There’s a whole bunch of Mayberry happenings to report. We’ll start with upcoming events.
The Andy Griffith Museum, featuring the amazing collection of Andy Griffith artifacts started by the late Emmett Forrest, is now celebrating its completed renovation as of June 29. The museum is open daily in Mount Airy, N.C. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
Bedazzling Museum Makeover
The Andy Griffith Museum has just completed a major remodeling that now provides a truly beautiful, state-of-the-art home for its impressive collection of Andy Griffith artifacts.
The museum reopened on June 29. In a scenario that only Count Istvan Teleky could make happen, the first visitor after the reopening was Andy Mayberry and his family from Arkansas.
Read more about the remodeling effort HERE.
Here are upcoming events:
* July 21: Betty Lynn greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-3:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8 x 10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* July 21-22: Coinciding with the weekend of Betty Lynn‘s July meet-and-greet at the Andy Griffith Museum, the Mayberry Meet-Up will be held in Mount Airy, N.C., this weekend.
This informal gathering is being coordinated by Allan “Floyd” Newsome as a chance for fans to visit and enjoy Mount Airy during a quieter time of year than with the wall-to-wall activities and crowds of Mayberry Days (also not to be missed!) in September.
There’s a loose schedule of planned activities that folks can pick and choose from. It’s mostly just a chance to hang out and relax in Mount Airy with fellow visitors and local friends. Click this link for the Mayberry Motor Inn website for room reservation info. The motel and its gazebo serve as the home base for weekend. Visit the Meet-Up’s Facebook page for more info.
* July 29: David “Mayberry Deputy” Browning and Dorothy Best (wife of the late James Best) join a host of “Dukes of Hazzard” starts and others at Cooter’s Last Stand in Luray, Va., from Noon until 5 p.m. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/events/2049307201960056/.
* Aug. 5: Mayberry Night in Troy, N.C., starring Maggie Peterson, the VW Boys and most of the Mayberry tribute artists in a fundraiser show for the local DARE program. Dixie Griffith (daughter of Andy) will also be a special guest. Showtime at the James Garner Center is 7 p.m. Reserved seating is $20, General Admission tickets are $15 and admission for kids ages 6-12 is $10. For advance tickets or info, contact organizer Jeff Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org or (704) 985-6987.
* Aug. 12: Mayberry 101 author Neal Brower presents a lecture on the “Prisoner of Love” episode of TAGS, starting at 2 p.m., in the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre in Mount Airy, N.C. Admission is included with an Andy Griffith Museum admission ($6). Visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Aug. 18: Betty Lynn greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-3:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8 x 10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Aug. 19: Maggie Peterson, Rodney Dillard and the current Dillards band are joined by David “Mayberry
Deputy” Browning for two performances of their Mayberry Moments show at the Cumming Playhouse in Cumming, Ga. Show times are 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $30 plus tax. For more info, visit
* Sept. 15: Betty Lynn greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-3:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8 x 10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Sept. 20-24: 28th Annual Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, N.C. Stars confirmed so far are Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), Rodney Dillard (and the current Dillards band), Ronnie Schell (two episodes and also Duke Slater on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.), Margaret Kerry (Bess Muggins and Helen Scobey), Bettina Linke (wife of late associate producer Richard O. Linke), and Karen Knotts.
Also booked to perform are the VW Boys, Michael Hoover and his “Memories of Elvis” show, the Malpass Brothers, Balsam Range, The Tams, The Lisemby Family and James Gregory (“the funniest man in America”). Neal Brower will also be presenting his popular Professor Brower’s Lecture.
Many more guests and details TBA. For more info, visit www.mayberrydays.org. Tickets are already available for several performances and activities.
* Sept. 23: Missouri Boatride (with Dean Webb on mandolin) performs at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival in Carl Junction, Mo. (just a few miles northwest of Joplin).
* Oct. 7: A half dozen of so of the top Mayberry tribute artists present A Tribute to Mayberry at the Averett Center for the Arts in Statesboro, Ga. Show time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $24. For more info visit www.averittcenterforthearts.org/professional-series.
