Sunday, June 7, 2009 | He had a sweater and a dream.
A San Diego teenager named Michael Kinsell planned to become a children’s TV superstar, the next Mr. Rogers. On the road to fame — PBS was already on board, after all — he’d hold a celebrity extravaganza in Escondido to raise money for charity.
Prince would be there. Bette Midler too. And more: Maria Shriver, Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker and Sally Field.
A newspaper and a TV station believed part, or all, of his story. So did a couple of morning radio hosts and a respected performing-arts center. Even the daughter of a famous puppeteer got roped in.
Then it all fell apart at the last minute. Besieged by reporters who caught on to his serial exaggerations, Kinsell suffered the ultimate indignity: his benefit was cancelled and the world learned he was not the successor to the host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” after all.
At the moment, a week after his event was scheduled to take place, Kinsell is lawyered up and his true motives remain unknown. Did he believe the stories he told? Did he just want to be the next Mr. Rogers? Or is he a would-be swindler? It’s not clear.