Don Knotts, TV's Lovable Nerd, Dies at 81
By JEREMIAH MARQUEZ, Associated Press Writer
29 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES - Don Knotts, the skinny, lovable nerd who kept generations of television audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show," has died. He was 81.
Knotts died Friday night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, said Paul Ward, a spokesman for the cable network TV Land, which airs "The Andy Griffith Show," and another Knotts hit, "Three's Company."
Unspecified health problems had forced him to cancel an appearance in his native Morgantown in August 2005.
The West Virginia-born actor's half-century career included seven TV series and more than 25 films, but it was the Griffith show that brought him TV immortality and five Emmies.
The show ran from 1960-68, and was in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings each season, including a No. 1 ranking its final year. It is one of only three series in TV history to bow out at the top: The others are "I Love Lucy" and "Seinfeld." The 249 episodes have appeared frequently in reruns and have spawned a large, active network of fan clubs.
As the bug-eyed deputy to Griffith, Knotts carried in his shirt pocket the one bullet he was allowed after shooting himself in the foot. The constant fumbling, a recurring sight gag, was typical of his self-deprecating humor.
Knotts, whose shy, soft-spoken manner was unlike his high-strung characters, once said he was most proud of the Fife character and doesn't mind being remembered that way.
His favorite episodes, he said, were "The Pickle Story," where Aunt Bea makes pickles no one can eat, and "Barney and the Choir," where no one can stop him from singing.
"I can't sing. It makes me sad that I can't sing or dance well enough to be in a musical, but I'm just not talented in that way," he lamented. "It's one of my weaknesses."
Knotts appeared on six other television shows. In 1979, Knotts replaced Norman Fell on "Three's Company," playing the would-be swinger landlord to John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt.
Early in his TV career, he was one of the original cast members of "The Steve Allen Show," the comedy-variety show that ran from 1956-61. He was one of a group of memorable comics backing Allen that included Louis Nye, Tom Poston and Bill "Jose Jimenez" Dana.
Knotts' G-rated films were family fun, not box-office blockbusters. In most, he ends up the hero and gets the girl — a girl who can see through his nervousness to the heart of gold.
In the part-animated 1964 film "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," Knotts played a meek clerk who turns into a fish after he is rejected by the Navy.
When it was announced in 1998 that Jim Carrey would star in a "Limpet" remake, Knotts responded: "I'm just flattered that someone of Carrey's caliber is remaking something I did. Now, if someone else did Barney Fife, THAT would be different."
In the 1967 film "The Reluctant Astronaut," co-starring Leslie Nielsen, Knotts' father enrolls his wimpy son — operator of a Kiddieland rocket ride — in NASA's space program. Knotts poses as a famous astronaut to the joy of his parents and hometown but is eventually exposed for what he really is, a janitor so terrified of heights he refuses to ride an airplane.
In the 1969 film "The Love God?," he was a geeky bird-watcher who is duped into becoming publisher of a naughty men's magazine and then becomes a national sex symbol. Eventually, he comes to his senses, leaves the big city and marries the sweet girl next door.
He was among an army of comedians from Buster Keaton to Jonathan Winters to liven up the 1963 megacomedy "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Other films include "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966); "The Shakiest Gun in the West," (1968); and a few Disney films such as "The Apple Dumpling Gang," (1974); "Gus," (1976); and "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo," (1977).
In 1998, he had a key role in the back-to-the-past movie "Pleasantville," playing a folksy television repairman whose supercharged remote control sends a teen boy and his sister into a TV sitcom past.
Knotts began his show biz career even before he graduated from high school, performing as a ventriloquist at local clubs and churches. He majored in speech at West Virginia University, then took off for the big city.
"I went to New York cold. On a $100 bill. Bummed a ride," he recalled in a visit to his hometown of Morgantown, where city officials renamed a street for him in 1998.
Within six months, Knotts had taken a job on a radio Western called "Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders," playing a wisecracking, know-it-all handyman. He stayed with it for five years, then came his series TV debut on "The Steve Allen Show."
He married Kay Metz in 1948, the year he graduated from college. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1969. Knotts later married, then divorced Lara Lee Szuchna.
