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The Life and Times of Don Knotts: Remembering an Entertainment Icon.

Mackenzie Freeman

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Don Knotts was an American actor, comedian, and entertainer most associated with his role on The Andy Griffith Show. As one of the most well-known television actors of all time, Don Knotts would go on to enjoy a career spanning 50+ years, 5x Emmy Awards, and multiple starring roles in some of the most famous television series of all time. With that being said, you probably knew all about that. Today, we are going to dig a little deeper into one of the largest icons in Hollywood history.

Keep on reading to find out 40 stunning facts about The Andy Griffith Show star, Don Knotts!

An Unconventional Childhood

Jesse ‘Donald’ Knotts was born on July 21, 1924, to William and Elsie Knotts in West Virginia. He was raised alongside three brothers on a farm. Don’s mother was 40 when she gave birth to her son. Don’s father struggled with a variety of afflictions including alcoholism and schizophrenia before passing away from pneumonia when Don was only 13-years-old.

Don Served During WWII … in a Comedy Troupe

Knotts served during WWII from 1943 until 1946. During his time in the armed forces, Knotts would perform with a military comedy troupe known as Stars and Gripes. The troupe would perform across the Pacific. Knotts would eventually be discharged with the rank Technician Grade 5 which is the rough equivalent of a Corporal.

Career Before Finding Fame

Most celebrities have an interesting job or two before they make it big in Hollywood. Brad Pitt worked as an extra in-between shifts as a sign-spinner. Rachel McAdams worked in a McDonald’s. Don Knotts? Well, our favorite comedian from the 50s enjoyed life as a chicken plucker before scoring his big break in Hollywood.  This meant that Don was plucking the feathers from dead birds all day. What a job!

Don Had a Ventriloquist Act

The Andy Griffith Star was a comedian unafraid to take risks. Knotts would explore comedy by way of ventriloquism for several years before his acting career took off. Knotts would perform alongside a wooden dummy named Danny ‘Hooch’ Matador for a couple of years. Yeah, we agree, Danny Matador definitely looked like a Goosebumps villain.

A Secretly Serious Soldier?

Don Knotts was more than just capable of cracking jokes while in service of the United States military. Alongside his work in an army comedy troupe, Knotts would earn a reputation for being a fierce and demanding soldier. This would of course turn out to be a joke as it was later revealed that Knotts was an incredibly kind soldier. Knotts focused on providing laughs even while in the army.

He Threw Danny Matador in the Ocean

While Don Knotts may have enjoyed his work as a ventriloquist, he sure didn’t want to keep any memories of the job. According to the legendary icon himself, Knotts would end up throwing Danny Matador into the South Pacific Ocean. Why would he do that? Well, take one look at the wooden dummy and tell us you wouldn’t do the same!

Landing His First Acting Role

Even though we know Don Knotts for all the laughs he has provided us, that wasn’t where his acting career first began! Knotts would break into the acting world with a role on the televised soap opera, Search for Tomorrow. Knotts would work on the series from 1953 until 1955 as the character, Wilbur Peterson.

Enjoyed a Decorated Army Career

We now know that Don Knotts was in the army for three years and that he served in a comedic troupe known as Stars and Gripes. Despite his outgoing comedic personality, Knotts would land several major medals during his time. Knotts laid claim to WWII Victory Medals, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medals, and even an Honorable Service Lapel Button for marksmanship.

Nearly Lost The Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffith Show very nearly missed out on Don Knotts altogether. Knotts hadn’t been a shoo-in for the series due to a variety of factors. Alongside his contractual instability, which we will delve into later, the character Barney Fife was originally written as a one-episode character. It would take Knotts’ electrifying performance for The Andy Griffith Show to change.

Recorded Just ONE Comedy Album

Comedy albums are a mainstay in the comedic performing world. Despite Don Knotts laying claim to a comedy crown, the actor only ever released a single stand-up comedy album, ‘An Evening With Me’. The album would feature many of Don’s favorite bits including, “What It Was, Was Football” and “Weatherman”.

Griffith Gave Him the Best Lines

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts would form a serious friendship on and off the set. This friendship would benefit Knotts and Griffith accordingly. Andy was so in love with Don’s comedic timing that the star of the show gave away some of his best lines! That’s right, Andy was willing to let Knotts shine in his place instead.

