Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When am I ever gonna learn?

I love to read, and I love to read biographies and autobiographies. The life stories of other humans are far more interesting to me than some fantasy about underground civilizations or English boarding school wizards or books that say they're all about chicken soup and then have exactly zero recipes for chicken soup.

However, time and again I am reminded that if I like a particular performer, a comedian, actor, musician, or some such, it would be best not to read the real facts about their real lives, because they don't always turn out to be the finest people.

Case in point is the new, revealing, biography of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.  I can't think of any two people I ever enjoyed more on a sitcom than Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife on The Andy Griffith Show.  I watched the shows when they were new, and I have seen each episode in reruns over the years many times over.

They were really good friends, on and off screen; that was easy to tell from watching them act together. But reading the book, one finds that they weren't exactly like the people they portrayed.

Andy, who seemed like the wise center who held Mayberry together, was actually an angry man, nursing grudges from his childhood in North Carolina.  He was a heavy drinker and an indifferent husband to his first wife, his college sweetheart, and, at best, a negligent parent to his own two children...a far cry from the fatherly "Pa" he was to Opie on the show.  Andy had a violent temper.  You might remember a couple of episodes in which you saw his wrist and hand bandaged.  That was because he habitually banged his hand through walls, and trashed hotel rooms, in his fits of rage.  He would cut people off with no reason or warning but also expect total loyalty from all for no reason.  

And it seemed to irk him that he never again found the success that he reached with Don Knotts as his sidekick.  Knotts left "TAGS" once his first contract was up because Andy would not duke him in on the show profits.  Andy made millions and paid Don $100,000 a year.

Don Knotts, who could not find time to attend his mother's funeral, was so limited by neurosis and insecurity that he routinely spent entire two or three-day periods in bed, not always accompanied by his wife.  Both of these men ran around on their wives and tried at all times to fit into the Hollywood Swinger set that they shook their heads at back in Mayberry.

Andy Griffith cheated on his wife, it says in the book, by having an affair of several years with Aneta Corsaut.  Yes.  Sheriff Taylor was getting horizontal with Miss Crump.

Another childhood hero shot all to hell. The next thing you know, they'll be telling me that Attila The Hun wasn't quite as great a guy as we all believed.

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