An Online newsletter of
“The Andy Griffith Show” Rerun Watchers Club (TAGSRWC)
**** Merchandise Update ****
Crusty ol' Ben Weaver has added several prized vintage items to his shelves this month. Most are fundraisers to help us support Mayberry events. See highlights below, or here's a link to where most of these newly added items are on the Weaver's site.
Browse the full selection of books, apparel, DVDs, artwork, collectibles (including factory-sealed sets of the rare TAGS trading cards from 20+ years ago!), items for your vehicle and much more online at Weaver’s (www.weaversdepartmentstore.com). We also still have the smallest handful left of the 2014 TAGS Wall Calendar. And if you were dragging your feet on getting one of Hal Smith's Original TAGS Scripts, there are still some great ones left. But not many, and we imagine for not much longer.
We appreciate your shopping at Weaver’s, especially because Weaver’s sales are by far the main thing that helps TAGSRWC be able to support Mayberry Days and other Mayberry-connected events and charitable efforts throughout the year. Here are some current product highlights:
We know folks who already swooped up some of these hot items have been glad to have them this winter. We're pleased to offer two of our most popular T-shirt designs as both sweatshirts and hoodies, in sizes Adult Small to 3X. And with plenty of cool days ahead, you'll stay warm as you look super cool with one of these.
It has been a few years since we have offered a T-shirt grab-bag. This rare offering has historically been one of our most popular fundraisers. Each grab-bag contains six vintage but brand new T-shirts. They all come from our Mayberry T-Shirt Archives, which date back to the 1980s.
Each grab-bag contains an assortment of shirts that are either officially licensed, from various special events (such as Mayberry Days), from TAGSRWC chapters or from other random Mayberry inspirations.
Most of the shirts were produced in tiny quantities. They were rare at the time of their creation. With the passage of many years in some cases, they have become all the more scarce.
One thing we guarantee about the assortment in each grab-bag is that they are wonderfully eclectic. And at just over $8 per shirt, they’re an extra-great deal, especially considering that even T-shirts at $18 are viewed as being in the more inexpensive range for this day and age.
We expect that this will be our final offering of Mayberry T-Shirt Grab-Bags, simply because, once these are sold, our T-Shirt Archives will be pretty well empty.
We’ve decided to sell these special shirts now for two reasons. First, we’re trying to raise funds for our support of some of the Mayberry events planned for 2014. And second, we’re not sure that our archiving these T-shirts, as wonderful as they are, serves any particularly needed end purpose. Like the songbirds Opie raised, these shirts need to be set free from their cage, so that they can spread joy with those who wear them and to those who see them being worn.
NOTES: All six shirts in all the grab-bags that are left are size XL.
Thank you for considering a purchase of these grab-bags and helping us support this year’s slate of Mayberry events.
The hand-painted bobble heads in this flawless set that we have are actually sculptor proofs that were part of a small batch of final prototypes. They are unnumbered and have a matte finish. (The ones made when actual production for retailing began often had a shiny finish, and all of those were signed and numbered by the artist. These pre-date those.)
Handcuff this rarest of Mayberry collectibles now before they slip away and join 54 years of other wonderful Andy Griffith Show memories.
Though very popular, this necktie is now out of production. We have just a couple left. Still brand new and in pristine condition.
Special Note: This 1999 book has been out of print for several years and is hard to find, but we've got a couple of copies left that are still beautifully preserved. And best of all, our price is still obtainable--despite the book's collectible rarity and the copies being in such good condition.
The book is hardcover (with dust jacket). This third Aunt Bee cookbook is 220 pages and contains 144 all-new Mayberry-style recipes. There are also 117 color and black-and-white photos, 83 of which have never before been seen in print! The photos span all eight seasons of TAGS. The cookbook also includes excerpts of episode dialogue dealing with food, cooking, and eating in Mayberry.
Though a few of the classic photos and bits of dialogue have been used in other books, most of the images in this book were being published here for the first time. And all but one of the recipes (Doug's Great White Beans) are brand new in a Mayberry cookbook.
