Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Notable passings

I just happened to glance at the TDOY blogroll and notice that Mercurie at A Shroud of Thoughts has put together an obituary for actor-director Corey Allen, who passed away Sunday—just two days shy of his 76th birthday, which was yesterday. Listing him among the birthday honorees, I noted that Allen was “best known for being a punk to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause” (as a matter of fact, it’s a bit eerie seeing that his fellow goon, Dennis Hopper, shuffled off this mortal coil the month before).

I feel kind of bad about giving Allen’s career short-shrift like that, even though the Los Angeles Times is using the same information in the headline announcing Allen’s obit. But Allen had a pretty rich acting resume in films and television—among his silver screen pursuits were roles in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Darby’s Rangers (1958), Party Girl (1958) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). He made frequent guest appearances on TV shows the likes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel, Rawhide, Perry Mason and many others.

But by 1969, Allen began to flex his creative muscles behind the TV cameras, having made inroads as a director in live theater ten years earlier. He helmed episodes of The High Chapparal, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, The Streets of San Francisco and The Rockford Files, to name a few of the many. His biggest triumph was copping an Emmy win in 1984 for directing “Goodbye, Mr. Scripps”—an episode of the critically-acclaimed Hill Street Blues. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Allen’s name frequently cropped up in the credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Corey Allen isn’t the only remarkable show business talent we’ve bid farewell to in the two weeks. Emmy-winning composer Allyn Ferguson passed away June 23rd at the age of 85…but his television legacy lives on in the memorably iconic themes to Barney Miller and Charlie’s Angels. And Ursula Thiess, the actress who appeared in The Americano (1955) and Bandido (1956) but who abandoned her career to become Mrs. Robert Taylor has also left us at the age of 86, expiring on June 19th.

R.I.P, Messrs. Allen and Ferguson and Ms. Thiess…you will be sorely missed.

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No…this was not on the menu when we dined in Elkins…

Bill Crider gets a doff of the TDOY chapeau for pointing me towards this article and the pictures that accompany it—a list of “The 50 Fattiest Foods in the States.” That photo to your left is a ten-pound burger courtesy of Hillbilly Hotdogs, an eatery located in my former college stomping grounds of Huntington, WV. Huntington and Hillbilly were both selected by Jamie Oliver to be featured on his tiresome ABC-TV series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution ostensibly because the Mountain State ranks #3 on a list of the fattest states in the good ol' U.S. of A. (In other late-breaking news…water is wet.)

Now, those individuals who read this blog on a fairly regular basis know that I am certainly not the poster child for good eating habits (as my online physician, the eminent and highly-respected Dr. Flickhead, never misses the opportunity to remind me)…but I can safely say that the Ten Pound Artery Clogger (which contains 10 pounds of beef, bread, two heads of lettuce, two pounds of pickles, three tomatoes, three onions and 25 slices of cheese) would not be a menu item I’d be ordering up anytime soon. (And even if I did, I’d leave off the tomatoes and pickles. Kidding…I’m only kidding.) According to the article, this Burger of the Red Death clocks in “at around 800 grams of fat. That’s an entire day’s worth of fat for more than 12 women, without even counting the cheese.” Honest to my grandma—there’s a world of difference between a satisfyingly tasty burger…and a testament to wretched excess.

Here in the Peach State, where I now reside, the “Luther Burger” is for those individuals who just aren’t up to taking in the fat content for a dozen females—but that still doesn’t mean this bad boy won’t jeopardize your physical well-being:

The story behind the Luther Burger is murky. But the general consensus is that this monstrosity was invented at a suburban bar in Decatur, Ga., and named after R&B legend (and diabetic) Luther Vandross. In 2008 Paula Deen of the Food Network took it one step further by topping it off with a fried egg.

Ingredients: Ground-beef patty, topped with cheese and bacon between two donuts instead of a bun

Fat content: The two Krispy Kreme glazed donuts are worth 24 grams of fat and the patty is another 16.

So compared to the Hillbilly sandwich, it’s almost like a diet burger. Again, though there was a time when Krispy Kreme’s product and I were carrying on a torrid love affair (we broke up just about the time they wheeled me into the hospital) I would never entertain thoughts about using sinkers in lieu of hamburger buns. That’s just crazy talk.

(By the way, none of the menu items at the aforementioned Hillbilly Hotdogs made this list at Yahoo! Travel—something to which I can only attribute is rank prejudice against my home state. A pox on all your houses, and may the combined weight of chili, onions and cole slaw wreak havoc on your hot dog bun of choice. Seriously...when Atlanta/Athens' Varsity doesn't even make this list you know something's not quite kosher.)

