” line. If I did write it, though, I wouldn’t be wrong. I’ve never known her to be anything less than an exceedingly nice person.

And her golf swing is probably better than yours, too.

So if you want to be triggered over a quasi-suggestive Halloween costume, go ahead. If you feel like your childhood memories are compromised by a pair of booty shorts and half a crop-top, I’m not going to stop you. You’ve got a right to your indignation.

But telling someone they should never come home again because you want to show the world you’ve got your knickers in a twist on your timeline is a bit much.

Mister Rogers once asked, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

There’s no perfect answer. But I’ll start with these two suggestions: Lighten up, and don’t hit “send.”

LISTEN: If you’d like to hear the full podcast of Tim’s interview with Dessie Mitcheson, you can listen here.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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