The cookbook highlights (in chronological order) 72 of the show's episodes that feature food -- beginning with "The New Housekeeper" in the first season and continuing through "Sam for Town Council" in the final season. Photos and dialogue from the episodes are accompanied by recipes for the actual foods seen or discussed in the episodes. So you can quite literally eat your way through all eight seasons of the show!
From fried chicken and homemade pickles to butterscotch pecan pie and chocolate cake, from apple pie and meat loaf to taters and spaghetti, this cookbook has the recipes, dialogue, and photos to bring Mayberry memories to life. (And remember what Barney ordered at the fancy French restaurant in Raleigh? Well, for better or worse, you'll find it in this cookbook!)
This little bank is by no means secure enough for Barney's money (or even Opie's), but it's really neat to look at. And long out of production, it's highly collectible.
A wonderful game to play or preserve as a collectible.
This decorative ceramic mug was made under license by Vandor in 2000. Its preplanned retirement was 2001. It's now quite rare. (We recently stumbled across this one in a storage area we hadn't checked in about 10 years!)
Still in its original packaging, this really cool mug is in mint condition. (All the little white splotches on the front of the mug in the picture are just the lighting/reflections. The mug is pristine.) It is 5" tall and 5" in diameter.
Did your thermometer break this winter? Or is it still buried somewhere in a snow bank? Or maybe you just want a second opinion about how cold it is, while also providing a sense of security for your home or office. Well, here's the man for the job. He's a hot shot, because he's always cool under pressure! Note: This thermometer also measures hot temperatures, if there ever are any again.
This tin box was made under license by Vandor starting in 2003. It comes with an unhinged lid and measures 4"x3"x1" (a little bigger than an Altoids box).
Out of production for about 10 years, this little box is hard to find brand new, if at all, but we've still got a very few. (Yet another special item we were delighted to find recently in a forgotten storage area.)
DVD Sneak Peek!
Big news on the DVD front…not only is the first season of TAGS coming out on Blu-ray (tentatively scheduled for release by CBS on May 6), but the first season of “Mayberry R.F.D.” is being released (on April 8) for the first time in any format! Hooray!
We were beginning to think “R.F.D.” would never get its chance, but Warner Bros., which owns that series (unlike TAGS, whose DVD and merchandising rights are held by CBS), is finally about to take the Mayberry plunge. If the first season (26 episodes) sells well, we expect the other two seasons (also 26 episodes each) will follow before long.
So, for all the Mayberry fans who’ve been waiting for years (and in some cases, decades!) to see the 78 episodes of “Mayberry R.F.D.," your wait is almost over. You’ll finally get to see Andy and Helen get married, and, when the second season is released, you’ll get to see Andy Taylor Jr. be baptized. That's not to mention all the other “R.F.D.” adventures, including dune buggies in Palm Springs.
Our Weaver’s Department Store will of course be stocking both of these DVD releases. We’ll start taking pre-orders for "Mayberry R.F.D." in mid-March, around the time of the next issue of The eBullet. Its suggested retail price is $30.00, which is a nice deal, but we're hoping to be able to wheedle an even better deal out of Ben Weaver before we start taking pre-orders.
The suggested retail price for the Complete Season 1 of TAGS on Blu-ray is $130.00 (No, that's not a misprint.) Yes, that's more than our current price for the Complete Eight Seasons of TAGS on regular DVD ($109.00). And that series box set on regular DVD even includes the Danny Thomas pilot and Return to Mayberry movie. So, watching Mayberry on Blu-ray's not going to be cheap, especially right away. We're working to get our Weaver's price down a lot lower than the suggested price (we ain't no Rockefeller!), but it still won't be inexpensive. We're aiming to start taking pre-orders for the TAGS Season 1 Blu-ray in mid-April.
Meanwhile, we do still have the complete series DVD sets of TAGS, "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," and "Matlock" at very nice prices. We have individual season sets on DVD of all three series, too. (Weaver's also even offers the complete series DVD set of "Hogan's Heroes," because there's a lot of TAGS connections on camera and behind the scenes on that classic show, too.) And Weaver's has all sorts of DVDs of movies, TV specials and other works featuring Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, George, Lindsey and The Dillards.