* Oct. 19: Karen Knotts performs “Tied Up in Knotts” at 7 p.m. at the Gaslight Music Hall in Oro Valley, Ariz. For more info, visit www.gaslightmusichall.com.
* Oct. 20: Betty Lynn greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-3:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8 x 10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Oct. 22: Karen Knotts gives the keynote speech titled “Don Knotts Rides Again” at the Wild Bunch Film Festival in Wilcox, Ariz. For info, visit www.thewildbunchfilmfestival.com.
* Oct. 24-29: Margaret Kerry (Bess Muggins and Helen Scobey) is the special guest star for Cruise to Mayberry 12. This year’s cruise is for five days aboard Carnival’s Ecstasy, departing Charleston, S.C., and traveling to Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas.
Margaret will be joined by the usual cruise company of Mayberry tribute artists and musical entertainers. For more info, visit www.allaboutcruisesnc.net or call 1-800-832-7993.
**** News of Cast & Crew ****
Ron Howard has been brought in mid-filming to save the new Han Solo Star Wars film, which had gotten off course (that is, too snarky) with its previous directing team. There’s a general consensus that Han will be in very good hands with Ron. The film is still slated for release during Memorial Day Weekend 2018.
Ron is also set direct a documentary about the life of the late opera legend Luciano Pavarotti. Imagine Entertainment and other partners from the Grammy-winning The Beatles: Eight Days a Week–The Touring Years documentary (also directed by Ron) return to produce this one.
Just last Thursday, it was announced that Ron is an Emmy finalist for best documentary or non-fiction special for the Beatles documentary.
Other directing jobs currently in Ron’s queue include adaptations of the novels Seveneves and The Girl Before.
In late June, Ron announced that Pablo Picasso will be the subject of the second season of “Genius,” which Ron is executive-producing for NatGeo. The first season, which was about the life of Albert Einstein, earned solid ratings and nice reviews worldwide. Ron is also nominated for an Emmy in the Limited Series category for his direction of the premiere episode of the series.
The current asking price for Ron’s apartment in the Eldorado building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (3-bedroom, 2.5-bath unit with a private elevator) is $11.5 million. That’s reduced from the original price of $12.5 million.
Clint Howard has several films that are either wrapping up editing or about to start production. And it wouldn’t surprise followers of the Nashville-based “Still the King” TV series to see Clint return as Crazy Dave at some point.
Rance Howard (father of Ron and Clint) likewise has several film projects about to get underway.
And we’re late reporting that Rance’s wife, Judy, passed away in January of Alzheimer’s. Judy was a noted journalist, playwright, and novelist. She and Rance were married in 2001, after both her first husband and Rance’s wife Jean (mother of Ron and Clint) died the previous year. Survivors, besides Rance and other Howard family members, include two daughters from Judy’s first marriage and four grandchildren. The sympathies of Mayberry are with the family.
Though officially retired, Jim Nabors still does occasional performances in Hawaii, where he lives. He has performed a few songs during at least one event so far this year, but mostly is just enjoying a quiet life at home in his tropical paradise.
Betty Lynn was the subject of the cover story of the June issue Mayberry magazine, the inaugural issue of the entertainment and tourism publication for Mount Airy, N.C., where Betty lives.
Betty’s next day to greet fans at the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy is July 21.
And later this month, she’ll be participating in a sold-out lecture with Neal Brower for a specialty tour group at the Andy Griffith Museum.
Maggie Peterson joined TV brother Rodney Dillard and his band (plus David “Mayberry Deputy” Browning) in early May for their Mayberry Moments show in Duluth, Ga.
And after a weekend off, Maggie was back on the road–this time with Ronnie Schell for the Mayberry in the Midwest festival in Danville, Ind., where they were joined by Dixie Griffith (Andy’s daughter) and several Mayberry tribute artists.
Dean Webb, ace mandolin player of the Original Dillards and the Darlings, celebrated his 80th birthday in March. He has recently been under the weather, but is on the mend at home, though he likely won’t be climbing down ropes out of hotel windows again right away!
