Jim Nabors, who made cheery Gomer Pyle a TV icon, dies at 87 by Frazier Moore, The Associated Press Posted Nov 30, 2017 10:02 am PDT Last Updated Dec 1, 2017 at 6:00 am PDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email FILE – In this Nov. 14, 1967 file photo, singer and actor Jim Nabors, best known for his role as Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” reads a book at his California home. Nabors died peacefully at his home in Honolulu on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, with his husband Stan Cadwallader at his side. He was 87. (AP Photo/File) NEW YORK, N.Y. – Jim Nabors made good on his last name when he brought Gomer Pyle to “The Andy Griffith Show.” His big-hearted, ever-cheery gas-pump jockey was a neighbourly fit in the easygoing town of Mayberry.But when Gomer enlisted in the Marines for five TV seasons, he truly blossomed. So did the actor who portrayed him.Nabors, who died Thursday at 87, made Pvt. Gomer Pyle a perfect foil for the immovable object of Marines boot camp: Grinning, gentle Gomer was the irresistible force.On “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” a spinoff from “The Andy Griffith Show” that premiered in 1964, Gomer arrived in the fictional Camp Henderson with a happy attitude and eager innocence that flew in the face of everything he found awaiting him there, especially irascible Sgt. Vince Carter, played by Frank Sutton.It’s a measure of Nabors’ skill in inhabiting the anything-but-militaristic Gomer that this character was widely beloved, and the show a Top 10 hit, during an era when the Vietnam War was dividing America. His trademark “Shazam,” ”Gollllll-lee,” and “Surprise, surprise, surprise” were parroted by millions.But Nabors had another character to offer his fans: himself, a booming baritone. In appearances on TV variety programs, he stunned viewers with the contrast between his twangy, homespun humour (“The tornado was so bad a hen laid the same egg twice”) and his full-throated vocals.He was a double threat, as he demonstrated for two seasons starting in 1969 on “The Jim Nabors Hour,” a variety series where he joshed with guest stars, did sketches with Sutton and fellow “Gomer” veteran Ronnie Schell, and sang country and opera.Offstage and off-camera, Nabors retained some of the awed innocence of Gomer. At the height of his fame in 1969, he admitted, “I still find it difficult to believe this kind of acceptance. I still don’t trust it.”After his variety show, Nabors continued earning high salaries in Las Vegas showrooms and in concert theatres across the country. He recorded more than two dozen albums and sang with the Dallas and St. Louis symphony orchestras.During the 1970s he moved to Hawaii, buying a 500-acre macadamia ranch. He still did occasional TV work, and in the late 1970s, he appeared 10 months annually at Hilton hotels in Hawaii. The pace gave him an ulcer.“I was completely burned out,” he later recalled. “I’d had it with the bright lights.”In the early 1980s, his longtime friendship with Burt Reynolds led to roles in “Stroker Ace,” ”Cannonball II” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”He returned to concert and nightclub performances in 1985, though at a less intensive pace. Among his regular gigs was singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 each year, which he first did in 1972. That first time, he wrote the lyrics on his hand so he wouldn’t forget.“I’ve never thought of (the audience reaction) as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.”Illness forced him to cancel his appearance in 2007, the first one he had missed in more than 20 years. But he was back performing at Indy in 2008, saying, “It’s always the main part of my year. It just thrills you to your bones.”In 1991, Nabors was thrilled to get a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. He was joined for the ceremony by pals Carol Burnett, Loni Anderson, Phyllis Diller and Florence Henderson. His reaction? “Gollllll-lee!”Nabors, who had undergone a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died at his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past year, said his husband, Stan Cadwallader, who was by his side.“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader said.The couple married in early 2013 in Washington state, where gay marriage had recently been made legal. Nabors’ friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media.“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”An authentic small-town Southern boy, he was born James Thurston Nabors in Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1930, the son of a police officer. Boyhood attacks of asthma required long periods of rest, during which he learned to entertain his playmates with vocal tricks.After graduating from the University of Alabama, he worked in New York City for a time, and later, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was an assistant film editor and occasional singer at a TV station.He moved on to Hollywood with hopes of using his voice. While cutting film at NBC in the daytime, he sang at night at a Santa Monica club.“I was up there on the stage the night that Andy Griffith came in,” Nabors recalled in 1965. “He said to me afterward, ‘You know somethin,’ boy? You’re good. I’m going to bring my manager around to see you.’”Nabors soon landed a guest shot on Griffith’s sitcom as Gomer Pyle. That grew into a regular role as Gomer proved a kindred spirit with other Mayberry locals. By then, he had proved he was also a kindred spirit with millions of viewers.___Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed to this story and biographical material was written by the late Associated Press Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas.