Browse all around the Weaver's site. You never know what unexpected treasures (old and new) that you might find!
Bulletin Board & Event Calendar
The Andy Griffith Museum, featuring the late Emmett Forrest’s amazing collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia, is open daily in Mount Airy, N.C. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org/ or call (336) 786-1604.
* Feb. 21: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Feb. 26: The Roland White Band performs at the Music City Roots show at the Loveless Barn in Nashville, Tenn. Show time is 7 p.m. If you can’t attend, tune in online or possibly on an affiliate station in your area. For more info, visit www.musiccityroots.com.
* Feb. 28-Mar. 16: James Best stars with wife Dorothy Best and Norma Frank in On Golden Pond at the Hickory Community Theatre in Hickory, N.C. For info, visit http://hickorytheatre.org.
* Mar. 6-8: 17th Annual George Lindsey UNA Film Festival in Florence, Ala. For info, visit www.lindseyfilmfest.com.
* Mar. 8: Neal Brower, author of Mayberry 101, presents a lecture on the “Opie’s Hobo Friend” episode of TAGS, the first one written by Harvey Bullock, starting at 2 p.m., in the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre in Mount Airy, N.C. Admission is included with an Andy Griffith Museum armband ($3 or $5) or is $5 without one. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Mar. 21: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Mar. 21-23: Karen Knotts has two performances of “Tied Up in Knotts” (7:30 p.m. on the 21st and 2:00 p.m. on the 23rd) at the Harris Center for the Arts (Stage 2) at Three Stages at Folsom, located at Folsom Lake College in Folsom, Calif. Tickets are $29 and $39. For more info, call (916) 608-6888 or visit www.issuu.com/harriscenter/docs/13-14-season.
* Mar. 21-Apr. 27: L.A. Deli, the latest play by TAGS writer Sam Bobrick, is being performed at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood, Calif. Previews are on March 21 at 8 p.m. and March 22 at 3 p.m. Regular performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. For more info or tickets, visit www.plays411.com or call (323) 960-7738.
* Mar. 22: James Best presents “Best in Hollywood” at the Camden Fine Arts Center in Camden, S.C. For more info, call the box office at 803-425-7676 or visit www.fineartscenter.org.
* Mar. 22: The Roland White Band performs at the Station Inn in Nashville, Tenn. Show time is 9 p.m., and admission is $12. For info visit www.stationinn.com.
* Mar. 22: LeRoy "Mack" McNees performs with Almost Bluegrass at Festival Atitlan, near Santiago Atitlan, in Guatemala. For more info, visit www.festivalatitlan.com.
* Apr. 12: Neal Brower, author of Mayberry 101, presents a lecture on the “The Education of Ernest T. Bass” 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 armband ($3 or $5) or is $5 without one. For info, visit the website atwww.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Apr. 18: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Apr. 24 and 25: Eagles’ Wings fundraiser event in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The golf tourney is on Thurs., and the dinner, silent auction, and entertainment are on Fri. night at the Bryant Conference Center. Guests and more details TBA. For now, just mark your calendar for this annual event that support Eagles’ Wings efforts to assist adults with disabilities. More info at www.eagleswingsoftuscaloosa.org.
* Apr. 25-27: Maggie Peterson is a special guest for the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Mo. More details TBA. For info, visit www.cherryblossomfest.com.
* Apr. 26: James Best brings his “Best in Hollywood” show to the Newberry Opera House in Newberry, S.C. For more info, call the box office at 803-276-6264 or visitwww.newberryoperahouse.com.
* May 2 and 3: 4th Annual Mayberry Comes to Westminster Festival in Westminster, S.C. Guests include Rodney Dillard and the Dillard Band, Karen Knotts and her one-woman “Tied Up In Knotts” show, several Mayberry tribute artists, “A Salute to Elvis” with Wayne Euliss, trivia, and Miss Mayberry pageant. More details TBA. For updates, visit www.westminstersc.com/mayberry. Tickets available soon at www.jneg.org.