Elinor Donahue was a featured guest at the Hollywood Show, a celebrity-greeting and memorabilia event in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Other stars with TAGS connections at the show were Charles Dierkop (Larry, one of the crooks in “Otis the Deputy”) and Kellie Flanagan (new Mayberry arrival Claudia Campbell in “Opie and Mike,” Episode 247). Kellie is now managing editor of Sierra News Online. You can read a recent story about her HERE.
Margaret Kerry (two TAG episodes) and Alan Oppenheimer (Mr. Ruskin in “Barney Hosts a Summit Meeting,” Episode 240) were guests for the Fanboy Expo in Knoxville, Tenn., in late June.
Both stars were at the comic convention primarily for roles beyond Mayberry–Margaret for being the live model for Disney’s Tinker Bell and Alan for his countless voices in iconic animation productions, ranging from Skeletor (in the He-Man and Masters of the Universe stories) to Vanity Smurf. (See a photo of Margaret in Chapter News below.)
Julie Adams (Nurse Mary in “The County Nurse,” Episode 56) also recently made a comic-book convention appearance. Hers was closer to home at the San Fernando Valley Comic Book Convention on June 4.
In a recent “Talk with Jackie” column in The Tolucan Times, Jackie Joseph-Lawrence (Mayberry’s Sweet Romeena) writes about adventures that she and husband David Lawrence have had, including an interesting cruise to Bora Bora last year.
LeRoy McNees (the Dobro-playing Country Boy) and his Gloryland bluegrass-gospel band have been playing gigs close to home in California.
George Lindsey‘s alma mater, the University of North Alabama, is in the process of trying to complete funding of the George Lindsey Film and Media Endowed Scholarship at the university. It is an effort that TAGSRWC, Weaver’s Department Store and other Mayberry groups and individuals have been supporting.
As the endowment approaches its funding deadline later this year, we’ll be more “pushy” about creating awareness and support for this worthy cause in honor of our late friend George. For now, here’s a link where you can make a donation: www.una.edu/alumni/georgelindseyscholarship.
George Lindsey Jr. has recovered well from a health hiccup late last year. He reports that he’s booking lots of dates for his Wild West comedy show at fairs. And he and Eric Norquist (son of Margaret Kerry) are working on some new material for their “Eric and George–A One-Man Show” comedy presentation.
Dorothy Best (wife of the late James Best) starred in a recent production of Neil Simon’s Chapter Two at the Hickory (N.C.) Community Theatre.
It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of George Spence, a wonderful friend to countless in the Mayberry community. George died on July 13 at home in Kill Devil Hills N.C., with his wife, Stephanie, by his side. He was 89.
George was beloved by legions of Mayberry fans, especially those who attend Mount Airy’s annual Mayberry Days festival, which he began attending in 1996 and continued to do, as long as his health allowed, which was for most years through 2013.
George’s one episode of TAGS was “Guest in the House” (Episode 151) in 1965. He played Frank, the temporarily estranged fiancé of Andy’s “cousin” Gloria, in one brief scene and then the epilogue, which is rarely seen in reruns.
But George made the absolute most of his pivotal scene, which included one line (“Hi ya, Glory.”), a kiss, and an embrace. That was all it took for George to be included among Mayberry royalty.
George loved to tell the story about how director Coby Ruskin didn’t want a rehearsal of the kissing scene. As George told it, “I thought we were going to have to kiss five times in rehearsal. Then, I’ll probably mess up and have to kiss her 10 more times.”
George got it right in just one take. Ruskin commanded, “That’s a cut. That’s a wrap.”
Andy was off to the side busting a gut laughing. He came over to George and said, “That’s the toughest thing you have to do in film, And you did it in one take.”
Not missing a beat, George replied, “Andy, I’ve been kissin’ girls all my life.”
The stuff of legends. But to know just George’s one memorable scene in TAGS is to miss the fullness of his life and his contributions to many communities.
George Jones Spence Jr. was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., on April 18, 1928. He was the son of George J. and Pearl Kellam Spence. He grew up around The Lost Colony, the famed outdoor drama on Roanoke Island, N.C. George even attended shows in the first two seasons of the production (1937 and 1938). It was from that exposure George got the acting bug. He began playing Lost Colony villain Simon Fernando while in college in 1948. (He received his degree in English from Wake Forest University in 1951 and did further study in Theater at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.) Among his fellow Lost Colony cast members for several years was Andy Griffith.