In recent years, he said he had no plans to retire, traveling with theater productions and appearing in print and TV ads for Kodiak pressure treated wood.
The world laughed at Knotts, but it also laughed with him.
He treasured his comedic roles and could point to only one role that wasn't funny, a brief stint on the daytime drama "Search for Tomorrow."
"That's the only serious thing I've done. I don't miss that," Knotts said.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Don Knotts, TV's Lovable Nerd, Dies at 81
Posted by William N. Phillips, Jr. at 2/25/2006 06:19:00 PM
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
It is incredible but George W. Bush has not even been sworn in for his second term as president and the political chattering in Washington has already switched to 2008.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist made the opening move. He was the first prominent Republican to publicly express reservations about Arlen Specter becoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee after the later questioned whether a nominee who supported overturning Roe v. Wade could be confirmed for the Supreme Court. Every head inside the Beltway turned and asked, why would the normally reserved Leader get so far out front against a fellow member of the club, one whose vote he would have to seek out in a closely-divided Senate?
The astonishment was compounded when Frist quietly added a "conscience clause" in the Omnibus Spending Bill to allow doctors and medical personnel to refuse to participate in abortions if they had moral objections to the procedure, overturning existing policy. Clearly, the insiders reasoned, the Leader had read the election returns and realized that his ambitions to become president lay in winning the support of the moral right that was so critical to the GOP's 2004 victory.
Almost as quickly, Sen. George Allen was touting his success as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in gaining a net of four new seats in the upper house, which his news release labeled "historic." The blitz began with promotions by the NRSC staff and ended with a prominent puff piece in the town's preeminent conservative billboard, The Washington Times. Then, everyone jumped in with various political handicappers mentioning former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and governor George Pataki, Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Rick Santorum, and governors Mit Romney of Massachusetts, Jeb Bush of Florida, Bill Owens of Colorado and Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Giuliani and McCain were far out in front of the GOP field in the polls, as was Hillary Clinton for the Democrats.
It is, of course, very early to handicap the race but top expert Charles Cook suggested that the polls do mean something, even this far out. He noted that this will be the first time since 1928 when no incumbent president or vice president will be on the ballot and so the race will be especially wide open. Although he conceded it was hard to see how a pro-abortion, pro-gay, anti-gun Easterner could win the Republican nomination, he correctly emphasized that Giuliani is a "rock star" who could draw interest even in the South and overcome the odds. It is difficult to see how moderates like Pataki (especially from his own state) and Romney could breathe in the same space. McCain has run before and must be considered an exception, one who could compete with the former mayor. If he does, his friend Hagel probably would not run but if McCain does not get into the race the Nebraskan could become his effective surrogate.
Frist, another moderate, who has been the conservatives' bet noir at the last two convention platform hearings enforcing GOP centrism on reluctant rightist delegates, is another matter. As leader, he can do favors for social conservatives during the next four years as his two recent moves prove. While opponents will note that he ultimately supported Specter, he did remove a very objectionable limit on personal freedom, appealing to both evangelicals and Catholics. More important, he is close to President Bush and is rumored to be the Bush personal and organizational favorite for 2008. This would give him a preeminent fundraising advantage operating from the top government position under only the president himself.
On the conservative side, Sen. Santorum has definitely hurt himself for his support of Specter not only for the chairmanship but, more critically, in Specter's primary against conservative favorite, Rep. Pat Toomey. Indeed, many conservatives complain that his support was key to Toomey's loss since President Bush could not have also supported Specter if Santorum had not done so first. In any event, Santorum probably will not run for president, reportedly preferring Frist's Majority Leader job when he moves up to president. Gov. Jeb Bush has repeatedly said he will not run in 2008, a position confirmed by no less than his mother, Barbara.
Gov. Bill Owens had been the conservative favorite because of his long-time association with conservative causes and his strong record as governor, a position historically much stronger in competing for president than senator. Yet, Owens' support for businessman Peter Coors against conservative stalwart Rep. Bob Schaffer angered many on the right, who thought the more substantive Congressman was not only more sound ideologically but could have won in November as a more convincing candidate. The Colorado governor has also been involved in a messy separation from his wife of many years, and she has all of the sympathy in the matter both in the state and nationwide. One major national conservative analyst who is very close to Owens believes this will disqualify him from seeking the presidency.