But while I’m in the confessional booth, I need to point out that it was not all trail mix and bottled water for your humble narrator during the trek the ‘rents and I made to WV for our family reunion this past weekend. Arriving in Elkins Thursday night, Mom, Dad and I went to a Mexican food jernt called Humberto’s and the food there was delicious. We actually went twice; we returned the next night with my Dad’s sister (my aunt) and her husband in tow. I had chicken chimichangas the first time around, and then the following evening devoured a Mexican dish that consisted of a grilled chicken breast (and this breast was gi-normous) covered in cheese and topped with chorizo. Humberto’s serves up a 24oz. mug of draft beer (and they had, much to our delight, Yuengling on tap) for $2.50 a pop and after partaking of that chorizo I pretty much had the entire mug drained and was ready for seconds. It’s located on “the Beverly Pike,” so if you’re ever up that way you should stop in for a nosh.

We also got our Long John Silver’s fix while we were up there—and I know this probably won’t mean much, but because we live in a town where it’s “Captain D’s and that’s all, brother” it’s a pretty big deal for us…though my father the comedian muttered that “driving 600 miles to eat at Long John Silver’s is a hell of a thing.” We had also planned to stop at one on our return home—there used to be one in Gaffney, SC that had an A&W Root Beer stand attached. I emphasize “used to” because we pull into the exit, tool down the road…and find the place completely uncontaminated with customers, because there’s a nice fat “For Sale” sign out front. I remarked to my South Carolina chum Frontal Lobe (at Frontal Lobe Jello) that had I seen his post on the relocation of the Carolina Café (it has moved to Gaffney) before we left on our return journey I would have suggested we eat there—but instead we capitulated to my father’s wishes and lunched at a nearby Cracker Barrel. (Not one of my favorite restaurants, the Barrel—the only decent thing on the menu is breakfast, and I had that earlier when we made our yearly pilgrimage to the Tudor’s Biscuit World in Fayetteville, WV. Tudor’s, for the uninformed, is a Nitro, WV-based restaurant chain that also has outlets in southeastern Ohio and eastern Kentucky.)

Other than the repast of hot dogs and hamburgers at the reunion, the only other place of note in which Mom, Dad and I broke bread together was a restaurant called The Kangaroo Café, located in the Days Inn and Suites where we were holed up for the three nights of our trip. The Kangaroo has a top-notch breakfast—better than Tudor’s, to be honest—and I highly recommend the French toast, which came with some first-rate home fries (and I ordered a side of fried apples a la carte—which is French for “the cart”). (They also had fresh-made donuts—a siren song hard to resist…but I remained firm in my resolve. Though my mother hissed at a little boy who gazed at the displayed crullers: “Get away from our donuts!”) Saturday evening, the ‘rents and I went our separate ways—they ordered in some room service from the other restaurant on the Days Inn’s premises (a little jernt called Duke’s Steakhouse) and I joined my best bud The Duchess and her better half for a night of “wanton marauding” (her words, not mine) at a place I mentioned previously on the blog, C.J. Maggie’s. Her Highness and I had the French onion soup, which was good (but not quite as good as the stuff Steak and Ale dishes up) and her husband and I split some BBQ wings—then he and I ordered jambalaya (so good I couldn’t finish it all and I told him to take it with him because I wasn’t going to have room, what with the Mister Bees and pepperoni rolls I was lugging back) and she had some chicken-and-pasta entrée. Maggie’s has a 22 oz. beer (and they also have Yuengling)…and one of their mugs just happened to find its way in my suitcase for the return trip home. (While I will cop to receiving stolen goods, I did not personally rook this mug.)

I had a positively swell time at ShreveFest 2010—particularly since I missed last year’s reunion—and got reacquainted with two of my cousins, Kathy and Betty (though Kathy and I have been meeting and greeting via Facebook for some time now). I guesstimated that it had been nearly thirty years since I’d seen Kathy (at my grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary party) and as for Betty…well, I can’t remember that far back. Their father—my Dad’s older brother Don—was also in attendance, and looked positively tanned, rested and ready (he had an unfortunate stint in the hospital last year and my folks hadn’t seen him since early January). However, one of my cousins—my Uncle Marvin’s oldest, Steve*—opted out of the reunion to compete in an Iron Man event in Kenosha, WI that same weekend…and his mom, my Aunt Jane, asked me to do whatever I could to properly shame him. “Shame my boy,” she pleaded…and I replied, “It shall be done.” Shame on you, Steve. Shaaaaaame on you!

*I’m four days older than Steve, and I never let him forget this. At the time of our births, the first male grandchild had yet to be born in my father’s family and so my sainted grandmother told my mother and Aunt Jane that the first male baby would receive a quilt she was working on at the time. Well, it’s been through the wringer all these years but I still have it—in fact, it’s draped across my bed right now as of this post. Anyway, I only shamed him on the blog because he was the one who originally circulated a message via Facebook asking who was going to the reunion and who wasn’t…and then he ends up weaseling out at the last minute.