Frequently Butted Heads With Griffith

While Andy and Don were close friends both off and on the show, that didn’t mean that tempers never flared. Don Knotts was often the butt of Andy’s jokes and pranks which would be hard to deal with on a daily basis. Knotts would fire back with his own jokes, so this ‘tension’ may be overblown, to say the least.

Won 3x Emmy Awards in First Five Seasons 

When Don Knotts signed on to appear in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, he had no idea what he was getting into. Knotts would end up appearing on the series for five seasons, winning three consecutive Emmy Awards along the way. Knotts would go on to influence such future comedic legends as Jim Carrey as well as Martin Short.

Doubted Success of The Andy Griffith Show

We now know that The Andy Griffith Show is an iconic member of the television landscape. However, Knotts chose to leave the series after just five years because he considered it something of a pending failure. When Knotts realized the series was a hit, it was already too late as he had signed a five-year deal with Universal Pictures. Knotts would leave the show altogether.

Almost Stuck With The Andy Griffith Show

Even though Knotts would end up leaving The Andy Griffith Show due to a contractual obligation, the actor portraying Barney very nearly stayed. Knotts had negotiated with Griffin for a stake in the production in return for his contract being renewed. Griffith would balk at the very idea and Knotts would end up walking from the series.

Film Work Inspired By Television Success

As Don Knotts cemented his name in Hollywood history as Barney Fife, the actor behind the role would continue to use his character in the future. Knotts would co-write a feature film titled The Ghost and Mr. Chicken which was heavily influenced by The Andy Griffith Show

Meet The Incredible Mr. Limpet

We will always revere Don Knotts for his work on television but we would be remiss if we did not highlight his work as Henry Limpet in The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964). The film blended animation and live-action performance into one comical hybrid that was as wacky as it was fun to watch. Knotts was famously proud of his efforts on this project.

Enjoyed a Short-lived Variety Show

Who wouldn’t want to watch Don Knotts on a variety show? Unfortunately for Knotts, viewers at the time were not as in love with The Don Knotts Show as they were The Andy Griffith Show. Don’s series lasted only a single season with notable appearances by Gary Burghoff (M*A*S*H), Jill St. John, and Florence Henderson.

An Unusual Style and Persona

Even though he was a man of many costumes, Don Knotts always liked to be presented well when he was in public. When Knotts wasn’t dressed as Barney Fife, the actor liked to wear glasses and suits as often as possible.  Don would make wearing a suit a part of his acting process with notable examples in The Incredible Mr. Limpet and The Reluctant Astronaut.

Interesting History With Suzanne Somers

Tensions on the set of Three’s Company were almost always in existence. When Suzanne Somers made contractual demands at the height of her fame, producers were suddenly in need of an actor to take on more lines. Knotts volunteered and his character would adopt many of the lines that Suzanne Somers had been offered.

An Unconventional Ladies’ Man

We love Don Knotts but it would be hard to describe him as the traditional ‘lady’s man’. With that being said, Knotts was popular with women during his time. Knotts was described as ‘kind of wild’ by his daughter during an interview with People in 2006. Karen would go on to say, “He was really quite the ladies’ man, especially between marriages.”

Man of Many Marriages

Speaking of being a ladies’ man, Don Knotts enjoyed three separate marriages during his life. Don’s first marriage was with Kathryn which lasted from 1947 until 1964. Don would go on to marry Loralee Czuchna from 1974 until 1983 before marrying Frances Yarborough from 2002 until he died in 2006.

Tensions Rose on Three’s Company

After experiencing otherworldly success on The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts would come back to mainstream stardom as Ralph Furley on Three’s Company. Already an established hit, Knotts’ arrival would coincide with contract drama surrounding star Suzanne Somers. As Somers faded from the program, Knotts stepped into her place.

Almost Lost a Role to Dick Van Dyke

Most of Knott’s success in Hollywood was on television. With that being said, Knotts had a few slam-dunk film roles in his catalog as well! One such role was in the film Pleasantville as Rob Petrie of Rob’s TV Repair. The producers had originally intended to cast Dick Van Dyke in the role, however, Knotts would ultimately win out.

Did Not Record All His Lines in Pleasantville

With a tender ferocity on screen, Knotts was quick to earn critical acclaim for his work on Pleasantville. With that being understood, Knotts also was not able to record all of his dialogue for the production. As a result, the producers would hire a comedian impersonator named Craig Shoemaker to finish the production.