* May 10: Neal Brower, author of Mayberry 101, presents a lecture on the “Rafe Hollister Sings” 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 armband ($3 or $5) or is $5 without one. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* May 16: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* May 17 and 18: Mayberry in the Midwest in Danville, Ind. Stars confirmed so far include Maggie Peterson, Rodney Dillard and the Dillard Band, and a full slate of Mayberry tribute artists. Events include a pancake breakfast, concerts, contests, Opie’s Soap Box Derby, and the Mayberry Squad Car Nationals. (If you have a Mayberry Squad replica that you want to enter in the MSCN, contact Kenneth Junkin at 205-364-7727.)
Many more details TBA, but for now, just mark your calendar. For inquiries (such as renting vendor booth space) and updates, go to www.visitdowntowndanville.com. And follow the event on Facebook HERE.
The host hotel is the La Quinta Inn & Suites (317-279-2650) in Plainfield, which is 15 to 20 minutes away, depending on traffic. If you can’t get a room at the LaQuinta, there are also some hotels (Fairfield Inn & Suites and Comfort Inn) in Avon, which is also five to 10 minutes closer. And a couple of other hotels in Plainfield are a Hampton Inn and a Best Western.
* May 20-25: Ronnie Schell performs at the Improv Comedy Club at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. For more info, visit www.harrahslasvegas.com.
* June 12-14: Ruta Lee appears at the Memphis Film Festival at the Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Miss. For more info, visit www.memphisfilmfestival.com.
* June 14: Neal Brower, author of Mayberry 101, presents a lecture on the “Barney and Thelma Lou, Phfft” 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 armband ($3 or $5) or is $5 without one. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* June 20: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* July 12: Neal Brower, author of Mayberry 101, presents a lecture on the “Back to Nature” 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 armband ($3 or $5) or is $5 without one. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* July 18: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* July 23-27: Ronnie Schell performs at the Improv at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe (Nev.). For info, visit www.harveystahoe.com.
* Aug. 9: Neal Brower, author of Mayberry 101, presents a lecture on the “The Songfesters” 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 armband ($3 or $5) or is $5 without one. For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Aug. 13: Karen Knotts unleashes her one-woman “Tied Up in Knotts” show on Hoover Auditorium at Lakeside Chautauqua in Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio, on the banks of Lake Erie. Show time is 8:15 p.m. For info, find a web-footed red-crested lake loon to follow, or visit www.lakesideohio.com.
* Aug. 15: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Aug. 22 and 23: Rodney Dillard and Maggie Peterson are joined by several of the Mayberry tribute artists (including David “Mayberry Deputy” Browning, Allan “Floyd” Newsome, Kenneth “Otis” Junkin, Phil “Ernest T.” Fox, and Jeff “Howard” Branch) for a Cruise-In in Oakboro, N.C., on Friday, and then a concert benefiting the Montgomery County DARE program on Saturday at the James H. Garner Center in Troy, N.C. Tickets for the Saturday show are $20 for reserved seats and $15 for general admission. Tickets for children 6 years-12 years old are $10. For more info, call Jeff Branch at (704) 985-6987, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.bluegrassintroy.com.
* Sept. 19: Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) greets fans at the Andy Griffith Museum 12:30-1:30 p.m. She will have autographed 8×10 photos available ($10). For info, visit the website at www.andygriffithmuseum.org or call (336) 786-1604.
* Sept. 21-24: Life Lessons From Mayberry: It’s All There in Black and White in Ridgecrest, N.C. (outside Asheville) is a Bible study event drawing on the biblical truths and life applications found in “The Andy Griffith Show.” The event is $295 per person (based on double occupancy), which includes three nights of on-campus lodging, eight meals, Bible study sessions based on favorite TAGS episodes, dynamic preaching, worship, an orchestra concert of TAGS tunes, and a lunch with favorite Mayberry tribute artists. To register, call Ridgecrest Conference Center at (800) 588-7222 or visit www.lifeway.com/mayberry.com.
