The one and only Don Knotts, the lovely Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show, to be on his deathbed in February 2006, as soon as his daughter, Karen, feeling the must run out of the room … therefore she can laugh. As horrific as that can sound, anyone that knew Don wouldn’t be the the very least bit offended to hear that response.
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“Here’s the thing around my dad,” says Karen Knotts in an to exclude, interview. “He had this funniness that was simply completely, insanely natural. As soon as he to be dying, he was making united state laugh in hysterics. He to be literally dying, yet he go something or claimed something that resulted in my stepmother and also I to get in fits the laughter, i m sorry is why i ran out. I believed to myself, ‘I don’t desire to it is in standing there in prior of this man, my dearly beloved father, who dying, and laughing. I was informing this story to Howard Storm, who’s a director, and also he said, ‘You should have actually stayed and also laughed out loud. It is what comedians live for!’ He was right; i should have actually just stand there and also blasted out laughing.”
For his part, when Don was interviewed by Emmy TV Legends, he reflect on what drew him come comedy in the an initial place: “I think it was due to the fact that I grew up around comedy v my brothers, specifically my brother Shadow. Ns think the just came to be a component of my totality person. Ns don’t think I ever before did consciously think about it. The just ended up being instinctive. Somebody once told me the timing is something you learn, but I think i learned the by do my family members laugh.”
Well, obviously he to be on to something, i beg your pardon became apparent to anyone who ever laughed at Don playing Barney Fife top top The Andy Griffith Show, Ralph Furley top top Three’s company or any kind of of his numerous different movie roles. “Being funny,” Karen notes, “was just something so natural. It to be a gene or …. Well, ns don’t know what the was, other than that that was simply an out of regulate natural funniness.”
Please scroll down for the rest of Karen Knotts’ reflect on her father.
That herbal humor is somewhat surprising to hear, given Don’s genuinely complicated childhood. He was born in 1924 in Morgantown, West Virginia, to a mother who to be 40 in ~ the time and a father who experienced from both schizophrenia and alcoholism — and would also go so far regarding hold a knife come Don’s neck to threaten him. And as if that wasn’t enough, there was an abusive older brother (Willis) as well. Together a an outcome of all of that and more, he would eventually spend year in therapy.
“My dad,” says Karen, who was born in 1954, “was very burdened under by all these problems. That had problems with his father and an older brother that tormented him, since they to be alcoholics. When his father passed, he to be 13 year old. At that point, the burden — that large burden — lifted off of him, and he ended up being old enough that he to be able to obtain the other brother under control, therefore he was no much longer terrorized at home.”
Given some emotional freedom, Don readjusted his life for the much better when he attended Morgantown High School, i m sorry in numerous ways readily available a salvation to all the angst he had actually been feeling. “His whole world changed,” Karen smiles warmly. “He simply blossomed and he stated those high institution years were the best years that his life. That was course president every year, he had a shaft in the yearbook that was called ‘Dots and Dashes by Knotts.’ He was the most renowned boy, and he had actually this best friend and also they got into all of these adventures. The world was his oyster, and it was the very first time he’d ever before experienced such finish happiness, whereby all those problems fell away and there that was, life the beautiful life. Of course, points came earlier to haunt the later, because he had a lifelong problem of hypochondria, which that battled. But he even overcame that in the end.”
Entertainment for Dummies
When that was farming up, Don fell in love through the idea the ventriloquism, which served as a sort of gateway drug to the entertainment civilization for him. As soon as developed, it was a ability that the would use at various school and church functions, and also even in the US army (which he offered in indigenous 1943-46), wherein he was part of the Stars and also Gripes G.I. Selection show that toured the Pacific. It no long, however, prior to he literally threw that dummy overboard from a ship he to be on in the southern Pacific, preferring a one-man act, if girlfriend will.