George would return to play other Lost Colony roles in the 1970s and again in the early 2000s. Along the way, George was involved in over 100 productions, as both a performer and often as set designer or producer and, even more often, as director.
George was also a gifted teacher. He taught drama at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, N.C. He took time off from full-time teaching to earn his master’s degree in Speech and Drama from Florida State University in 1960. He returned to North Carolina to be assistant professor of Drama and serve as department chairman at Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory.
George spent a short time in Hollywood in the mid-1960s–just long enough to make his mark in Mayberry. (You might also spot him in an episode of “Rawhide” and two episodes of “Combat.”) He then returned to teaching, this time at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., where he was an associate professor of Drama for five years.
George next taught Drama in high school again (Sanderson High School in Raleigh, N.C.) and then worked for the historic preservation board in St. Augustine, Fla., for a time before eventually returning to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where he called home from 1973 onward.
George worked for coastal Dare County on and off from the 1974 to the 1990s, first as a public information officer, then as Director of Emergency Medical Services, and finally as Director of Emergency Management Services. As part of his duties, George developed and implemented the county’s first hurricane evacuation plan. (He also served as volunteer Dare County Sheriff’s Deputy.)
George was a strong advocate for developing the area’s reverse osmosis water treatment networks–a practical system still in use today and a vital part of Dare County being able to provide enough clean water to keep up with demand during years of booming population and tourism growth.
Amid all of his educational and civil-preparedness contributions to the communities where he lived, George remained very involved in acting and directing, including some film work (such as the Jury Foreman in the “The Hunting Party,” a “Matlock” two-parter filmed on the Outer Banks in 1989), but mostly for the theater. During his career, George produced shows with Richard Boone and even directed John Carradine in The Merchant of Venice.
But it was for his return to Mayberry in the 1990s that fans are probably most appreciative of George, because that’s when most fans first got to know him and wife Stephanie, who was always by his side.
Whenever George was in a room or on a stage, there was no missing him. He had a commanding presence, punctuated by his booming, rich baritone voice. (His everyday speaking voice was like Gomer Pyle’s singing voice!) There was no need for a microphone to hear George all the way in the back of an auditorium or even an amphitheater.
In a profile about George some years ago, a writer described George as a “Renaissance man” of the Outer Banks. And it’s true. George was an accomplished performer, a longtime educator and a devoted public servant.
Through it all, George was incredibly humble. He knew better than almost anyone else could ever know what an amazing gift it was to have been on TAGS–even for just a few moments. He embraced every minute of being at Mayberry Days and shared his gratitude with fans.
Mayberry Days is a celebration of many wonderful people, values, feelings and relationships. George represented all of them. And he always will.
Family was foremost for George. In addition to wife Stephanie, survivors include son Jamie and his wife, Nam Sayavong; daughter Shannon Dudley and her husband, Rolfe Dudley; and four grandchildren, all of Kill Devil Hills.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, at Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church with the Rev. Betsy Haas officiating.
Memorial donations may be made to The Lost Colony, 1409 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954. (For his Mayberry friends, we feel sure George would also be pleased by donations to the Surry Arts Council, P.O. Box 141, Mount Airy NC 27030.)
Here is a link to George’s official obituary.
**** Chapter Update ****
No new chapters have started since our report of the newest three in the May eBullet. We currently have had 1,450 chapters founded since TAGSRWC started 38 years ago.
Starting a chapter of TAGSRWC is easy to do. Just pick a name that hasn’t already been selected by another group. You can check the searchable list of chapter names already taken at www.tagsrwc.com.
Then submit the 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).
Whether or not you start or join a local chapter, you can always join our online “Who’s Been Messin’ Up the Bulletin Board?” chapter. (It’s really quick and easy to do. Info is at tagsrwc.com.)
**** Merchandise Update ****
We have lots of great new items on our shelves online at Weaver’s Department Store. Here are some highlights:
Just released this month, the 2018 wall calendar is 12 in. wide x 12 in. tall when closed and 12 in. wide x 24 in. tall when open.
Characters featured in this 2018 edition are Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, Gomer and Goober.