* Sept. 25-28: 25th Annual Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, N.C. As always, numerous “Andy Griffith Show” stars will be on hand. Stars already confirmed are hometown favorite Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) and Darling Boy Rodney Dillard and the Dillard Band, who will perform a matinee show on Friday. James Best also presents his popular “Best in Hollywood Show” on Friday afternoon, and Karen Knotts returns with her fun, wonderful “Tied Up in Knotts” show, at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
Other festival favorites include David “Mayberry Deputy” Browning and the merry Mayberry band of tribute artists, the VW Boys and their “Salute to Mayberry,” Professor Brower's Lecture and Michael Hoover’s Elvis.
Also, there will be a hilarious comedy show on Friday night by the amazing James Gregory, “the Funniest Man in America.” Also, the Embers warm the night with their music on Thursday, while the legendary Tams bring their soulful coastal music to the amphitheater on Friday evening. And much more TBA! There will be something for everybody at this special 25th Mayberry Days. Visit www.surryarts.org for more info.
* Nov. 1-6: Cruise to Mayberry 9 stars LeRoy “Mack” McNees, George Lindsey, Jr. , and a passel of Mayberry tribute artists for music, sights, sun, fun, and games…and hearty eatin’ aboard Carnival’s Victory cruise ship, departing Miami for Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. There are several important deadlines coming up for making reservations. For more info, contact Sharon at All About Cruises (336) 538-4926 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at wwww.allaboutcruisesnc.net.
**** News of Cast & Crew ****
Ron Howard continues to work on his film In the Heart of the Sea, the story of the Essex, a 19th century whaling ship. He has completed filming in Great Britain and, most recently, the Canary Islands, where in early December the production company had to take shelter from devastating storms of near-typhoon strength. He’s now busy with editing and other post-production work. The film is currently set for release in March of 2015.
Ron is executive producer for Unsung Heroes: The Story of America's Female Patriots, a documentary scheduled to air on PBS in May. Here's a link to trailer for it: Unsung Heroes.
Ron is also set to direct a film titled Mena about notorious 1980s pilot and cocaine smuggler (and CIA informant) Barry Seal, who was based in Mena, Ark. And Ron is in talks with Warner Bros. to direct and produce a live-action version of The Jungle Book. (Disney also has a live-action Jungle Book project in the works, so the race is on.) Ron's brother, Clint Howard, was a voice of an elephant in Disney's popular animated version from 1967.
Rush, Ron’s most recent release as a director, was nominated for two Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture (Drama). And it was nominated for four British Academy Film Awards, including Best British Film. Ron was in London the weekend of February 16 for the awards. Rush was honored with the award for Best Editing.
Rush oddly was given the “Big Freeze” and was completely shut out of any Oscar nominations, even in the technical categories.
But the Howard family will still be well represented at the Oscars, because Nebraska, featuring Howard patriarch Rance Howard, is up for a slew of awards, including Best Picture. Rance plays a brother of Bruce Dern, who is nominated for Best Actor. (And to see them on screen together, it’s remarkable how much they look as though they really could be brothers.)
Clint Howard has roles in several indie films in various stages of production--some about to be released and one filming now. He was also in an episode of "Hawaii Five-O" that aired in November.
Betty Lynn has recovered extraordinarily well from surgery last August and continues a full schedule of activities in Mount Airy, including autograph sessions the third Friday each month at the Andy Griffith Museum. She also enjoyed visiting with Maggie Peterson and Ronnie Schell during their trip to Mount Airy to perform Love Letters on Valentine's Day.
And Maggie joined Rodney Dillard for great fun with their mini-tour with Rodney’s band and David Browning in their “Mayberry Christmas” show in North Carolina and Tennessee in December.
And some news we missed last summer, but found out over the holidays…The late TAGS director Earl Bellamy (one of Andy Griffith‘s favorites) was honored posthumously at the Memphis Film Festival with a special award recognizing his many achievements as a director of classic westerns. He was notably one of the key directors of “The Lone Ranger” on TV. Last year marked the 80th anniversary of “The Lone Ranger,” so Earl’s award was in part timed for that occasion. His widow Gail was at the festival to accept the award.
Top TAGS writer Sam Bobrick (19 episodes, including “The Shoplifters” and “Big Fish in a Small Town”) checked in to say that he’s doing well and is still writing. In fact, he won an Edgar Allen Poe Award (an Edgar) in 2011 for his comedy mystery The Psychic. His latest play, L.A. Deli, opens at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood on March 21.
