Welcome to our first issue in this special anniversary year for TAGS! It’s shaping up to be an exciting year for Mayberry fans with a fun variety of events and new merchandise–including seven brand new officially licensed TAGS T-shirts (which are exclusive to our Weaver’s Department Store) in this month alone.
And you can even taste Mayberry more this year as new officially licensed foods from Mayberry’s Finest will be joining their coffee and bacon in the next few weeks. But most of all, it’s the events with fans and members of the cast and crew and their families that are central to Mayberry activities year in and year out–most especially September’s 30th Anniversary of Mayberry Days® in Mount Airy, N.C., but also newer traditions such Mayberry in the Midwest in Danville, Ind., in May.
It’s going to be a another really fun year in Mayberry!
The Andy Griffith Museum, features the late Emmett Forrest’s outstanding collection of Andy Griffith artifacts. The museum is open daily in Mount Airy, N.C. For info, visit their website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
These happenings have been posted on Floyd’s bulletin board:
* Jan. 17: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Feb. 2: Karen Knotts brings her Tied Up in Knotts stage show to the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, Calif., for the first of three performances at the venue in February and March. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $21.99 (including all fees). For more info, visit Brown Paper Tickets.
* Feb. 21: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Feb. 22: Roland White and his band perform at 9 p.m. at the Station Inn in Nashville, Tenn. Cover charge of $15.
* Feb. 27: Karen Knotts is back with her Tied Up in Knotts stage show at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, Calif., for the second of three performances at the venue in February and March. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $21.99 (including all fees). For more info, visit Brown Paper Tickets.
* Mar. 20: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Mar. 20: Karen Knotts brings her Tied Up in Knotts stage show to the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, Calif., for the final of three performances at the venue in February and March. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $21.99 (including all fees). For more info, visit Brown Paper Tickets.
* Mar. 27: Roland White and his band perform at 9 p.m. at the Station Inn in Nashville, Tenn. Cover charge of $15.
* Apr. 17: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Apr. 23-25: Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling) is among the guest stars for the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Mo. More details, TBA. For info, visit www.missouricherryblossomfest.com/WordPress.
* May 9: Roland White and his band perform at 9 p.m. at the Station Inn in Nashville, Tenn. Cover charge of $15.
* May 15: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* May 15-17: Seventh Annual Mayberry in the Midwest festival in Danville, Ind. Special guests TBA. A full slate of Mayberry tribute artists will also be on hand. And there’s always plenty of musical entertainment, assorted contests, and great eats, including at the landmark Mayberry Cafe.
Other highlights include the Meet & Greet Dinner (Friday), a parade (Saturday), and the Mayberry Squad Car Nationals at the Robert Shelby Memorial Obstacle Course. For more info, visit www.mayberryinthemidwest.com.
* June 19: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* June 19: Roland White and his band perform at 9 p.m. at the Station Inn in Nashville, Tenn. Cover charge of $15.
* July 17: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* July 17-19: 8th Annual Mayberry Meet-Up in Mount Airy, N.C. This gathering is a great chance to visit with fellow Mayberry fans and enjoy Mount Airy during a less hectic time than September’s Mayberry Days® festival. You’ll have plenty of time to tour the Andy Griffith Museum at your leisure, have a shorter wait in line at the Snappy Lunch, and browse the shops on Main Street without the big crowds.
The event is timed to coincide with Betty Lynn’s July meet-and-greet at the Andy Griffith Museum on Friday and Neal Brower’s lecture at the museum on Saturday. As always, the grounds at the Mayberry Motor Inn serve as the gathering place in the evening, but folks are encouraged to tour the town on their own during the day.
There’s an online registration form, which helps organizers plan for how many folks to expect, but registered or not, everyone is welcome, even to drop by just on a whim. Y’all come!
* July 18: Mayberry 101 author Neal Brower presents the first of two summertime Professor Brower’s Lectures about “The Andy Griffith Show” with a discussion of the “Hot Rod Otis” episode, starting at 2 p.m., in the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre in Mount Airy, N.C. Admission is included with Andy Griffith Museum admission ($8 for adults, $6 for ages 12 and under). Visit www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Aug. 15: Mayberry 101 author Neal Brower presents this summer’s final Professor Brower’s Lecture about “The Andy Griffith Show” with a discussion of the “The Bookie Barber” episode, starting at 2 p.m., in the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre in Mount Airy, N.C. Admission is included with Andy Griffith Museum admission ($8 for adults, $6 for ages 12 and under). Visit www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Aug. 21: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Sept. 18: Beat the Mayberry Days® rush and see Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) as she greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 1:00-3:00 p.m. She will have 8 x 10 photos available for autographing ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Sept. 21-27: 31st Annual Mayberry Days® in Mount Airy, N.C. Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Special guests already confirmed include Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), Darling boy Rodney Dillard & the Dillard Band, Ronnie Schell (two Mayberry roles and Duke Slater on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”), and Karen Knotts (daughter of Don Knotts).