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Happy birthday today to…

George Chandler (1898, consummate character actor in films [The Fatal Glass of Beer, Me and My Gal, Fury] and television [Lassie, Ichabod and Me])

Santos Ortega (1899, consummate radio actor [Gangbusters, The Shadow])

Madge Bellamy (1899, silent and sound film actress [The Iron Horse, White Zombie, Charlie Chan in London])

Frank Gallop (1900, announcer for Milton Berle [on radio] and Perry Como [on television] and balladeer [The Ballad of Irving])

Glenda Farrell (1904, beloved wisecracking movie dame [Little Caesar, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Lady For a Day] and moviedom’s Torchy Blane)

Nestor Paiva (1905, venerable character actor remembered for roles in 1950s Universal sci-fi films like Creature From the Black Lagoon and Tarantula)

Anthony Mann (1906, TDOY god and director of both fine film noirs [T-Men, Border Incident] and westerns [Winchester ’73, Devil’s Doorway])

Lena Horne (1917, incomparable singer-actress [Cabin in the Sky, Stormy Weather] who is now entertaining the multitudes in the Great Beyond)

Susan Hayward (1917, pictured, TDOY actress goddess who won a Best Actress Oscar in 1958 for I Want to Live!)

Pat McCormick (1927, gargantuan comedy writer-actor who’s best remembered as “Big Enos” in 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit)

Ted Ross (1934, character actor in films [The Wiz, Arthur] and television [Sirota’s Court, A Different World])

Tony Musante (1936, 74, film/television character actor [The Incident, The Grissom Gang, Oz] and TV’s Toma)

Nancy Dussault (1936, 74, television icon [The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Too Close For Comfort])

Doyle Holly (1936, country music singer-songwriter [Lila, Queen of the Silver Dollar] and Buckaroo)

Noel Black (1937, 73, film-television director who helmed the cult classic Pretty Poison)

Florence Ballard (1943, Supreme)

David Garrison (1952, 58, television icon [It’s Your Move, Married with Children])

Vincent D’Onofrio (1959, 51, talented character actor best-known for his role as “Private Pyle” in Full Metal Jacket and as Detective Robert “Twitchy” Goren on TV’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent)

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy birthday today to…

Harry Lachman (1886, journeyman director who helmed such Charlie Chan vehicles as Charlie Chan at the Circus and Castle in the Desert)

Freida Inescort (1901, Scottish character actress who appeared in films like Tarzan Finds a Son!, The Letter and A Place in the Sun)

Ed Gardner (1901, radio comedian/producer who starred as “Archie the Manager” on the immortal Duffy’s Tavern)

Nelson Eddy (1901, actor-baritone who co-starred alongside Jeanette MacDonald in several silver screen musicals in the 1930s and 1940s [Rose Marie, I Married an Angel])

Paul Newlan (1903, character actor best-known as Lee Marvin’s boss on the TV series M Squad)

John Gibson (1905, radio/television character actor best remembered as bartender Ethelbert on Casey, Crime Photographer)

Joan Davis (1907, pictured, comedienne popular on radio [Sealtest Village Store, Joanie’s Tea Room], movies [Hold That Ghost, She Gets Her Man] and television [I Married Joan])

Leroy Anderson (1908, songwriter-composer whose The Syncopated Clock was often used as a theme for late-night movie programming)

Frank Loesser (1910, Oscar-winning songwriter-composer [Baby, It’s Cold Outside])

Milt Josefsberg (1911, radio scriptwriter for Bob Hope and Jack Benny who later wrote and produced television sitcoms like The Joey Bishop Show, Here’s Lucy and All in the Family)

Bernard Herrmann (1911, Oscar-winning composer [The Devil and Daniel Webster] associated with scores to films directed by Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock)

Katherine DeMille (1911, actress in films like Belle of the Nineties, The Black Room and Charlie Chan at the Olympics; one-time Mrs. Anthony Quinn and adopted daughter of director Cecil)

Hilliard Marks (1913, longtime Jack Benny Program producer and brother of Mrs. Jack Benny [which explains how he got the job])

Ruth Warrick (1915, film [Citizen Kane, Journey Into Fear] and television actress [Peyton Place, All My Children])

Dorothy Short (1916, B-movie character actress [Reefer Madness, Captain Midnight] once married to B-western/Pete Smith Specialty star Dave O’Brien)

Mary Jane Higby (1915, OTR soap opera actress extraordinaire [When a Girl Marries])

Slim Pickens (1919, venerable cowboy character actor best remembered for roles in Dr. Strangelove, The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Blazing Saddles)