Notes Karen, “He observed ventriloquism together a method for him to obtain out the his impoverished surroundings. He provided to listen to Edgar Bergen top top the radio and also was absolutely thrilled by Edgar Bergen’s routines through the dummy. That course, the was radio….” i m sorry does beg the inquiry of how strong a ventriloquist you need to be if you performing ~ above the radio, but, she’s all set for that one: “Edgar Bergen to be a genius at creating characters and also jokes and it all came across, and it to be convincing. In really fact, that was not a very great ventriloquist. Tv came along and, if anything, that should have hurt him, because you might see his lips moving, but nobody cared by the time.”
“My father,” she continues, “was simply thrilled by this together a boy, and also so he saw this newspaper — Boy’s Life or among those type of magazines — with an advertisement that said, ‘Be a ventriloquist. Send away because that this device that you have the right to use come throw her voice.’ that scrounged up every penny that he could. Castle were so poor, however he did control to gain that 10 cent or everything it was and sent that in. What come back, the device, was, the course, fully a fraud, yet it came v a booklet that defined how to manipulate your tongue and your mouth come throw your voice. That studied the book and also learned exactly how to do it, and things began to happen for him. He was constantly practicing approximately the house, that course, and also would do his mommy giggle with voices coming out of to apologize pies, lots of laundry and that sort of thing.”
Karen, who’s in the middle of creating a memoir — which she describes as a “father/daughter story” — recently found that in Morgantown by the high institution was a little walkway well-known as senior Alley. “It was where all the enlarge teens provided to stand and check each other out,” she says. “He provided to stand there following to an additional boy and throw his voice come a girl, and also when she turned roughly to look, she would watch that other boy. The was leading to all kinds of havoc and having a good time.”
The roadway to Mayberry
Don acquired his genuine start in radio on mirrors like Bobby Benson and B-Bar-B Riders, was on the daytime soap Search because that Tomorrow from 1953-55, came to be a part of The tonight Show (which at the moment was held by Steve Allen), and got his biggest breaks certification in the Broadway and also film version of No Time because that Sergeants, which saw him acting opposite Andy Griffith. That, and the instant friendship he arisen with Andy, led to him being actors as Mayberry Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show.
When the present made that is debut in 1960, Karen was every one of 6 years old, and also it was a period where she in reality didn’t obtain to invest a most time v her dad. “We didn’t view him a lot, because he worked 10, 12 hrs a day,” she recalls. “And as soon as he was home, that was constantly holed increase in his room working on his lines and stuff favor that. In ~ the time, we youngsters
She laughs at that memory: “Mom would certainly go by and also listen, and also they would certainly talk around everybody top top the show. When he was on set, he was pretty immersed. I remember one time as soon as I was there, among the actors had a small component and he was so nervous working with my dad and also apologized profusely. Once they acquired the take, he came over and whispered something to me like, ‘Your dad is amazing.’”
Hanging Out v Opie Taylor
Of course, she already knew that. And even despite Don was busy functioning so hard throughout those years, that did take the children to the collection a variety of times. Karen recalls being fascinated with them, due to the fact that she had actually never been on a set before. “My an initial memory,” she says, “was the stores; exactly how they always would have actually those can be ~ piled up in the windows like they walk in those days. Ns went inside the stores and also would watch around and also think, ‘Gosh, every little thing looks so fake.’ One thing about that show, that done so well that you think in its fact 100 percent. I sort of do, even though i knew my dad wasn’t really Barney Fife. City hall the show, you acquire so connected in that that whatever seems real and also I just remember walking about the collection and being amazed at how not real that was.”
While there, she invested some time through Ronnie Howard, that was around the same period she was, and also played Andy’s son, Opie (and that — no good revelation below — would go on come play Richie Cunningham on Happy Days and move on to a mega-successful career as a film director).
“Ron wasn’t favor a boy at all,” Karen point out out. “Not like any kid ns knew. That just had this poise and also this maturity about him. Practically like a totality other personality, in a way. He was an extremely friendly to me. I remember him showing me a little transistor radio that can fit in your hand, i beg your pardon in those days was unheard of. I hadn’t viewed anything choose that. It to be gold in color, and also I guess was a precursor come him becoming a director.”
