Friday, March 13, 2015
Some friends that worked for the LA Times invited me to dinner at their house with Don Knotts when I lived in Santa Monica in the late '90's. I had always been a fan of his comedy since he was the "nervous guy" on the Steve Allen Show in the 1950's. My brother and I had always referred to The Andy Griffith Show as the Don Knotts Show - and I told him so at dinner. At some point during dessert he revealed that he started his career as ventriloquist. When he was in the army during WW2 he was in some unit of entertainers and was called upon to drag out his dummy and do his routine for the soldiers. He said he got really tired of it and one day he just left the dummy on the beach of one of the Pacific Islands that was being invaded. "I told them the dummy was a casualty", he said. Our host, however, went into the next room and came back with a vintage Jerry Mahoney dummy. He passed it to Don who admitted he hadn't touched a dummy since the war. But in a split second the dummy was talking and Don's lips weren't moving. A little spooky. Don handed the dummy back, "Enough with the dummy". I got him to sign his book that had recently come out - Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known and posed for the picture with me. I really liked that guy.