Christofer Wagner: Talk About The Passion

My brother, Chris, and I moved to New York City in the mid-nineties. 

The rent for our 600 square foot, Hell’s Kitchen apartment was $1200. I had $400 saved in a Quaker Oats can, and a gig filing music reviews but was well shy of my cut.

Still, when I landed a gig at a coffee shop, Chris dissuaded me from taking it.

“Don’t waste your time making coffee,” he said, pledging to cover my rent. “Get that job in journalism.”

Within three months, I was writing for Rolling Stone.

It’s just one instance where my bro got my back.

Christopher Wagner (with, incidentally, an “f”) was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and raised in suburban Chicago and Philadelphia. He graduated Marietta College with a major in broadcast journalism, a minor in political science, and an eye on Tom Brokaw’s chair.

Chris entered media in the early days of the digital revolution. His aptitude with early Macintosh computers and the fundamentals of reporting led him video editing where, as he tells it, he was able to tell stories – to build worlds, really – with words, pictures and sound.

We lived together in Saratoga Springs NY after college, before moving to NYC where we were roommates for another five or six years. 

In 2001, I met America’s Favorite Neighbor, and we began talking about making a documentary together. Our film, Mister Rogers & Me, premiered on PBS in 2012.

Sometime in the throws of my parent’s noisy divorce, I hid away from one of their rafter-shaking arguments in the basement of our Oak Park, Illinois, home. I buried my face deep in a pile of winter coats and wept. Chris found me downstairs, wrapped his arms around me, and whispered, “It’s gonna be ok.”

My whole life, whenever an assignment went sideways or a relationship soured, when a boss yelled or a story broke, Chris was always there to say, “It’s gonna be ok.” 

In the space between the question and the answer, in curiosity, and commitment to mentioning the unmentionable, we can all remind each other in tiny gestures every day: It’s gonna be ok. It’s gonna be ok. It’s gonna be ok.

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