Memories the Andy Griffith
As to Andy Griffith himself, she reflects, “He was very friendly to me; the was choose an uncle. That had various sides. You could see that occasionally he would certainly be intense, and other time very, very warm and endearing. One point I will certainly tell you, and also one point that is different from what has actually been created in books, was that Andy was never jealous of mine dad. He to be his greatest fan and also mentor. Everything later he was in, he want to acquire my dad in, too. Even when he to be on Matlock, and my dad wasn’t functioning at the time, he visited the producers and said, ‘I want Don Knotts on the show.’ they said, ‘No, this is a dramatic show, there’s no part for a personality comedian.’ He preserved fighting and fighting, and then they placed him on, but they didn’t desire to salary him much. Andy visited the mat and fought with them ~ above that. They offered him not really what the should have gotten, however at least a decent salary. Every little thing from the job he met them, he was in my dad’s corner.”
“A lot of times,” add to Karen, “people say come me, ‘Oh, your dad yes, really made the show.’ They nothing realize what Andy to be to the show. He to be the backbone. They take it notes from every other. Mine dad would certainly say, ‘Hey, Andy, can you obtain me that a tiny bit quieter?’ and Andy would provide him a note back and say, ‘How about trying this or that?’ lock constantly talked around their characters and also their performances. They were both fully consumed through it.”
The huge Screen Beckons
Taking Andy in ~ his word that he would leave the display after 5 years, Don make plans to do precisely that. But when Andy made decision to stick about (he was offered a man amount that money come remain), Don determined instead to accept a five-film contract indigenous Universal. Those films would be The Ghost and also Mr. Chicken (1966), The reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Shakiest total in the West (1968), The Love God? (1969), and How to frame a Figg (1971).
“Put yourself in his place,” Karen argues as come why Don left. “That display was hard, difficult work. Climate think the the character, and additionally the power that it took to play him. Imagine the intensity, to add the level that perfection the was gift strived for. Then, every one of a sudden, friend get readily available a five-picture deal to it is in a star in your own right and also make every the decisions. After five years that Andy’s show, i don’t treatment what that is, writers start to run out the ideas. There’s just so countless stories you deserve to tell. If you store on going, hitting you yourself over the heard, you’re walk to begin repeating stuff and also then it loses its quality and its perfection. That’s probably the factor why at very first Andy himself claimed he only wanted to carry out the display for five seasons, however they offered him a luck to keep on v the show. Ns don’t think he want to continue on, particularly not there is no Barney, because they couldn’t replace him. Lock tried.”
Variety is the Spice that Life
Anyone looking at Don’s career would certainly no doubt note The Andy Griffith Show, his function films and, later, joining the cast of Three’s Company. What they may not realize is how large a fixture he — and also Andy Griffith — was on TV range shows.
“That was a really big part that his career during and after his Univeral movie days,” Karen says. “There were loads of them on the air. Anybody that had any kind of a name had actually a distinct on, and also they had singing and dancing. He to be a guest top top the Smother Brothers, Donny & Marie — he simply did the circuit of every these variety shows. In those days, lock didn’t know that there to be going to it is in DVDs or also VHS, and also so these mirrors that were on Beta — those big, vast tapes the were sit in the vaults at the studio — were taking up a incredible amount of space, and so they shed them. Literally ruined thousands of this shows. Have the right to you imagine the luck they can be making currently if they had actually held onto these things? A many his work and also a most other people’s job-related just passed away right there. A many of civilization don’t recognize that Andy and dad and also Jim Nabors go Lake Tahoe together. And also Jerry valve Dyke to be a guest. They walk a whole musical selection show in ~ Lake Tahoe ~ the Griffith show was over, for this reason they retained on working together.”