Ray Harryhausen (1920, 90, TDOY idol and motion picture special effects wizard [The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts])

Cara Williams (1925, 85, character actress [Boomerang!, The Defiant Ones] and “Gladys” to Harry Morgan’s “Pete”)

Robert Sorrells (1930, 80, television character actor [Ensign O’Toole])

Robert Evans (1930, 80, legendary tanned film producer [Chinatown, Urban Cowboy] and kid staying in the picture)

Corey Allen (1934, actor and later television director best-known for being a punk to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause)

Leonard Lee (1936, duet partner of Shirley Goodman [Let the Good Times Roll])

Gary Busey (1944, 66, seriously crazed actor and cult icon [Straight Time, The Buddy Holly Story, Lethal Weapon])

Little Eva [Boyd] (1945, female rock ‘n’ roll singer [The Locomotion])

Richard Lewis (1947, 63, neurotic stand-up comedian and male star of sitcom Anything But Love)

Fred Grandy (1948, 62, former Iowa congressman and television Gopher)

Maria Conchita Alonso (1957, 53, smokin’ hot actress [Moscow on the Hudson, Caught])

Sharon Lawrence (1961, 49, TDOY actress fave [NYPD Blue, Fired Up])

Amanda Donohoe (1962, 48, smokin’ hot actress [Paper Mask, L.A. Law, Emmerdale Farm])

Melora Hardin (1967, 43, TDOY actress fave [The Office, Monk])

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #7: “Youth Takes Over” (11/11/68, prod. no. 0115)

I know what you’re thinking. I know because I thought the same thing when I saw the title of this episode pop up on the menu of the disc of the “rootpeg” Mayberry R.F.D. collection I bought a good while back. This episode is going to kick much butt! A title like this hints at rebellion; it suggests that the bored youth element in that sleepy little North Carolina hamlet has had enough, and they’re going on a rampage to end all rampages. Why, the very title is similar to Youth Runs Wild, the 1944 j.d. drama produced by Val Lewton and directed by Mark Robson. I was picturing an episode where village-idiot-in-training Mike Jones (Buddy Foster) had acquired a “sickle” and was spending his after-school hours riding up and down Mayberry’s tiny streets, terrorizing the populace. Next thing he’d be telling R.F.D. writer-producer Bob Ross: “I’ll grow my !@#$ing hair any !@#$ing length I !@#$ing well please!”

Why else would we see this in the opening credits?

It’s a sign—Mayberry’s going to become “the town too tough to tame,” and Sheriff Andy is going to have to ride herd. “What are you rebelling against, son?” he’d ask Mike. “Whaddya got…sir?” would be the kid’s smart-assed reply.

Well, “Youth Takes Over” doesn’t swing that way. I know that it’s a wee bit early in this stage of the Mayberry Mondays feature (less than two months in) but this segment is a prime candidate for a Top Ten list of "Most Boring Mayberry R.F.D. Episodes." Honest to my grandma.

Oh, well…might as well get started. As our stirring saga unfolds, a Mayberry city council meeting comes to a standstill because the assembled members—including head councilman Sam Jones (Ken Berry), Sheriff Andy “Only two more guest shots and I am so out of here” Taylor (Andy Griffith), Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) and Cyrus Tankersley (George Cisar)—are waiting for Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) to arrive. Yes, you read that correctly…apparently Goober is a member of the council. (God help us all.) But fear not…Goober makes his entrance, ice cream cone in hand:

GOOBER: I’m sorry I’m late, but there was a long line at the ice cream store…
SAM: That’s okay, Goob…sit down and we’ll get started…now…
GOOBER (as he sits): I wanted chocolate but they was out of it, so I had to take strawberry
SAM: As I was saying…Andy and I have been giving some thought to the youth program…
GOOBER (interrupting): They had pistachio but that makes my mouth turn wrong side out…
ANDY: Goob…
GOOBER: You reckon that’s because “pistachio” sounds a lot like “persimmon”?
ANDY: Goob…we’re trying to get on with the meeting…
GOOBER: Well, yeah—let’s go…

Never a taser when you need one. Sam forges on by explaining the concept behind “Youth Day,” a high-minded civic scheme he and Andy have hatched that will allow “three or four” elementary school kids “to take over the operation of Mayberry city government.” One kid will assume Sam’s responsibilities (which means he’ll spend a lot of time hanging out at Emmett’s), another will take on Andy’s job (he’ll disappear and never be heard from again) and still another will tackle the overwhelming responsibilities involved in being a city clerk (that job will go to the most boring kid in class).

Howard thinks it’s a wonderful idea, and Cyrus—being the toadying lickspittle we’ve come to know and ridicule—signs on to the plan, too. “Hey—you gonna have a boy to take over the job of Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy?” asks Goober eagerly.