Many more stars and concerts and presentations TBA. Get your tickets early for the best seats to what promises to be a banner year for Mayberry Days! (And much of the festival is free and doesn’t require a ticket.)
Also, don’t delay in reserving your hotel rooms either. Most local hotels should now be ready to take reservations for Mayberry Days®.
Tickets for Mayberry Days® are available online for several of the festival’s events at www.mayberrydays.org. More than ever, this is one Mayberry celebration no Mayberry fan wants to miss!
* Oct. 3: 60th Anniversary of the airing of the first episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
* Nov. 1-7: Clint Howard is the Special Guest for Cruise to Mayberry 15 to the Eastern Caribbean aboard Carnival’s Breeze. Also onboard will be a boatload of popular Mayberry tribute artists and even an Elvis.
The cruise departs from of Ft. Lauderdale and makes stops in Nassau, Amber Cove, and Grand Turk and has two fun days at sea. For info, contact Sharon Euliss of All About Cruises at PWESJE@aol.com or call her at (336) 538-4926.
**** News of Cast & Crew ****
Ron Howard is executive producer for “68 Whiskey,” a TV series with its premiere on the Paramount Network on Jan. 15. Ron’s also has just finished producing and directing the documentary Rebuilding Paradise, about the aftermath of the devastating Paradise-Camp fire of 2018. The film is set for its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23.
Among the dozens of other projects that Ron Howard and his Imagine Entertainment have in various stages of development, Hillbilly Elegy, which Ron produced and directed for Netflix, is in post-production with expected release this year.
Ron’s also working with George Lucas to develop a “Willow” TV series based on the often underrated 1988 film, which Ron also directed for Lucas.
Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou)continues to greet fans and sign autographs for fans a the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy the third Friday afternoon of every month.
Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling) is recovering from a couple of falls at home in November and December. (These are in addition to a fall while running for an elevator in Knoxville in September.) Maggie was scheduled to be part of last month’s Mayberry Christmas shows with TV brother Rodney Dillard, but had to cancel. Maggie is hoping to be fully healed and “back on the truck” and back to full speed (and watching her step!) by this spring–in time for several appearances and performances beginning in April.
Also on the mend is Dennis Rush (Howie), who started the new year with a blood clot moving from a leg to a lung. He’s recovering and has appreciated all the well wishes. (It probably goes without saying that he has a more than ample supply of Miracle Salve on hand.)
Keith Thibodeaux (Johnny Paul Jason) and wife Kathy’s Ballet Magnificat, a Christian ballet company, toured from Texas to West Virginia and other points in the Southeast during the holiday season. They’re also gearing up for a tour to Israel in March and a European tour in April and May.
Shoes and Rice Time: Margaret Kerry (Bess Muggins and Helen Scobey) is tying the knot with Bob Boeke on Valentine’s Day. The two dated in their late teens, before separate careers led them in different directions, including marriages and families and full lives. They reconnected last year and then saw each other again for the first time in seven decades at September’s Mayberry Days, where the spark of their young love reignited. Best wishes to the happy couple, who are proving not only that “love don’t hold a stopwatch” (both are in their 90s), but also that love also doesn’t have a calendar! That is, other than maybe a 2020 Mayberry calendar!
Joy Ellison (Effie Muggins, Mary Wiggins and others) is working as dialect coach for two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain for her lead role as Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which has been filming in North Carolina and is expected to be released by Fox Searchlight Pictures this year. (We haven’t asked who’s handling make-up for the film!)
Maggie Peterson Mancuso, Ronnie Schell, Jackie Joseph-Lawrence, Keith Thibodeaux and Clint Howard are TAGS cast members who are expected to join Karen Knotts, George Lindsey Jr. and others (including popular Mayberry tribute artists) in Mayberry Man, an independent film written by and to be directed by Stark Howell, son of the late Hoke Howell (Mayberry’s Dud Wash).