That leaves Sen. Allen and Gov. Sanford as the most likely conservative champions. Allen's best claim is his previous record as governor of Virginia. He exudes charm and folksiness and would be very appealing to middle America. His profile in the Senate has been low except for the insider NRSC role and his lifetime voting record is only three points higher than Frist's. His gubernatorial record, however, gives him not only the executive experience most of the right desire but demonstrates solid conservative accomplishments on taxes, spending and the environment. We have called Sanford the most conservative governor in America (http://acuf.org/issues/issue15/040703news.asp) and his record in the House was impeccable. He is the smartest one around, although he does not advertise it, and he is immoveable on principle. The only problem is that he is up for re-election in 2006 and he has the good sense not to want to think about the presidency at all this early in the game.
Of course, 2008 is a long way off and somehow the country must survive until then. The sixth year of a presidential term is always difficult for the incumbent party in Congressional elections and that is only two years away. President Bush has already taken steps in the Omnibus Spending Bill to begin reducing the rate of increase in domestic spending and promises to reform entitlements, stabilize the dollar and deal with the trade deficit. He is also keeping on schedule to hold elections in Iraq, on December 2 specifically linking the elections to bringing American troops home. These are proposals of enormous magnitude and will require more courageous support in Congress than the GOP has been willing to demonstrate during the president's first term.
Fortunately, Tom Coburn (OK) and Jim DeMint (SC) have been newly elected to the Senate, after earlier service in the House. As we argued before the election, only a few committed legislators can make a big difference in the Senate, where the rules favor individualists, and these two go-getters can finally fill the hole left when Jesse Helms and Phil Gramm retired. Together with Lindsey Graham (SC), John Sununu (NH), John Ensign (NV), Trent Lott (MS), and Judd Gregg (NH) -- all of whom also had the courage to oppose the flawed and spendthrift prescription drug bill in the last Congress -- there just might be the beginnings of an effective conservative Senate caucus.
Readers of ConservativeBattleline.com are aware that Mike Pence (IN), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Marilyn Musgrave (CO) have led efforts to make the Republican Study Committee caucus in the House more effective for conservative principles. They are backed by the other members who had the courage to stand up to the strong-arm tactics of the GOP leadership and can be counted on for conservative leadership in the next Congress including Todd Akin (MO), J. Gresham Barrett (SC), Dan Burton (IN), Steve Chabot (OH), John Culberson (TX, Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Tom Feeney (FL), Scott Garrett (NJ), Gil Gutknecht (MN), John Hostettler (IN), Walter Jones (NC), Jeff Miller (FL), Jerry Moran (KS), Ron Paul (TX), Jim Ryun (KS), John Shadegg, (AZ), Tom Tancredo (CO), and Zach Wamp (TN). They expect to be joined by newly elected members and even some current ones who have since had buyers remorse for supporting the budget-busting drug bill.
There is also good news regarding their former House colleague in the battle to hold down entitlement spending, Pat Toomey. Speculation is high in the state that he will run for governor of Pennsylvania. Kenneth Blackwell, the solid conservative secretary of state in Ohio, is also aiming at his state's governorship. In other words, there are many conservatives who are in office in positions of potential leadership. But outside conservatives must support and encourage them and help them increase their ranks.
If conservatives need motivation, consider that Hillary Clinton leads the Democrats for 2008. Frankly, a relatively conservative Democrat like Senator (and former governor) Evan Bayh of Indiana or Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia would be more difficult to defeat in the general election but the mere possibility of her victory should inspire anyone on the right. She has handled herself cleverly as Senator and will be a formidable candidate. She has the advantage that she can move quite far right on policy without alienating her base and so successfully appeal to the middle, especially if the dollar continues to weaken and U.S. troops are still dying in Iraq.