Barney Fife Statue Unfortunately Destroyed

Upon the passing of Knotts in 2006, a Barney Fife statue would be erected in Mount Airy, NC, under the commission of Tom Hellebrand. Ostensibly made to honor Knotts, the statue was eventually torn down due to a lack of usage rights. Paramount/CBS would halt work on the project before having it destroyed altogether.

Karen Knotts Continues Father’s Legacy

Even though the legend Don Knotts is now gone, his daughter is looking to keep her father’s legacy alive. Karen Knotts has been a vocal presence in support of her father’s work, even touring the country with her one-woman stage performance, Tied Up in Knotts. During the series, Karen discusses her father as well as growing up on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.

Cracked Jokes on his Deathbed

Don’s passing in 2006 came with his family and friends by his side. Even in his waning hours, Knotts never lost the sense of humor that endeared him to so many viewers around the world. According to his daughter, Don had cracked a joke on his deathbed that was so funny that she and her mother had to leave the room from laughing too hard. What a legend.

West Virginia Erected a Don Knotts Statue

If you were sad about the Barney Fife statue being destroyed, we have some good news. Knotts’ hometown in West Virginia would erect a statue in 2016 to honor the late comedian. The sculpture was created by Jamie Lester for display in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Andy and Don Remained Best Friends

When you create an iconic television series together, it probably doesn’t hurt that to be best friends. Don Knotts and Andy Griffith grew beyond close in their time on and off of set together. Griffith and Knotts first met in Broadway while co-starring in No Time for Sergeants. The two would stay close friends until Don’s passing in 2006.

Don Knotts Was Frequently Mailed Bullets

A running gag in The Andy Griffith Show was that Barney had been banned from carrying more than a single bullet in his gun. Barney wasn’t exactly trustworthy with a loaded gun, so Andy made sure he only ever had the one bullet. Fans took this gag into real life when they began mailing Don Knotts’ bullets. That’s an interesting letter to open!

Don Knotts Had a Favorite Andy Griffith Episode

There were 249 episodes written for The Andy Griffith Show. With how many hardcore fans there are of the series, there are no doubts favorites among the fandom. With that being said, Knotts had his favorite episode: “The Pickle Story”. This episode featured Andy and Barney eating pickle after pickle which apparently led to laughter on set.

Chose Andy Griffith’s Nickname

During the series, Andy was tagged with the nickname ‘Ange’. According to the series, Don Knotts was the person who chose the nickname. Ange was a mashup of ‘Andy’ and ‘Griffith’ and Andy Griffith liked the nickname so much that he kept using it away from his time on set.

Do You Know Don’s Favorite Suit?

Barney Fife was almost always represented in a salt-and-pepper suit with a nifty little red bowtie. This was Barney’s best suit and also his nicest, so it makes sense that we got used to seeing it on screen. Don Knotts would appear in the very same suit for other projects including The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, How to Frame a Egg, and of course The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Knotts Was Cast Without a Contract

Did you know that Don Knotts appeared for his first day of filming without a contract? It’s true! The legendary actor appeared on set ready to shoot without having signed any paperwork. This potentially could have led to a huge problem with the production, meaning that Barney could have only lasted a single episode!

Andy and Barney Were Written as Cousins

Barney and Andy weren’t always written as odd-duck best friends. Instead, Andy and Barney were originally introduced in the series as family members, cousins! Eventually, the writers would push the characters in different directions by making them childhood friends instead.

Don Knotts Stole The Andy Griffith Show

Did you know that Andy Griffith was originally supposed to be the character with all of the joke lines? The writers had wanted to set up Andy as the comedic foil for the series but Don Knotts had other ideas. Andy would fall in love with his co-star’s charisma, offering Knotts the best jokes in the show while propping him up as the comedic element.

What WAS Barney’s Middle Name?

If you are looking for inner consistency concerning Barney Fife’s middle name, you aren’t going to find it. Barney was given a variety of middle names before the production settled on ‘P.’ Yup, just the letter P. Andy would later lampshade this inconsistency by saying, “I thought your middle name was Oliver.”