ANDY: Well, we hadn’t planned to, Goob…
GOOBER: Well, I’ll teach him everything I know…

No…I won’t do it…it’s too easy…

GOOBER (to Andy): I was Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy when you went on your honeymoon, remember?
ANDY: Yeah…
HOWARD: Goober, we just can’t have a boy taking over every little unimportant job in town…
GOOBER: Unimportant? Why, I was responsible for the safety of this town for one whole week…
CYRUS: Goober…your ice cream cone is dripping

“Well, that’s none of your business,” Goober retorts snippily. (Ooooh, snap!!!) Fortunately, Sam has again taken control before this turns into a real slap fest, and with the consent of all assembled he agrees to contact the principal to explain how the deal will go down…there is then a dissolve, and we find schoolteacher Miss Evans (Julie McCarthy) addressing the three boys (notice there were no girls chosen…a bit sexist, don’t you think?): “You three were selected because of the high grades you’ve gotten in civics…which is, after all, the study of government,” she informs the all-male choir. (Girls don’t like civics…they’re just too dumb…and they’re icky and have cooties.)

Hang on just a minute…did I just…no, it couldn’t be…could it? A black kid in Mayberry?

Using public domain footage from 1962 and 1963 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, filmmaker David Bright created Why Come They’re Ain’t No Black People in Mayberry (2008), a Twilight Zone-ish parody that examines what would result if an African-American paid America’s favorite small town a visit. Now, technically the title of this short is a misnomer; black actor Rockne Tarkington has a prominent role as football coach Flip Conroy in The Andy Griffith Show episode “Opie’s Piano Lesson” (03/13/67), which aired in the program’s seventh season. But at the risk of firing up a controversy about the social and political climate of the South in the 1960s, I have to admit that the presence of a “student of color” is a bit off-putting, considering the region’s lily-white sensibilities at the time (after all, it wasn’t Greensboro, New Jersey that turned away black people from lunch counters in Woolworth’s stores). Mayberry’s more progressive than I gave it credit for…

Anyway, Mike asks his teacher if he’s going to be taking his father’s place on the city council—and Miss Lewis informs him instead that he’ll be appointed acting sheriff. Mike’s classmate Arnold Bailey (Sheldon Collins) will be stepping into Sam’s shoes…which leaves Martin Barton (Calvin Peeler)—Martin Barton? Didn’t somebody test-drive that moniker to see how it would sound?—with the county clerk position.

His enthusiasm is a bit…shall we say…dampened. “What does a county clerk do?” he asks Evans.

“Oh…all sorts of things,” she replies—or in other words, “I haven’t the slightest idea.” (Let me fill you in, Martin—you basically tell boring, pointless anecdotes and use a lot of big words until your friends literally bolt at the sight of you strolling down one of Mayberry’s sidewalks.) “That’s why we’re going to be having this class for the next two weeks,” she alibis. When asked what they’ll be expected to do as honorary city officials, Evans can shed no further light on this, either—“I imagine our city officers will have that all planned.” (Yeah, over a pinochle game in the back of Emmett’s…)

We then dissolve to several of Mayberry’s leading lights putting up banners and setting up tables in preparation of the upcoming Youth Day festivities—Martin’s father, Ralph, enters the scene…thereby upping the town’s black population by one. (Well, it stands to reason that there's an African-American dad involved—after all, this is Mayberry R.F.D. we’re talking about…not Diff’rent Strokes. As to where Mrs. Barton is…well, we’re not privy to that information.) Ralph (who’ll become a semi-regular on the show) is played by the great character actor Charles Lampkin, who is revered at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for his portrayal of bartender Tiger Shepin on the late, lamented Frank’s Place.

HOWARD: Hey, Ralph—I’ll bet Martin’s all excited about taking over the county clerk’s job tomorrow, huh?
RALPH: Oh, yes, Howard…I’m sure he is…yeah…
HOWARD: What did he say?
RALPH (after a nine-month pregnant pause): Uh…well…uh…of course, you know he holds things in pretty good, you know…
HOWARD (a little disappointed): Oh…yeah…well, I guess that’s the way most kids are…they’re always kind of reluctant to reveal their true feelings…
RALPH: Oh, that’s what it is, all right…yeah…yeah…

Goober—still obsessed with this Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy crapola—then approaches Ralph and informs that he’d only be too happy to teach Martin the ropes if the kid’s interested. Insisting that it’s probably the most important function in Mayberry government, Goob editorializes that “County clerk can’t save you from no robbers.”