Margaret Kerry (Bess Muggins and Helen Scobey) has been busy as usual with lots of Disney-related appearances. As the live model for Disney’s animated Tinker Bell, Margaret is in demand all over the world for events that need a little extra pixie dust. She was in Anaheim and the Disneyland Resort’s Tinker Bell Half-Marathon in January. Keep up with Margaret (if you can!) on her website: www.tinkerbelltalks.com.
Joy Ellison, who played Margaret Kerry’s daughters in Margaret’s two episodes (as well as Opie friends Mary Wiggins and Iris in others), is currently working as dialect coach on SpongeBob Squarepants 2, starring Antonio Banderas and scheduled for release in 2015. And she has been working on Fury, a war movie starring Brad Pitt that's schedule for release in November.
We’re sad to report the passing of Ben Starr, writer of “Look Paw, I’m Dancing” (Episode 181), on January 19. He died of congestive heart failure at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92.
Born Benjamin Starr to Russian immigrant parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., on October 18, 1921, he attended City College in New York before transferring to and graduating from UCLA after serving in World War II. He got his show business start in radio writing for Al Jolson, George Burns, and Martin and Lewis. Two of his earliest writing jobs in TV were for “I Married Joan” and “Duffy’s Tavern” in the early 1950s. He went on to write for a wide range of TV shows—everything from “Perry Mason” to “Mr. Ed,” for which he wrote more than three dozen episodes. Most of his writing was for comedies, including “My Favorite Martian,” “Petticoat Junction,” “The Brady Bunch” and “All in the Family.”
Ben wrote more than two dozen episodes of the hit sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and he went on to co-create another popular ’80s sitcom, “Silver Spoons.” He also developed “The Facts of Life” TV series.
Among his credits for the big screen, Ben wrote the hit Our Man Flint starring James Coburn, The Busy Body starring his friend Sid Caesar and Texas Across the River starring old pal Dean Martin.
Ben Starr was married to the former Gloria June Kaplan for 50 years until her death in 1999. They had three children. One of the truly jolly people of show business, Ben Starr enjoyed a full life. In keeping with the story he wrote for Opie, he clearly loved life’s dance.
We also note the passing of Richard (Dick) Bull, who played Mr. Jackson (the schoolteacher who introduces football star Flip Conroy to Opie and his fellow football players) in “Opie’s Piano Lesson” (Episode 215). He died of natural causes on February 3 after being hospitalized for pneumonia at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's hospital in Los Angeles. He was 89.
Dick was born in Zion, Ill., on June 26, 1924. He trained on the stage at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, before making his move to Hollywood to begin a career in TV and films that lasted from 1956 until 2011. He worked in top shows spanning portions of seven decades. Most notable were his portrayals of the Doctor in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” in the 1960s and shopkeeper Nels Oleson in “Little House on the Prairie” during the 1970s and 1980s. Among his feature films were The Andromeda Strain in 1971 and High Plains Drifter and Executive Action, both in 1973.
Dick is survived by his wife of 65 years, the actress Barbara (Bobbi) Collentine. He will always be fondly remembered in Mayberry for his enthusiastic introduction of Flip Conroy, a landmark moment on TAGS.
It was with great sadness that we learned this week of the passing of a wonderful Mayberry guest star. Mary Grace Canfield (Thelma Lou's cousin Mary Grace Gossage in "A Date for Gomer," Episode 104), died of lung cancer on February 15 in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was 89.
Mary Grace is best known for playing handy-person Ralph Monroe, sibling of Alf Monroe (played by Sid Melton) on six seasons of "Green Acres." She also had a memorable role as the upstairs maid in Pollyanna (1960) and the schoolteacher in Disney's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). Along the way in a TV and film career spanning 40 years, she played Amanda Allison in "The Hathaways" and Harriet Kravitz in four episodes of "Bewitched." She was also a regular for a time on "General Hospital" and made numerous guest appearances on top TV shows.