Cort Howell (Stark’s brother) and Greg Schell (son of Ronnie) are helping produce and promote the film. Fan-based fundraising officially kicks off with launch parties this week in Burbank, Mount Airy, and Danville, Ind., with filming expected to start in the spring.
Echoes of Mayberry maestro Earle Hagen‘s beloved “Andy Griffith Theme” have found their way into the commercial pop culture once again in the ice-fishing ad with Matthew McConaughey for Lincoln Aviator. Just in case there are visitors from another planet who haven’t yet seen (and more important, heard) the commercial that’s getting widespread play, click HERE to view.
That’s a wrap on our News of Cast & Crew for this issue. Stay tuned for lots more in 2020!
Mayberry In Memoriam
Farewell, Cousin Virgil
Actor Michael J. Pollard died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on November 20. He was 80.
Michael played many memorable characters during his distinctive career, including the role of Barney’s Cousin Virgil in “Cousin Virgil,” Episode 62. (Virgil was one of just a few single-episode characters on TAGS whose name was included in the episode title.)
Michael John Pollard Jr. was born on May 20, 1939, in Passaic, N.J., to parents of Polish heritage–Sonia, a homemaker, and Michael Sr., who worked long hours as a bar manager. Michael grew up in the nearby towns of Clifton and Garfield. He graduated from Montclair Academy, a private boys school in neighboring Montclair.
Michael then became a member of the Actors Studio and studied Method acting with the legendary Lee Strasberg. (Marilyn Monroe was in his class at the Actors Studio and once specifically requested that Michael be the one to do an important scene with her.) He quickly proved to be an actor who could play roles from adorable to creepy, from endearing to menacing, and from hilarious to troubled.
In 1958, at age 19, Michael made his Broadway debut as Joe Glover in Comes a Day (also starring George C. Scott and Larry Hagman). He followed up that performance with the role of Jelly in A Loss of Roses (starring Warren Beatty, with whom Michael would work numerous times during the decades to follow).
His next Broadway show was the smash-hit musical Bye Bye Birdie in 1960-61 with a cast that also included Chita Rivera, Dick Van Dyke, Dick Gautier, Paul Lynde and Kay Medford. Michael originated the non-singing role of Hugo Peabody. The show won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Michael would later return to Broadway as Marvin in 1963’s Enter Laughing, based on Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel and starring Alan Arkin. Michael would also play Marvin in the 1967 movie version directed by Carl Reiner.
As far back as 1958, Michael had landed small parts in New York-based TV productions and by 1959 was even in a couple of episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” That same year he was cast as Jerome Krebs, cousin of Bob Denver’s Maynard G. Krebs character in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” including one episode with Warren Beatty. (It was thought that Bob Denver was going to have to leave the series after being drafted into the Army. Michael was being introduced to fill the goofball void, but the Army then exempted Bob Denver with a medical waiver, and Michael’s character was deemed one goofball too many.)
But it was his performance in Bye Bye Birdie that got Michael’s career really soaring toward bigger parts. One of the earliest prominent roles was in fact “Cousin Virgil” in 1962. It was his first starring role in a TV series. Lead roles would turn out to be infrequent for Michael because he became known as a consummate character actor who could do really big things with even small, often quirky, roles.
Michael’s stature (5 feet, 6 inches) and baby-faced looks (he was often described as cherubic, impish and even gnome-like) gave him a versatility to play characters far younger than he actually was. At age 19, he received superb reviews for his portrayal of 14-year-old Homer Macauley in a 1959 “DuPont Show of the Month” production of the World War II drama “The Human Comedy.” Well into his twenties, he could play adolescent roles.
Some of Michael’s notable TV productions after “Cousin Virgil” included “The Lucy Show,” “Route 66,” “The Baileys of Balboa” (with Clint Howard), “Lost in Space” and “I Spy.” He also appeared in “Miri,” the landmark episode of “Star Trek” that’s also famous among TAGS fans as one of four “Star Trek” episodes to recognizably use the same Forty Acres location exteriors that were used for Mayberry.
Michael made a few movies during the early and mid-1960s, notably Hemingway’s Adventures as a Young Man (1962), Disney’s Summer Magic (with Hayley Mills and Burl Ives) and a small part in 1966’s The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (starring Carl Reiner and featuring lots of familiar Mayberry faces) and also that film adaptation of Reiner’s Enter Laughing.