Knotts Spent His Final Hours With Andy Griffith

Don Knotts and Andy Griffith were so close to one another that they shared Don’s final hours together. Griffith would join Don after his long battle with lung cancer and muscular degeneration and the two would share precious moments alone together during Don’s final day. Who could have predicted such a fruitful and compassionate relationship?

Passed Away February 24, 2006, at 81 Years Old

Don Knotts would pass away at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Knotts officially passed away from complications of pneumonia as related to his lung cancer. The comedic legend would receive a granite headstone with a bronze plaque that showcases loving artwork from the actor’s most prominent performances.

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Shocking Moment Captured on Film as Mother and Son Leap into Gator Pit for Lost Wallet.

Mackenzie Freeman

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The city of Brainerd is nestled deep in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. Established in 1870, Brainerd is known as one of the largest cities in all of Northern Minnesota. Today’s story isn’t so much about the city of Brainerd as it is about two of the people within it. Recently, a mother and her young son made headlines around the country when they were captured on film leaping into the alligator pit at Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd, MN. What happened next was as harrowing as it was inexplicable. 

Safari North Wildlife Park is one of the most popular outdoor wildlife parks in the Midwest. This stunning park features family-friendly attractions, gorgeous animals, and wonderful sprawling enclosures.  From Snow Leopards and River Otters to the Vervet Monkey, there is always a spectacular animal to see. For the stars of our story, one animal stuck out in particular, the alligator.

When the viral video begins, we see a woman as well as her son standing outside of the alligator enclosure at the Safari North Wildlife Park. The massive pit is enclosed by a fence with only a pit of water in the center of the exhibit. Why were these two visitors in the wildly dangerous alligator pit? Well, that’s a story that seems almost impossible to understand. According to the mother, her wallet had dropped into the water of the enclosure. Rather than requesting assistance from a park employee, the mother jumped into the enclosure to fetch the wallet herself!

The fact that the mother leaped into the alligator pit was concerning in and of itself, especially for a wallet! To make matters even more dramatic and demonstrably worse, her young son quickly followed her! The young boy seemed determined to copy his mother to the horror of various onlookers. One concerned citizen yelled out to the family from a viewing balcony, “Don’t do that, you will get eaten!” 

The tension seemed to last forever as the mother and her son poked around the exhibit while looking for the lost wallet. To add to the tension of the moment, the mother was filmed throwing rocks at the alligators. At one point, the mother even used a stick to distract the gators to further her search for her lost alligator. While the film quickly went viral, this was completely unexpected according to the Safari North Wildlife Park. According to the staff at the facility, the video was the first time they were made aware of the incident.

If you think alligators aren’t dangerous, think again. Alligators are considered apex predators and they have been living on earth for millions of years. Considered ‘living fossils’, alligators are deceptively fast, enormously strong, and they grow their entire lives. In fact, the largest alligator of all time was found in Florida at the Everglades National Park. The alligator was measured in at 16 feet and five inches in length. We are all truly lucky that nobody was hurt during this video!

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Pregnant Women are Concerned With New York Hospital’s Banning Birth Partners

Mackenzie Freeman

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It is an unnerving time for everyone, especially pregnant couples. With the healthcare system being overwhelmed due to the Coronavirus, many couples are wondering how their birthing plans will be impacted. One New York healthcare network has decided to ban birth partners from the delivery room. This has become a controversial topic that is worrisome to women across the country that their hospital could also adopt this policy.

New York-Presbyterian recently announced that it is banning visitors including birth partners. This means countless women will experience the labor and delivery process without the support of their loved ones.

This also means fathers will not be able to see their newborns until the babies are released from the hospital. There are temporary exceptions to the rule for the imminent end of life and specific patient’s needs. This is not comforting to most mothers who will be bringing their child into the world under these stressful and strained conditions.

New York-Presbyterian is taking a significant step in protecting expecting pregnant couples due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, this move is not calming the fears of women. The policy is certainly jarring considering the World Health Organization determined that the role of birth partners is crucial.

Birthing partners provide informational support during childbirth and liaise gaps between women and clinical staff. Companions also provide practical support, like encouraging women to be mobile during labor, provide non-pharmacological pain relief like meditation and massage, and offer emotional support.

Companions are advocates for women, addressing her and her preferences. Labor companions can help women build their confidence through praise, reassurance, and having a supportive presence while allowing them to feel in control.

