Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bob Brubach: The First Black & White Panda

After my recent converastion with Randy and Bill on Pittsburgh's 102.5 WDVE Morning Show, I received an email with the title "Info on Black & White Panda."

Interesting. What an obscure character.

Opening the email, I saw the thumbnails for the attached images and immediately knew that I was in for a treat!

The message was from Bill Brubach, the brother of Bob Brubach who appeared twice in the credits for Neighborhood episodes -- specifically episodes featuring the circus -- but I'd not yet been able to place what part he had played. Bill's email clued me in with the following details:
[Bob] was a young dancer and performer that Don Brockett and Joe Negri "discovered" in high school performances at Pittsburgh's South Hills Catholic High School (now Seton-LaSalle HS). While in high school he starred in several shows alongside Lisa Negri, Joe's daughter.
Bob was a performer in some of Don Brockett's summer stock productions at that time -- and I guess Mr. Rogers told Don that he was looking for a "dancing Panda" to accompany Purple Panda on several episodes. Don brought in my brother Bob, and he was immediately cast in the role. (We always called his role "the Dancing Panda," but I understand the show referred to his character as "Black and White Panda" on several occasions.) 
I was a few years younger than Bobby, but I remember his stories about how hot the Panda costume was, and that he was doing silly dance moves under hot lights over and over again -- but how much fun he was having doing it. 
Anyway, Bobby went on to perform in several Broadway plays, including "The Magic Show" with Doug Henning, and later as an original cast member in the Tony Award-Winning "La Cage aux Folles." His bio in the Magic Show Playbill even listed his appearance on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood among his theatrical credits!
Unfortunately, Bobby passed away on Christmas Day in 1988 at the age of 33. Even though he was so young when he died, he had lived a full and fulfilling life, touring the world as a dancer, singer and performer. He was a proud Pittsburgher and fan of Fred Rogers -- and a memorable alumnus of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
My thanks to Bill.

In memory of his brother Bob.

Black & White Panda.

1 comment:

one foot in the grave said...

Bob and I were on Broadway at the same time, and I saw the La Cage opening nights in Boston and New York (on my birthday in 1983.) Great performer and a really sweet man. All these many years later, I still think of him.