All of these parts led to Michael’s role of a lifetime, his performance as C.W. Moss in director Arthur Penn’s 1967 classic, Bonnie and Clyde. He was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The film, which once again reunited Michael with Warren Beatty, was nominated for 10 Oscars and won two. (The film also featured Mayberry’s Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor and Owen Bush.)
Mayberry Trivia: Estelle Parsons, Michael’s fellow Oscar nominee in Bonnie and Clyde, was mentioned on TAGS in “Wedding Bells for Aunt Bee” (Episode 58), which originally aired the same month as “Cousin Virgil.” At the time she was mentioned in Mayberry, Parsons had few TV or film credits and was just beginning her long, distinguished Broadway career, so she would’ve been virtually unknown to most TV viewers.
Writer Harvey Bullock, who was a friend (they both wrote for the “Today” show in the 1950s), dropped her name into the script by having Aunt Bee ask Andy if he had asked Estelle Parsons to the dance. Parsons received her Oscar for Bonnie and Clyde in 1968 (and was a nominee again for Rachel, Rachel the next year). She also has earned four nominations for a Tony Award. And TV fans today might know her best as Beverly Harris, Roseanne’s mother on “Roseanne” and “The Conners.”
But back to Michael Pollard (there’s nothing like having your memorial tribute interrupted for Mayberry trivia time!). After his Oscar nomination (and also winning a BAFTA Award, the British equivalent of an Academy Award, for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles), Michael landed meaty roles, including title characters in Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970) opposite Robert Redford (Halsy) and as perhaps the best portrayal ever of Billy the Kid in Dirty Little Billy (1972.) Other notable movies included Sunday in the Country (1974) with Ernest Borgnine and Melvin and Howard (1980).
Michael continued to stay busy in productions for both movies and TV. But years of reveling with alcohol and drugs had taken their toll. Parts became less significant and more typecast as quirky–sometimes in productions of less prestige. There were a few highlights along the way, including as a volunteer firefighter in Roxanne (1987) with Steve Martin, Scrooged (1988) with Bill Murray and 1990’s Dick Tracy with his old pal Warren Beatty (who starred as Dick Tracy and directed) and a rainbow of A-list actors and character actors, plus Madonna.
Though Michael had a surge of acting work in the early 1990s, his career tailed off to just the occasional role during the next 25 years. And while none of his later work reached the heights of his acclaim in the 1960s and early 1970s, he remained a legendary and highly respected talent. (Even though his middle name was Andrew, Michael J. Fox chose the middle initial “J.” to use professionally as an homage to Michael J. Pollard.)
Whether in Mayberry or movies, Michael J. Pollard provided indelible performances that are sure to endure. His Cousin Virgil may not have been a character who enjoyed being watched while he worked, but audiences will never stop watching and enjoying Cousin Virgil, C.W. Moss and many other roles by this master of his craft.
Michael is survived by daughter Holly from his first marriage to Beth Howland (waitress Vera on TV’s “Alice”) and son Axel Emmett from his second marriage to Annie Tolstoy.
**** Chapter Update ****
Though we had a flurry of new chapters start in 2019, none have been founded since the November eBullet, so we’re holding steady at 1,466 chapters founded since 1979. With the 60th Anniversary milestone for TAGS this year, we wouldn’t be surprised to see another surge of new chapters in 2020. Watch this space!
If you’re interested in organizing a group, you’ll be glad to know that starting a chapter of TAGSRWC is really simple to do. Just pick a name that hasn’t already been selected by another group and let us know who your founders are and where you’re based. That’s it.
You can check the searchable list of chapter names already taken at www.tagsrwc.com. Then submit your chapter’s name with a list of your founding members by e-mail (to Goober@imayberry.com) or by U.S. Mail to TAGSRWC’s HQ (118 16th Avenue South, Suite 4, PMB 146, Nashville, TN 37203-3100).
**** Merchandise Update ****
You’ll find a variety of new Mayberry-related items and best-selling classics online at TAGSRWC’s Weaver’s Department Store.
Here are some highlights:.
With seven new designs added just this month alone, Weaver’s now has nearly five dozen different T-shirt designs to choose from! Most of our adult-sized T-shirts are just $20. A few designs are $18, and the Lawmen and Sheriff all-over designs are $25. (The long-sleeved Sheriff shirt is $40.) Several designs are available in Sweatshirts (and some also as Hoodies) as well.