Reaching a new Generation
In 1979, he join ABC’s hit series Three’s Company as landlord Ralph Furley, who would interact with regulars john Ritter, Suzanne Somers and also Joyce DeWitt. “The main thing that display did,” claims Karen, “is enabled him to with a new audience; another generation who had not really checked out the reruns of The Andy Griffith Show the means you deserve to now. So every one of a sudden, this young world were see him because that the very first time. That was yes, really fantastic. And that was good for mine dad, due to the fact that he enjoyed the mysticism that Andy Griffith had, yet he had actually this amazing capacity to put the previous in the past. He never went ago and watched old episodes or any kind of of that type of thing. He was constantly in the existing moment.”
Tied up in Knotts
Don remained with Three’s Company until the show ended its operation in 1984, and would appear in the TV reunion movie Return to Mayberry (1986), before playing a recurring function on Matlock. He would display up on different TV shows and films, and detailed quite a variety of voices because that animated characters. In between it all, he ended up being plagued through health issues though, consisting of macular degeneration in both eyes that rendered him practically blind.
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And Karen, the course, has actually been v it all. She was v him on the set of Andy Griffith, appeared on range shows v him and, bottom line, loved she father. And also one means that love has actually been manifesting chin has remained in the one-woman show Tied up in Knotts, which she has been performing for the previous decade or so. In it, she says, “I act together characters, ns tell stories occasionally as a character, occasionally as mine dad in his natural delivery. Sometimes I even act the end Barney Fife. The a great, funny show, and also I also show around seven video clip clips of him, which are reasonably rare. By the end of it, i actually regulate to get through his entirety life in 90 minutes, i m sorry is a miracle. I don’t know how I execute it, yet I do. That taken me 10 year to obtain the present to whereby it actually works so well that I can feel an excellent about it. The best compliment come me is when world say, ‘I feel prefer I really recognize your dad now."”
Appreciation for she Father
And many thanks to the show, Karen has had actually an chance to yes, really look at she father for who he was — the positive and also the negative — and also their connection with every other. “He was mercurial,” she says. “He had a lot of different kinds the moods. He combated a many depression and I assisted him, or assumed I did, due to the fact that I can see exactly how he had this endless loop of believed that would constantly lead come a downward spiral. I would try to break through that and also was like the Pollyanna, stating the positives. The course, ns couldn’t do much. Ns was a kid. He acquired a great psychiatrist named prick Renniker. Prick was may be to assist him a lot. By the end, he had actually overcome every little thing that was down in his life. I felt really, really proud of him for every the work-related that the put into being a happy person. And also the truth is, he love people.”
“He was likewise a really loving father,” Karen adds. “He didn’t like to walk out and do things favor you snapshot most fathers going out and also doing — you know, outdoorsy ingredient — since he was a very internal type of person. He preferred to call stories and also talk. He talked a lot around other celebrities, prefer Jackie Gleason. We talked about show company a lot. He was a showbiz person.”
The Shadow actors by a Comedy Legend
Which actually came to be an worry in she life the Karen claims she was able to recuperate from. “You always walk a fine line when you’re related to somebody that famous,” she muses. “As we obtained older, the situation got better, since a lot of of civilization that i have met weren’t as familiar with my dad and he no the facility of everything anymore. I simply never had the confidence the anybody wanted to talk to me because I was of any interest. But as time go on, I started being associated with civilization who had actually less awareness that him, and then I had actually a small bit an ext chance to grow in myself. I started getting an ext confidence, and then as soon as that happened, ns really taken on even more who my father was, due to the fact that I felt favor I was additionally being appreciated for myself. One time i asked him, ‘Dad, walk it ever bother girlfriend that world just desire to speak to you due to the fact that you’re a movie star?’ Something prefer that. And also he said, ‘At an initial people desire to emphasis on that, yet they obtain over it.’ it was an excellent advice, although in his case, ns don’t think world got over it so much when they were talk to him.”
For lot more, girlfriend can check out Karen Knotts’ official website. And also if you would prefer to take a heart-warming, however funny, pilgrimage to the past with Karen and, the course, Don, you should absolutely shot and record one of the tour dates for Tied increase in Knotts.