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Remembering Don Knotts: Daughter Karen Brings Father to Life on Bangor Stage
06/21/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

The star of the 1960's sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show" was, technically, Andy Griffith. But most of the actual comedy on the show was delivered by a wiry, rubber-faced, nervous-Nelly deputy named Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts. Knotts died in 2006, but his daughter, Karen Knotts, is keeping his memory alive - and adding to it with a one-woman show called "Tied up in Knotts." She'll perform at the Gracie Theater in Bangor tomorrow night, and spoke with Keith Shortall.

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Don Knotts: Daughter Karen Brings Father to Life Listen
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Karen Knotts takes a break from rehearsing for her one-woman show at Bangor's Gracie Theater.

Even if you weren't around in the early 1960's, you've probably heard this voice:

Don Knotts as Barney Fife: "I don't like it, I don't like it one bit. I tell you, this is just the beginning! Going around breaking street lamps - city property, mind ya!"

"When people asked him, 'Where did Barney Fife come from? How did you develop that character?', he would always say that Barney Fife was a child. And I think that did come from his childhood."

Karen Knotts was a child of six or seven when her father first appeared on the Andy Griffith show. And as she grew up, she took in all of the stories and experiences that came with life in Hollywood. When he died in 2006, Knotts decided to bring some of those experiences, and the people of the era, to life on stage.

Karen Knotts as Marilyn Monroe: "Oh pardon me for breaking in, but I heard my name mentioned - it's me, Marilyn, and I just want to thank everyone for making me - oh, that didn't sound right."

"That part - Marilyn Monroe and Carol Channing - there was this restaurant that we went to a lot and all of these movie stars came in there," Knotts says. "And my dad was pretty shy, but the people would always come by our table and that's how we knew a lot of those stars. And then later, just different ones - like there would be comedy writers coming in the house all the time, and of course, Andy Griffith. You know, they were great friends. So we saw him quite a bit in different places and times. So it was just kind of an evolution, you know? And there were these parties he would go to every year with Tim Conway, and they were all comedy people there. So it was just always a growing, changing group of people around."

Karen Knotts as Marilyn Monroe: "I want to thank everyone for making me what I am today - that sounded right. And I want to apologize to Carol for borrowing her diamond song."

Knotts as Carol Channing: "Yes, Marilyn, why don't you get a song of your own? I'm known for my diamonds. Why don't you get a song about pearls?

Knotts as Marilyn Monroe: "Pooh on pearls. I like diamonds much better. When I see a diamond I like, I have to have it."

Knotts as Carol Channing: "Tell me about it."

Knotts as Marilyn Monroe: "These rocks won't lose their shape."

As both, together: "Because diamonds are a girl's best friend."

"When we were kids, my dad would tell us a lot of stories about breaking in New York in the old days and, like, Jackie Gleason, where Jackie Gleason was on a Dumont station, and all kinds of things like that," Knotts says. "And as he got older, he didn't tell the same stories anymore. So I started writing down everything that I could remember, and it is continually unfolding and changing and growing all the time because new memories come to mind. It's been a pretty fascinating process."

Clip and song from show: "Howdy folks! My name's Emma Bell, and I'm here to talk to you about my favorite nephew, Don Knotts."

Keith Shortall: "So this has been good for you, as well as for the audience. which is of an age that is really fascinated by that character?"

Karen Knotts: "You know, people are really fascinated by him - I was too and I still am. I'm still trying to figure him out, you know? But, he was just an extroadinarily interesting guy."

Karen Knotts, daughter of Don Knotts, appears in her one-woman show, "Tied Up in Knotts," tomorrow night at the Gracie Theater at Husson University in Bangor.

Photos:  Jennifer Mitchell

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