And there are three more new shirts you can view on our Weaver’s site, along with dozens of others. (Why, there are enough choices to have a different one for every week of the year!) Happy browsing!
We’ve Got You Covered!
Also, remember that your purchases from Weaver’s help support Mayberry events and Mayberry-related charitable causes all year long at locations all around the country. Those sales also help keep our online Mayberry newsletters and communities available to everybody free of charge. As always, thanks for browsing Weaver’s!
**** Chapter News ****
Our Andy chapter HQ in Nashville heard from dozens of chapters during the holidays. From all reports, everything is A-O.K. in Mayberry. The Nashville contingent was able to get together with some members of “We the People” and Barney chapter (both of Greensboro, N.C.) as well as Sarah chapter (Charlotte, N.C.) during the holidays.
Members of “Blood Brothers” chapter (Macon, Mo.)had meetings in both November and December. Here are a couple of photos:
And you know if “Blood Brothers” gets two photos in this issue, then Mayberry chapter (Knoxville, Tenn.) will want equal time. Here are a couple of shots from their most recent meetings:
Mayberry chapter is also working on the next issue of its printed Mayberry Minutes newsletter, which is expected to be published in the next few weeks.
As this issue of The eBullet was about to be published, a few chapters were planning to attend one of the launch parties (primarily the ones in Danville, Ind., and Mount Airy) for the Mayberry Man movie. Look for coverage about those chapter gatherings in our next issue.
With that, we’ll conclude Chapter News for this issue. If you have news or photos of your chapter activities that you would like to share with The eBullet, please send your updates to Goober@imayberry.com.
**** Mayberry on the Web ****
This TAGSRWC online group is organized and overseen by webmaster Allan “Floyd” Newsome with help from Keith “Col. Harvey” Brown. You can check out the fun and sign up for free at: http://imayberrycommunity.com.
The iMayberry Community complements our other online activities, including our main www.imayberry.com page, podcasts, Facebook pages, online newsletters (such as The eBullet!), weaversdepartmentstore.com and chat rooms.
“Two Chairs, No Waiting” is our weekly podcast of TAGS news, interviews and pretty much whatever happens to be going on in and around Mayberry. It’s hosted by Allan Newsome. Most weeks also include a Mayberry History Lesson from special correspondent Randy Turner.
There’s a new episode every Tuesday (and you can watch and listen live during tapings on Monday evenings). Past episodes are in an online Archives in case you want to listen to or view classic installments you’ve missed. (As of this week, there have been an astounding 564 episodes since Allan started the podcasts a little over 11 years ago.).
And you’ll also find links on that web page to a couple of other outstanding Mayberry-related podcasts: Burke on Mayberry (hosted by TAGSRWC’s Kevin Burke) and the Mayberry Bible Study Podcast (another one hosted by Allan Newsome).
TAGSRWC’s official page on Facebook now has over 250,000 Mayberry friends! You can find us at www.facebook.com/tagsrwc. If you haven’t already dropped by the page, we hope you’ll check it out sometime when you have the chance. We invite you to become a TAGSRWC Facebook Friend!
We also have links in our “Liked by this Page” section to the pages of several TAGSRWC chapters on Facebook (including the Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild), as well as to Facebook pages of Mayberry Days, the Andy Griffith Museum, TAGS actors and others..
Ben Weaver also has his own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/weaversdepartmentstore. It features all the latest in Mayberry items and merchandise news.
**** Post Note ****
Between issues of The eBullet, keep up with all the happenings in Mayberry with the daily Who’s Been Messin’ Up the Bulletin Board? (aka “WBMUTBB?”) Digest. It’s a free subscriber list that consists entirely of comments, newsflashes, and questions and answers from subscribers. You can sign up for that list by going to the Mailing Lists link at tagsrwc.com. “WBMUTBB?” also has its own Archives where you can follow the ongoing stream of messages.
TAGSRWC publishes Weaver’s Newsletter (our brother-figure publication) in alternate months to The eBullet. Like The eBullet, Weaver’s Newsletter is free. Its focus is tilted slightly more to Mayberry merchandise and collectibles and quick newsflashes. It has some content overlap with The eBullet–sometimes earlier and sometimes later, depending on the timing of the news. To sign up, go to Weaver’s Newsletter Sign-Up.
The next regularly scheduled issue of The eBullet will be published in March. The next Weaver’s Newsletter is on tap for February.