Arnold’s father, Frank Bailey (Stuart Nisbet), soon joins the group as Sam outlines the program for tomorrow—emphasizing that the boys participating need to be gussied up because they’ll be taking pictures (Ralph remarks that the attire will be “a blue suit and a sincere tie”). This meeting doesn’t last too long before Bailey announces that he has to mosey—which is kind of curious in light of the fact that his son Arnold appears to be…well, here’s the deal. Arnold was Opie’s sidekick on the old Andy Griffith Show, appearing in (again, using the IMDb) nine episodes from 1966-68. Now, in the eighth season TAGS episode, “Opie and Mike” (03/18/68), it’s established that Mike is younger than the sheriff’s son—and since there’s very little evidence to support that Mike is some sort of whiz kid prodigy it’s safe to assume that he’s a school grade or two in back of Opie. So why is Arnold in the same class as Mike? Well, it’s obvious—Arnold is Goober-like slow, and has been held back in school as a result. So you’d think his old man would be a bit more concerned about Arnold’s scholastic progress…but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Ralph exits along with Frank, leaving Sam, Andy, Howard and Goober to continue discussing tomorrow’s festivities—with Sam and Andy placing emphasis on the fact that they don’t want things to be too regimented…otherwise the kids will think it too much like schoolwork. “It may be interesting to see how they react, you know,” Howard starts in, and you can see the eyes of the rest of the people in attendance start to close. “Might make a deep impression on them—who knows, by tomorrow morning Martin might comes up to me and say, ‘Mr. Sprague…when I grow up I want to be the county clerk.’ Now that oughta make the day worthwhile, huh?” (I get the impression that shortly after making this pronouncement, Martin would throw himself under the first Greyhound that pulled up at the Mayberry bus stop.)

Back in the classroom, Mike is reciting by rote the duties involved in the sheriff’s office. He gets an “attaboy” from Miss Evans, who tells Mike, Arnold and Martin: “Well, boys—I certainly want to compliment you on the way you’ve learned the functions of these offices. I think the two weeks we’ve spent on this have been very worthwhile…I think tomorrow can be a very meaningful day for all three of you.” (Hey, they get out of going through the usual classroom grind—that’s meaningful enough for anybody.)

The big day has arrived! Goober is explaining to Cyrus (who’s in charge of setting out the banquet place cards) that as “Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy” he should sit next to Andy. (Ferchrissake, Goober…let. It. Go.) As the “program” gets underway, you can see in the picture below that there is another black man standing next to Sam...and that sound in the background is the shrieking of Mayberry’s resident bluenose Clara Edwards (Hope Summers) upon discovering that property values in that town are beginning to plummet.

Mike, Arnold and Martin are discussing how nervous they are about assuming their duties—and Martin relates to his chums how Howard remarked that this might be the turning point of young Martin’s life. (Hoo boy.) Since Goober has nothing to do, he volunteers to instruct the youngsters on the finer points of…yes, you’ve guessed it—being a "Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy." The three kids humor Goober because they’ve been instructed not to make any sudden moves around him…until Sam calls them up to announce that they need to get with their adult chaperones and commence with the officiating. They’ll meet back at the banquet room at noon for lunch and “we’ll be anxious to hear what you’ve learned,” Sam remarks.

This is the best screen grab I could get of this encounter—but that little tow-headed moppet (the one being pestered by Goober as to whether she’s familiar with the concept of "Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy") is addressed as “Jodie,” marking one of the first television appearances of the woman who would go on to win Best Actress Oscars for The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It’s not Alicia C. Foster’s first television gig—she was appearing in Coppertone ads at the age of three—but it may very well be one of the first (if not the first) showcases on an actual TV series (she’s not credited in the closing credits, however). (The IMDb reports that next week’s Mayberry Mondays episode, “The Church Play,” is her first "official" television credit.) Since show business is a breeding ground for rampant nepotism, it can be assumed that Ms. Foster got the work because Buddy Foster is her brudder—and in 1998, commented on the Budster’s unauthorized “biography” of her (Foster Child) by noting: “A cheap cry for attention and money filled with hazy recollections, fantasies and borrowed press releases. Buddy has done nothing but break our mother's heart his whole life.” (I’ll bet Thanksgiving dinners were a real prize in that household.)

Exiting the building, Howard takes a few moments to reflect on the momentous nature of this grand experiment in the teaching of civics to Mayberry’s future leaders:

Oh, wait…just…just a minute…I…I…before the boys actually assume office, I…I’d like them to take just a moment now to look up and down this street…this is your town…one of these days you’ll be picking up the torch and carrying it forward… (Pause) That’s all, boys…

Okay…so he’s not exactly General George S. Patton…but let’s go to the videotape to get reactions from those in attendance:

All righty then. At this point, nothing really happens that's worth mentioning in rigorous detail; Mike, Arnold and Martin essentially make their adult handlers (Andy, Sam and Howard) look even more idiotic with their knowledge of the duties required for each office holder. (Martin, in particular, pretends to humor Howard when the county clerk bloviates about the obvious bureaucratic uselessness of his position—I just wish the child actor playing this part were…well, a better actor—according to the IMDb, this was Peeler’s only acting gig...and it shows.) Mike lectures Andy on the inappropriateness of suggesting they take some humorous pictures of the youngster locking up the sheriff in his own jail (where was this kid when Barney did this all the time…and got big laughs in the process?) and Arnold reminds Sam that Mayberry’s zoning map needs to be updated every year (the last time this was done was in 1964).

