I woke up to the news that Don Knotts had died on Friday night.
I remember Knotts as one of the Man On The Street interviewees on Steve Allen's show. He was always jumpy, always had a name like "Willis K. Bessemer," and invariably worked with explosives. When Allen asked what the middle initial stood for it was always "Kaboom " and that joke never got tired, partly because I was six years old, but mostly because Knotts knew how to deliver a punchline. I loved that guy.
The first time I saw Andy Griffith was in "No Time For Sergeants" and there, in a small part, was Don Knotts.
The two got together again in fictional Mayberry, and that's when Knotts became Barney Fife, cousin and deputy to Andy Griffith's Sheriff Taylor.
Here in North Carolina there has been an outpouring of love for Knotts, our adopted son, including this fine piece by Dennis Rogers, columnist for the Raleigh News & Observer:
"For five years, from 1960 to 1965, Barney fought what little crime he could rustle up on the streets of the sleepy little town, searched for love in the arms of Thelma Lou (with the occasional dalliance with that trashy Juanita down at the diner) and set a new standard for bullet maintenance.
Of course, he only had one bullet to care for, and Sheriff Andy made him keep it in his shirt pocket. Barney may have been a coward on the outside, but he became a bug-eyed hero when things got dicey.
Few actors have ever been more right for a part than Knotts as Barney Fife. Barney, as seen through the heart and mind of Knotts, was the everyman who lives inside us all. Oh, we may pretend we're cool, calm, collected and wise like Andy, but deep inside we know there is a nervous, unsure nerd who may often come up short, but never for lack of trying. Barney Fife often failed, but he always tried."
I encourage you to read the entire column here.