Born in Rochester, N.Y., on September 4, 1924, Mary Grace knew from an early age that she wanted to be an actor. After theater training in Pennsylvania, she performed in half a dozen productions on and off Broadway, before moving to California to pursue a career in film. She also continued to perform in plays in California and occasionally elsewhere.
When she was still in New York, she had performed in early productions for TV, including the popular "Mister Peepers," starring Wally Cox. Two writers on that classic show were Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum. Years later, when the legendary writers were working on "A Date for Gomer," they wrote with Mary Grace Canfield in mind, and reinforced their inspiration by naming her character Mary Grace Gossage. She became one of Mayberry's most memorable and endearing visitors.
When Mary Grace semi-retired from acting in the 1980s, she moved to Sedgwick, Me. (She moved back to California a few years ago for health reasons.) She appeared at a couple of Mayberry reunion events over the years, and she delighted fans each time.
Being used to people recognizing her mostly because of her portrayal of Ralph Monroe, she was surprised that her one episode as Mary Grace also had so many avid admirers. She enjoyed that very much, and stayed up on the goings-on in the Mayberry world through the years.
Mary Grace was married to Charles Carey from 1950 to 1955 and to John Bischof from 1989 until her death. She is also survived by daughters Alison and Phoebe and three grandsons.
We're indeed fortunate that Mary Grace Canfield adorned Mayberry with her beloved performance of Mary Grace Gossage. Gomer's enthusiasm was correct. "She's nice!"
**** Mayberry on the Web ****
The iMayberry Community
This TAGSRWC online group is organized and overseen by webmaster Allan "Floyd" Newsome. You can check it out 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 page, online newsletters (such as The eBullet!), weaversdepartmentstore.com and chat rooms. Combined with TAGSRWC chapters and the various Mayberry events for all fans (from Mayberry Days to ocean cruises), not to mention enjoying the sites of Mount Airy year-round, the world of Mayberry fun keeps expanding.
And best of all, it's all rooted in watching the show itself. Whether through DVDs, streaming video, local stations or TV Land, loving to watch the show continues to be the energy that feeds all the other Mayberry fun and activities that we enjoy. What a wonderful thing Andy Griffith and his talented team of actors, musicians, writers and crew people created 54 years ago--for us and generations to come!
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. 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 episodes you've missed. (There have been 270 episodes since the podcasts began five years ago.)
There's a lot of info and discussions that you simply won't find anywhere else, including rare interviews (vintage and new) with cast and crew members of TAGS. If you've got sound on your computer or have an iPod or tablet, you can easily tune in live or download these podcasts.
Also, check out the podcast area of our www.imayberry.com site for info about a Mayberry Bible Study Podcast, also hosted by Allan, and a "brother figure" podcast called Burke on Mayberry, hosted by Kevin Burke.
TAGSRWC's official page on Facebook now has more than 45,000 friends! You can find us at www.facebook.com/tagsrwc. There's a variety of comments about Mayberry, and a lively stream of fans' favorite TAGS lines and photos. And our Facebook page is also one of the first places we post announcements and breaking news about TAGS. 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!
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Between issues of Weaver’s Newsletter, keep up with the happenings in Mayberry with the daily “Who’s Been Messin’ Up the Bulletin Board?” Digest. It’s a free subscriber list that consists entirely of comments, news flashes, and questions and answers from subscribers. You can sign up for that list by going to the “Mailing Lists” link at www.tagsrwc.com.
TAGSRWC also publishes The eBullet in more or less alternate months to Weaver’s Newsletter. The eBullet is the online successor to our longtime printed newsletter, The Bullet. Like Weaver’s Newsletter, The eBullet is free. It includes some of the same news as Weaver’s Newsletter, but with more features and depth and a little less emphasis on merchandise news. To sign up, go to: www.tagsrwc.com/ebullet/joinebullet.htm.
TAGSRWC’s other main vehicle for Mayberry information is simply our website at www.tagsrwc.com (and its sister site www.iMayberry.com). Both sites have extensive content and links for just about everything a Mayberry fan might be looking for.
The next issue of Weaver’s Newsletter is scheduled for April, with the next eBullet planned for March.