Chief of Obstetrics at Columbia University, Dena Goffman, MD, notes that New York-Presbyterian’s decision was difficult, well-considered, and not taken lightly. They decided to ensure all potential visitors, including partners, remain safe. The hospital group also decided to test all incoming pregnant women for COVID-19, regardless of their symptoms.

This decision came after doctors noticed numerous women without symptoms or atypical symptoms later testing positive for the virus. Unfortunately, many labor symptoms mimic some COVID-19 symptoms, so these women were not identified by the usual screening method, testing processes, and infection prevention and control. Therefore, the virus protection practices were never implemented thus exposing staff members.

By implementing this new policy of testing women in labor, doctors can isolate newborns who may have been exposed. This is a significant preventative measure to stop an outbreak within non-infected baby nurseries. With such a huge number of cases in New York, this is an important step.

Dr. Goffman further noted that the hospital network is investigating other options for allowing birth partners and loved ones to be included in this special moment. The most promising idea is using technology. The hospital recognizes the need for additional family support for moms and mom and baby pairs when at the hospital.

While the WHO’s position on child partners has remained the same, they believe all pregnant women, including those with confirmed viral infection, are entitled to high-quality care throughout the entire pregnancy.  

The new COVID-19 world is unknown, unpredictable, and scary with situations evolving by the minute. However, planning and flexibility allow women to have a normal birthing experience. Also, consult your medical team with any concerns or questions you may have about the pregnancy or COVID-19. Hopefully, technology will be able to play a bigger role for family and friends in the future so the mother and birthing partner can continue to have and provide support before, during, and after the pregnancy.

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A Millennial tries 5 Gen-Z Fads to figure out what it’s like to be a kid today

Lea Lomas

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Each generation of kids has its characteristics. There are some similarities but there are also some differences. For example, the last few generations of kids have been fans of video games, but the platform and type of video games might have changed. The millennial generation is people born between 1981 and 1996. The latest generation were the kids that came after that. It is called Gen-Z and it includes people born between 1997 and the current year.

The millennial generations were heavily influenced by television. Not only they did watch movies and cartoons on television but the video games of those times were also played on television. Even though television was important to the millennial kids, it did not seem as new technology seems to be for Gen-Z kids. To understand the psyche of what Gen-Z, a 28-year-old millennial tried 5 Fads of the current generation to see what it is like to be a kid in today’s world and see if there were any equivalent of these fads for millennial kids.

Minecraft

The Minecraft game has been a revolution in recent years. The game feels dizzy to play with all the moving camera angles. The game seemed to more complex than expected. There was also a lot of roaming around for no purpose at all. Millennial kids were used to games with a bit more purpose behind them. After one gets used to the game, there are some similarities in gameplay to The Sims. It is an open-ended world, where anything can happen. However, the camera angles were too much handle and the game had to be quit.

Unboxing Videos

There has been a growing trend of Gen-Z wanting to see videos of new toys being opened. For Millennial kids, there wasn’t any equivalent to anything for this. It was very disturbing to see others open their gifts that you didn’t have. The closest equivalent to this was Nickelodeon’s Toy Run, a show that had kids run and grab as many toys in a toy store they can before time ran out. Ryan’s world is a YouTube channel that has made millions of dollars in unboxing and toy review videos. Surely, with that sort of money, there is something in this fad that appeals to Gen-Z.

Fortnite

Another gaming sensation is Fortnite. It is essentially a survival game with a race. Sounded interesting, but it just didn’t appeal to the 28-year-old millennial as it has for millions of kids in today’s world. The game was just too boring. There just isn’t enough fun or adventure to keep playing this for hours. It is hard to see how this got to be one of the most played games of this generation.

VSCO

VSCO is a phone editing software. It was an early Instagram filter app so millennials should be more comfortable with this fad. Millennials are reasonably comfortable with technology, however, Gen-Z has skills of their own. For example, how the perfect selfie is a skill that has been mastered by Gen-Z. In any case, this trend is understandable for a millennial.

TikTok

TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing app has been a very popular social media platform. There was a similar application called Vine. Tiktok has been called as Vine 2.0. So a millennial can understand why TikTok has got so popular. Overall, TikTok was fun to use but there might some issues related to privacy that might be difficult to digest.

Going through these 5 fads have shown that each generation is going to have their own choice of fun activities. One generation cannot judge another generation on stuff they like or don’t like. That is why is it called a generation gap.

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