So we now arrive at the most important part of the day: the eats. Cyrus glances over at the three would-be city government drones and remarks: “Looks like our junior city officials are ready to make their speeches.” The boys, on the other hand, think otherwise:

MIKE: They’re almost finished eating…
MARTIN: What are we going to say?
ARNOLD: They’re going to want to know what we learned…
MIKE: We can’t lie…
MARTIN: I don’t think I learned anything
MIKE: Me either…
ARNOLD: We’re going to have to say something when they ask us to speak…
MIKE: Yeah, but what?

Well, they could take a tip from Cyrus “Shecky” Tankersley, who addresses the crowd as “fellow residents of Mayberry…and when I say ‘fellow residents’ I mean the ladies, too.” Over the ensuing laughter, Goober nudges Andy and comments that Cyrus is “sharp.” (Yeah…as a marble.) Tankersley introduces the boys to the crowd, beginning with Martin—who remarks that spending three long, excruciatingly boring hours with Howard was “the turning point of my life.” (He then sits down.)

“Well…there’s a boy who doesn’t waste any words…comes right to the point,” Cyrus observes with a chuckle. He then brings on Mike, who sums up his experience as acting sheriff with “It was nice.” Mike starts to sit back down but then remembers his P’s and Q’s: “Oh…thank you.” “We could all learn from these youngsters…how to make a short speech,” Cyrus responds—and I’m almost positive he wasn’t looking at Howard when he prefaced this remark. Arnold is the last to speak, and he can’t really add anything to what Martin and Mike have already observed—that civil service is a pointless, soul-sucking existence 95% of the time. So it’s up to good ol’ Sam—or Andy Taylor-lite, as I’ve come to refer to him—to sum up this noble experiment in government:

I think I know why the boys are having a little trouble expressing themselves…it’s because they didn’t learn too much this morning…but that’s not their fault—it’s ours…I think we underestimated the young boys we have here in Mayberry…you see, we all just assumed that this morning was going to be kind of a lark for them, that…that we’d all just go through the motions and that’d be it…but what Andy and Howard and I soon found out was that…these boys were generally and sincerely interested in how our Mayberry government works…I…I congratulate them for that interest…and I promise them that next year when we have Youth Day we’ll all be a lot better prepared to give them a…a true understanding of the workings of our government.

Sam sits down to a rousing bit of Mayberry applause…and then Andy rises to say a few words—which, in light of Sam’s speech is woefully anti-climactic…and serves as an apt metaphor for the fact that he’s no longer relevant in that town having in essence turned the reins over to “Bland Sam.” In the episode’s coda, Sam is hanging up the new zoning map that Arnold was being such a pain in the ass about while Andy is continuing his struggle to remain relevant and faithful, loyal Goober licks an ice cream cone.

Andy and Sam discuss how things will be different come Youth Day 1969—but Goober warns them not to go overboard because, after all, they’re just kids. “We as adults gotta remember that they ain’t as intelligent as we are.”

“What’re you talking about?” asks Andy, though it’s obvious he doesn’t give a flying frog’s butt.

“Well, for instance, all them three boys…whenever I loan ‘em my comic books they don’t take care of ‘em like an adult would,” Goober points out helpfully. “They come by the gas station for a bottle of pop…get pop all over the books, dog-ear the pages, mark ‘em up…they still ain’t learned no respect for private property. They’re still just kids—we adults gotta remember that.”

Andy and Sam exchange knowing glances as if to say: “I know we’ve discussed this in the past…but it’s time to face facts. Goober must be put to sleep.”

Once again, “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Francis Bavier) sits this one out, so Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-Meter™ remains clocked at four episodes. The real surprise in “Youth Takes Over,” however, is that it’s credited to “Jim Brooks”…aka James L. Brooks—better known in the show bidness world as the Oscar-winning director of Terms of Endearment (1983) and the creator of such television landmarks as Room 222, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Lou Grant and Taxi. So how is it that the individual who was also present at the birth of The Simpsons managed to churn out such a boring episode (it plays, oddly enough, like a discarded 222 script)? It has been observed by many media historians that writers often need an outlet to hone their craft and separate the wheat from the chaff—and Brooks did just that by penning episodes of sitcoms like My Mother the Car, Accidental Family (where he served as story editor), That Girl, My Three Sons and The Doris Day Show in his early years. “Youth” would be Brooks’ only contribution to R.F.D., despite having previously donated two scripts to The Andy Griffith Show: “Emmett’s Brother-in-Law” (01/08/68) and one of my particular eighth season favorites, “The Mayberry Chef” (01/01/68).