If President Bush has reformed entitlements to stabilize the economy and limited the number of American military casualties, a moderate in his mold such as Sen. Frist would have a good chance for the Republican nomination to face Sen. Clinton. But it is likely independent voters will be looking for something new under these circumstances, making her the favorite. If things seem to require a firm hand on terrorism at the time, however, Mayor Giuliani would probably be able to overcome Frist for the nomination, even with his liberal social record. If candidate Bush was able to change the party on education and spending, why could not a more charismatic mayor do the same on social issues? Yet, this would have social conservatives sit out the election or support a third party (under, for example, Pat Buchanan) making Sen. Clinton, again, the favorite.
Can a consistent conservative be nominated and elected in 2008? A conservative would have the best chance for the presidency paradoxically if Republicans fritter away their mandate the next four years and the country woke to the fact that the date for the entitlement explosion would then only be eight years away. The former will be decided by what President Bush and the GOP leadership do and the degree of intransigence on the part of the Democratic opposition; the later is in the hands of conservatives themselves. A serious conservative candidate willing to confront the real problems facing America could be elected in 2008 but it would take a great deal of work on the part of the conservative movement that has to have started yesterday. It would be a long shot against high odds but conservatives could do it.
If a Bill, Rudy and Hillary trifecta is not enough to inspire conservatives to action, nothing can.
Donald Devine, Editor.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/22/2006 10:09:00 AM
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Draft Former Montana Governor Marc Racicot for President
MARC RACICOT served as Montana's governor from 1993-2001. He has roots that run very deep in Montana's colorful history. His ancestors came to the Montana Territory in the 1860's. Marc's grandfather arrived in Libby in 1917 to work as a logging camp cook in northwestern Montana for J. Neils Lumber Company. Marc Racicot was born to Bill and Pat Racicot on July 24, 1948, in Thompson Falls.
Marc grew up, first in Miles City and then in Libby. His parents opened their home to foster children, taking in nearly 50 youngsters over time and formally adopting two: Phillip and Aimee, to join Marc, Tim, Larry, Pat and Chris in their home on Larch Street.
Under the guidance of his father, a teacher and high school basketball and track coach, Marc was a starter on the Libby High School basketball team. During his senior year in 1966, Marc led the team to its first and only state basketball championship. Marc also played basketball in Helena for Carroll College. At Carroll, Marc was elected student body President and in 1970 set a record for most assists in a basketball game, 32. That record still stands.
While at Carroll, Marc worked summers for the Highway Department, mapping county roads and railroad crossings across the state. This gave Marc his first opportunity to see Montana corner to corner and to meet many individuals who remain good friends. During college, Marc also worked in the Capitol print shop and as a dishwasher, cook and line runner in the college cafeteria. He graduated in 1970 with a degree in English and later that year married Theresa Barber, a Carroll student from Big Timber, Montana. Soon after, Marc enrolled in the University of Montana Law School in Missoula, receiving his Juris Doctorate degree in 1973.
As an Army ROTC graduate, Marc was immediately assigned to the Judge Advocate General's Corps and stationed in West Germany where he served as chief prosecutor for the largest U.S. military jurisdiction in Europe. While there, he also managed to teach business and criminal law for the University of Maryland.
After three years, Marc was discharged from the Army as a captain, returning to Montana in 1976 where he became deputy county attorney for Missoula County. There, Marc established the Missoula Drug Treatment Program for people with substance abuse problems. In 1977, Marc became a state Assistant Attorney General, as well as Montana's first Special Prosecutor, handling major cases for county attorneys across the state. In 1980 he ran for chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful. He also ran for district judge in Lewis & Clark and Broadwater counties in 1982 and 1984, respectively, but was also defeated.
From 1977 to 1988, Marc travelled across the state prosecuting scores of cases with a conviction rate of 95 percent. He lost only two cases in twelve years. One notorious case was State vs. Don and Dan Nichols, the "mountain men" convicted of abducting Kari Swenson, an Olympic athlete, and murdering a would-be rescuer.
Marc was elected Attorney General in 1988 and took office in January, 1989. He planned to run for re-election in 1992. However, Governor Stan Stephens (R) took ill and withdrew from the race. Marc sought the Republican nomination with Lieutenant Governor Dennis Rehberg, a Billings area rancher. After winning a hard-fought primary campaign, the men ran a successful general election race that led to a narrow 51 percent victory in November, 1992. Marc Racicot was sworn in as Montana's 20th Governor on Jan. 4, 1993.
