Anyone hearing a loud roar while passing by Cross Creek Country Club Thursday night can be assured nothing sinister was involved — just a gathering of Mayberry Days celebrities producing enough laughter to register on the Richter scale.
The crowd of about 350 which filled the banquet room of the country club was treated to jokes, funny songs and antics, which capped off the annual Mayberry Days Golf Tournament that had been held Thursday afternoon. It was renamed “The Emmett” this year in honor of the late Emmett Forrest, a longtime friend of Andy Griffith whose memorabilia collection is the foundation of the local museum dedicated to the late actor.
David Browning, the Mayberry Deputy, was master of ceremonies for both a presentation of golf awards as well as a program after the banquet, cracking jokes all along the way.
One example of that surrounded the fact that the golf awards not only went to the top teams involved, but those with dubious distinctions such as one golfer who had lost the most balls Thursday (11).
As if that weren’t bad enough, Browning also made reference to the man being somewhat follicly challenged and quipped, “he used to use Head and Shoulders — now he uses Mop & Glow,” which the golfer responded to good-naturedly.
The Mayberry Deputy poked further fun at the garish clothing worn by another golfer. “Payne Stewart just rolled over,” Browning said of the late professional player known for his colorful attire.
Browning’s jokes provided a lead-in to a procession of special visitors whom he introduced to the audience during a variety show of sorts, all serving as living links to Griffith’s beloved series.
They included Elizabeth MacRae, who appeared in a 1967 episode of the show, but is best known for her portrayal of Lou Ann Poovie, girlfriend of the title character of another program, “Gomer Pyle: USMC.” It was a spinoff of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“I wish my old beau Gomer could be here,” MacRae said in character as Lou Ann, before launching into a hilarious rendition of the song “That Old Black Magic.”
More laughs came from Margaret Kerry, who was on two episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” in addition to being a part of other major productions, but is not exactly a household name. “My son tells me, ‘you’re famous, but nobody knows it,’” she told the audience.
Perhaps Kerry’s biggest claim to fame is serving as the human model for the animated Tinker Bell in the classic Walt Disney movie, “Peter Pan,” including all the character’s mannerisms.
“That’s why I can say I was Tinker Bell and men in white coats won’t take me away,” she said.
Kerry also recalled her time as a regular on a series from TV’s earliest days called “The Ruggles,” which was broadcast live on the ABC network from 1949-52 — known in that era as “the Almost Broadcasting Company,” she said.
Musicians Leroy McNees and Roland White, who can be seen on a Griffith show episode titled “Mayberry on Record” as part of a group called The Country Boys, also mixed jokes with several songs they performed Thursday night.
Included were “Grandma Bought a Hog” (a motorcycle not a pig), which McNees explained was inspired during a trip in the Sturgis, S.D., area. He and White also had the audience singing along to “Y’all Come,” whose length prompted the exasperated Mayberry Deputy to ask at one point, “How many verses are in this song?”
Browning then joined the musicians in a comical rendition of “Hey Good Lookin,’” first made popular by Hank Williams Sr.
White, who had moved from Maine to California, where “The Andy Griffith Show” was filmed, said he wondered why folks from back home started calling him after the episode aired. “Stupid me, I thought it was just a local show!”
Later during the program, local resident Betty Lynn — who played Barney’s girlfriend — made her way to the microphone with the help of a standing ovation, and a cane needed due to recent surgery.
“I’ve laughed so hard I almost pulled a stitch,” Lynn said.
But the comedy-variety show at the country club also had its share of sentimentality, such as that offered by Morgan Brittany, known for a role on “The Andy Griffith Show” as a young girl who broke Opie’s heart.
“They treated me just like family and it was great,” Brittany said of working with its cast and crew.
Now living in California, where “the world is upside-down,” Brittany added that coming to Mayberry Days each year reminds her of the special time on the show. “Every year, I think I’ll have two or three days of going back in time — going to a wonderful place. This is the way the world should be.”
Browning also paid homage to the late Don Knotts, who perfected the role of Barney Fife and whom Browning actually worked with as an opening act for shows Knotts did later in his life. Thursday night, he told Karen Knotts, the late actor’s daughter who is an actress and comedienne, that her father occupies a special place in TV history.
“Can you imagine living your life knowing your dad probably created the most memorable character on television?” Browning said.
He also mentioned Betty Lynn’s stature, not just during Mayberry Days, but year-round. “Betty has truly been the person people come to Mount Airy to see,” Browning said.
Kerry said the family atmosphere of Mayberry Days, evident among both fans and celebrities, is what keeps her coming back each year. “You are the best family I could ever imagine being part of,” she told everyone gathered Thursday night.
Tourney A Success
Tanya Jones, the executive director of the Surry Arts Council — sponsor of Mayberry Days — said the banquet drew about 60 more people than last year. Attendees came not only from California, but states such as Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, Tennessee and elsewhere, including a bus tour group from Washington, D.C.
“It’s significantly bigger,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, the golf tournament included 92 players, which Jones believed got a boost from being renamed for Emmett Forrest this year.
The significance of that was not lost on the golfers.
“Knowing Emmett Forrest was wonderful,” said Joe Haskins of Oxford, a member of a foursome that won the Sheriff’s Award for carding the best score at the tournament. Haskins knew Forrest from previous visits to Mount Airy.
That was echoed by George Lindsey Jr. (son of “Goober”) who also played in the tournament and was a member of one of the top-three teams. Some of the clothing items worn by his father on TV are housed in the museum Forrest was instrumental in launching.
“I just think it’s wonderful that they have changed the name to honor Emmett,” Lindsey said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.