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West Virginia is in mourning…and I don’t feel too well myself…

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia dead at 92

WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, a fiery orator and hard-charging power broker who steered billions of federal dollars to his beloved West Virginia, died Monday. He was 92.

A spokesman for the family, Jesse Jacobs, said that Byrd died peacefully at about 3 a.m. at Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Va. He had been in the hospital since late last week.

At first Byrd was believed to be suffering from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration, but other medical conditions developed. He had been in frail health for several years.

A man of humble, Depression-era upbringing, Byrd held his seat for over 50 years, working tirelessly all that time to make sure his state never missed out on its share — or even more, in some cases — of the federal largesse. He was the Senate's majority leader for six of those years and was third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Flags at the Capitol and the White House flew at half-staff Monday as Washington mourned Byrd's passing. Byrd's desk in Senate chamber was draped in black.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a fellow West Virginian in the Senate, said it was his "greatest privilege" to serve with Byrd.

"I looked up to him, I fought next to him, and I am deeply saddened that he is gone," Rockefeller said.

He was a man who could inspire me to stand up and cheer one minute…and infuriate the hell out of me the next. R.I.P, Bobby…you’ll never know how much you’ll be missed.

There are a great number of tributes out there to the late Senator—but this one at Brilliant at Breakfast is the one I wish I’d written.

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Happy birthday today to…

Polly Moran (1883, comedienne/actress partnered with Marie Dressler in films like Reducing, Politics and Prosperity)

Richard Rogers (1902, Oscar-winning songwriter/composer [It Might As Well Be Spring] and partner to Oscar Hammerstein II)

Alan Bunce (1902, character actor and “Albert” to Peg Lynch’s “Ethel” on radio and television)

Eric Ambler (1909, suspense thriller author whose works were adapted into films like Journey Into Fear and The Mask of Dimitrios; creator of TV’s Checkmate)

Maxine Stuart (1918, 92, accomplished television character actress [Norby, Room for One More] who’s best-known here at TDOY as the bandaged patient in the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder”)

Mel Brooks (1926, 84, pictured, comedy actor-writer-director [Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein] who co-created one of TDOY’s favorite sitcoms of all time, Get Smart)

Don Dubbins (1928, character actor in films [Tribute to a Bad Man, The D.I., From the Earth to the Moon] and television [Perry Mason, Dragnet, Peyton Place])

Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (1932, character actor in films [The Karate Kid, Honeymoon in Vegas] and television [Happy Days, Ohara, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo])

John Inman (1935, comic actor and Britcom icon [Are You Being Served?, Take a Letter, Mr. Jones, Grace and Favour])

Jerry Juhl (1938, Muppet master)

John Byner (1938, 72, comedian/impressionist seen on television’s Soap and Bizarre; voice of the Ant and the Aardvark)

Donald Spoto (1941, 69, film/movie star biographer whose book The Art of Alfred Hitchcock was a major TDOY influence (I even got to meet him and have him autograph this book in 1983)

Gilda Radner (1946, consummate comedic actress [Gilda Live, The Woman in Red] and Not Ready For Prime Time player])

Bruce Davison (1946, 64, film [Willard, Short Eyes, X-Men] and television actor [Harry and the Hendersons, Kingdom Hospital, Close to Home])

Kathy Bates (1948, 62, accomplished character actress [Dolores Claiborne, Primary Colors] who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Misery}

Alice Krige (1954, 56, film actress [Chariots of Fire, Ghost Story] and Borg Queen)

Ava Barber (1954, 56, country music vocalist [Bucket to the South])

Jessica Hecht (1965, 45, television sitcom actress [Friends, The Single Guy])

Mary Stuart Masterson (1966, 44, TDOY actress fave [Some Kind of Wonderful, Fried Green Tomatoes, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit], daughter of actors Peter Masterson and Carlin Glynn)

John Cusack (1966, 44, film actor [Better Off Dead…, Eight Men Out, The Grifters])

Danielle Brisebois (1969, 41, former moppet actress famous for Broadway’s Annie and TV’s Archie Bunker’s Place)

Tichina Arnold (1969, 41, television sitcom actress [Martin, Everybody Hates Chris])

Kellie Pickler (1986, 24, American Idol contender and country music vocalist [Red High Heels, Best Days of Your Life])

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