In 1996, he sought re-election to a second and final term, with Judy Martz, a Butte businesswoman, as his running mate. On Nov. 5, 1996, they were overwhelmingly elected with 80 percent of the vote, the largest winning percentage for a Governor in Montana’s history and the largest winning percentage for any U.S. Governor in 1996.
As Governor, Marc sought to improve government efficiency and bring government services closer to its owners, the people. He favored reducing government wherever possible and eliminated two executive departments. The Governor's Office staff was reduced to about half of the staff it had in 1977.
After working with the Legislature to eliminate a $200 million deficit in 1993, the Racicot Administration helped produce a $22.4 million budget surplus in 1995. At the Governor's request, the Legislature approved refunding the money to state taxpayers as tangible proof the state kept its budgetary bargain with the people of Montana to live within its means.
Some of Marc's hobbies include running, carpentry and gardening. Marc has served on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National Service and on the Board of Directors for United Way. He has been a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Montana Law School and was a member of the Board of Trustees at Carroll College from 1989-1993. Marc and his wife Theresa have five children: Annie, Tim, Mary Catherine, Theresa Rose and Joe.
Marc currently serves as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Nominated by President George W. Bush, he was unanimously elected to this position in January 2002.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/21/2006 11:46:00 AM
Monday, February 20, 2006
Hall of Fame broadcaster Gowdy dies
'Voice of the Red Sox' loses battle with leukemia
By Mike Petraglia / Special to MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The unmistakable Hall of Fame voice of the Red Sox and a national baseball audience for a generation has passed away.
Curt Gowdy, enshrined in Cooperstown in 1984 as a Ford C. Frick Award winner, died Monday after battling leukemia while living in his West Palm Beach, Fla., home. He was 86.
Gowdy broadcast 13 World Series and 16 Major League All-Star Games.
The Wyoming native made his debut in 1944 broadcasting a football game atop an orange crate in sub-zero weather. His enthusiasm quickly caught on and earned him a job broadcasting the New York Yankees alongside Mel Allen in 1949.
Two years later, he moved to Boston to do Red Sox games and a New England broadcast legend was born.
"I'll never forget him," Red Sox patriarch Johnny Pesky said Monday morning in Fort Myers upon hearing the news. "I was talking about him just the other day. People ask you about people you've met. The announcers back in our day used to travel with us [on trains] and we would play cards with them. Those years there just seemed like there was a lot of affection there."
Gowdy earned the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting in 1970 for his "blend of reporting, accuracy, knowledge, good humor, infectious honesty and enthusiasm," becoming the first sportscaster to be so honored.
But it was in Boston that he touched the hearts and souls of countless New Englanders with a professional, conversational and witty style all his own.
And no one knew or trusted Gowdy more than the players he covered.
"I loved Curt Gowdy and I think he loved Ted [Williams], Bobby [Doerr], Dom [DiMaggio] and me," Pesky said. "We had some great guys and great people and I wish we could have won more.
"They were the guys you grew up with and stayed with them for a lot of years. I knew Curt for over 50 years."
Pesky recalled Gowdy's distinctive style.
"He had a great voice but he wasn't a hotshot," Pesky added. "Some guys get so big and think people listen to them because they're the thing. He was nothing like that. He and Mel Allen were the two best announcers in my era. He was an exciting guy. He had that expression, 'rounding third and heading home,' and I'll never forget that if I live to be 100."
Gowdy was named "Sportscaster of the Year" on three occasions. After leaving the Red Sox following the 1965 season, he quickly ascended to the status of national sportscaster.
Gowdy's numerous network assignments included the World Series, the Super Bowl, the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the "American Sportsman" series.
"I tried to pretend that I was sitting in the stands with a buddy watching the game -- poking him in the ribs when something exciting happened," Gowdy said in accepting his 1984 Cooperstown honor. "I never took myself too seriously. An announcer is only as good as yesterday's performance."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Posted by William N. Phillips, Jr. at 2/20/2006 04:37:00 PM
Not only were these men leaders of the United States, they were multitalented, unique, and sometimes even downright quirky. We've heard a lot about their contribution to United States history. But would you have guessed the following?
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/20/2006 11:35:00 AM