The back side of the calendar shows the images for each month:
Get a jump on 2018 and your holiday shopping and order your Mayberry wall calendar (perennially a favorite Christmas present) today!
With short-sleeve weather in full swing (hooray!), what better time to shop for some new Mayberry T-shirts? We now have more than 40 different designs to choose from.
GreenLight Collectibles has put our love of Mayberry into a 1:64th scale replica of the Mayberry squad car. This die-cast replica is the same size as the 1961 squad car released in 1998 by Johnny Lightning.
This is an officially licensed, limited-edition run, so don’t delay and miss the chance to add this 1967 Ford Custom Mayberry Squad Car to your collection.
Brand new. Just released last month! This is the first time the 1986 Return to Mayberry movie has been released on DVD as a stand-alone product.
Note: If you already have The Andy Griffith Show 50th Anniversary–The Best of Mayberry DVD or the Box Set of All Eight Seasons of The Andy Griffith Show on DVD, then you have this movie. Mr. Weaver doesn’t want to discourage a purchase, but Bert Miller also doesn’t want you to buy anything unless you really need it.
And remember that Weaver’s sales 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.
**** Chapter News ***
Mayberry chapter (Knoxville, Tenn.) has been busy as usual with monthly events, including parades with their Mayberry squad car replicas and regular chapter outings and meetings (often celebrating a cast member birthday with cake!).
Their most recent parades were the 32nd Annual Dolly Homecoming Parade in Pigeon Forge (with Dolly Parton herself!) in May and the Fourth of July Parade in Farragut, Tenn.
Chapter members also enjoyed visiting with TAGS cast members Margaret Kerry and Alan Oppenheimer at Knoxville’s Fanboy Expo in June.
And the chapter has just published its Summer 2017 edition of their Mayberry Minutes newsletter. There have been so many goin’s-on to participate in that they’ve had trouble finding the time to stop and report and publish, but they finally went to press last week.
Shakedown! Shakedown! chapter (Laurinburg, N.C.) held its semi-annual gathering in June. Here’s a photo of the group:
Another big summer gathering was held on July 2. That’s when “Blood Brothers” (Marceline, Mo.) got together at high noon for a chicken and fish fry.
The group conducted a little chapter business and discussed “Barney’s First Car.” Then they enjoyed a presentation about classic cars by Robert and Gerry Gerti (kneeling in front in the photo below), owners of the award-winning 1933 Ford coupe and 1951 Ford Custom (also pictured).
Members of Barney chapter (Greensboro, N.C.) attended fellow chapter member Neal Brower’s lecture at the Andy Griffith Museum on July 8. The group also continues to meet monthly for fun and games…and good food!
See Floyd’s event calendar (above) for info and links about the 5th Annual Mayberry Meet-Up being held in Mount Airy on July 21 and 22.
And the weekend after that, chapters and fans at-large from Indiana and beyond will get together for the regular monthly visit at the Mayberry Café in Danville, Ind. July’s gathering is on the 29th at 2 p.m. Y’all come for good food and good fellowship!
That’s our Chapter News for this issue. If your chapter has news or photos you’d like to share with The eBullet, please send them to Goober@imayberry.com.
**** Mayberry on the Web ****
This TAGSRWC online group is organized and overseen by webmaster Allan “Floyd” Newsome with big 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. (There have been 434 episodes since Allan started the podcasts in 2008.)
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 (again hosted by Allan Newsome).
TAGSRWC’s official page on Facebook has 243,000 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 ****
If you ever miss receiving an issue of The eBullet, you can always catch up by reading it in the eBullet Archives in the Newsletters section at imayberry.com. Each issue is placed in the Archives at the same time that it’s distributed to subscribers.
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.
And TAGSRWC publishes Weaver’s Newsletter in alternate months to The eBullet. Like The eBullet, the Weaver’s Newsletter is free. Its focus is tilted a little more to Mayberry merchandise and collectibles and quick newsflashes. It has some content overlap with The eBullet, sometimes earlier and sometimes later. To sign up, go to Weaver’s Newsletter Sign-Up.
The next eBullet is the pre-Mayberry Days issue planned for September, and the next Weaver’s Newsletter is scheduled for August.