FILE – In this Dec. 5, 2001, file photo, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. carries the Olympic torch down Brevard St. in Charlotte, N.C. Earnhardt Jr. has barely had time to ease into retirement before NBC Sports gave him a full workload. Earnhardt will be part of the network’s pregame show before the Super Bowl, then head to South Korea for NBC Sports’ coverage of next month’s Olympics. At the Olympics, he’ll visit the speed skating venue and accept a recent social media invite from American bobsled team pilot Nick Cunningham to ride in a bobsled. (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP) CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Nearly every day brings a new experience for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who spent the first 43 years of his life living in a bubble that consisted of NASCAR and not much else.Now that he has retired from full-time racing, he’s got time to experience new adventures. Just last weekend, he went to brunch — his first brunch ever — with his wife and friends, then was convinced to get his first pedicure .The best is yet to come.NBC Sports announced Tuesday it will use Earnhardt in its pregame show before the Super Bowl, then send him to South Korea for the network’s coverage of next month’s Olympics. Earnhardt retired from driving in November and signed on to be an analyst for NBC Sports, a gig that begins in July.“It’s not going to be putting me anywhere outside of my comfort zone, obviously I’ve never been to a Super Bowl or South Korea,” Earnhardt told The Associated Press. “What they are asking me to do is just go out there and be myself and hopefully get people interested in tuning into NASCAR.”NBC plans to use Earnhardt at the Super Bowl in outdoor events and activities taking place in Minneapolis in the days before the game. At the Olympics, he’ll visit the speed skating venue and accept a recent social media invite from American bobsled team pilot Nick Cunningham to ride in a bobsled.“We can’t wait to get Dale’s take on what is one of the most compelling aspects of the Winter Games — sports that offer a mix of speed with the prospect of danger, an equation that he knows very well,” said Jim Bell, president of NBC Olympics Production and Programming.“Instead of the turns at Daytona, it’s the downhill, the luge, and the short track oval. And I think he will have something unique to offer about the need for speed on snow and ice.”Earnhardt, a third-generation NASCAR driver, is the son of Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr. He grew up around racing and its grueling 11-month schedule that has drivers on the road and away from home at least three days a week. Although the Super Bowl is typically held before NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500, rabid Washington Redskins fan Earnhardt said he never had a desire to go to the game.“Not everybody goes to the Super Bowl,” he said. “I was too young when the Redskins were going, I was still in school, and they haven’t been since 1991. I definitely would have gone if they had played in one. But as a fan of a particular team, it sort of feels wrong to go to another game. I’d have a hard time even going to see the Redskins play in an opponent’s stadium. If I had no purpose to be at the Super Bowl, besides to just see a game, it was hard to make that kind of time commitment.”And the Olympics? Well, that’s a dream trip that Earnhardt never had the time to even dream of making. Asked Tuesday where he’s been outside the United States, he listed Germany and France — trips he took with his now-wife — as well as Mexico, Canada, Japan and Australia. He also once spent 24 hours in Monaco.“When I was driving, I didn’t want to do anything else,” Earnhardt said. “Someone would say, ‘Wow, I’ve got some time, let’s go have some fun,’ but I wouldn’t want to do anything. If I had a day to myself, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere or do anything.”Then he was sidelined for the second half of the NASCAR season with concussion symptoms, and Earnhardt was forced to expand his lifestyle.“When I started peeling away the layers, I started losing some of that habit and getting more comfortable doing things,” he said. “When we weren’t in the car, you weren’t supposed to be focused on anything else. When you went and did something, go to a concert, visit another city, you almost felt guilty for doing it. Like, we already have a pretty good lifestyle as race car drivers and can afford just about anything. So I just felt bad enjoying yourself.“But when I was out of the car for so long, my doctor encouraged me to put myself in a lot of complex situations. That meant going to concerts and places I’ve never been and situations where I could push my anxiety. I’ll tell you, I was like: ‘Wow, this is what retirement is going to be like.’”He’s not nervous about transitioning into his new television career, or that his first real appearances as an NBC Sports analyst will be on two worldwide stages. Earnhardt, who recently learned to ski while in Aspen with Jimmie Johnson, is planning on bringing boots and a helmet to South Korea to try out the slopes. He’s also eager to try the cuisine.The only drawback is that pregnant wife Amy can’t make the trip, and Earnhardt said he doesn’t sleep well when they are apart. He figures worrying about her as she awaits their first child will make for long nights in South Korea.He’s confident, though, the network won’t let him look like a fool and he’s leaned heavily on former crew chief Steve Letarte, and former driver Jeff Burton, both members of NBC Sport’s current NASCAR booth, for advice.After his time at the Olympics, he’ll head to Daytona Beach, Florida, for the season-opening Daytona 500. Earnhardt is the grand marshal for the race.“I definitely wouldn’t miss the first race of the year,” he said. “I feel like I should be there.”___This story has been corrected to show that Earnhardt is 43, not 42.___More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org by Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press Posted Jan 16, 2018 7:15 am PDT Last Updated Jan 16, 2018 at 10:40 am PDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Earnhardt Jr. to help NBC Sports at Super Bowl and Olympics