We are where nostalgia lives
When Don Knotts was on his deathbed, his daughter Karen needed to run out of the room so she could laugh. The actor, best known for starring as bumbling, bug-eyed Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died in 2006 at age 81 from pulmonary and respiratory complications.
Karen is currently in the process of writing a memoir and is now performing a show about her childhood titled “Tied Up In Knotts!”
She told Closer Weekly that anyone who knew her father wouldn’t be surprised by her shocking response.
“Here’s the thing about my dad,” she explained. “He had this funniness that was just completely, insanely natural. When he was dying, he was making us laugh in hysterics.
“He was literally dying, but he did something or said something that caused my stepmother and me to go into fits of laughter, which is why I ran out. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to be standing there in front of this man, my dearly beloved father, who’s dying, and laughing.’”
But Karen does have one regret about one of her final moments with the celebrated comedian.
“I was telling this story to Howard Storm, who’s a director, and he said, ‘You should have stayed and laughed out loud,’” she said. “‘That’s what comedians live for!’ He was right; I should have just stood there and blasted out laughing.”
Karen insisted that Knotts, who enjoyed a successful half-century acting career that included seven television shows and more than 25 films, along with five Emmy Awards just from “The Andy Griffith Show” alone, never lost his sense of humor despite his difficult childhood.
The magazine revealed Knotts was born in West Virginia to a mother who was 40 at the time and a father who suffered from both schizophrenia and alcoholism. Growing up, his father would reportedly hold a knife to Knotts’ neck and threaten him.
“My dad was very burdened down by all these problems,” said Karen. “He had problems with his father and an older brother who tormented him because they were alcoholics.
“When his father passed, he was 13 years old. At that point, that burden — that huge burden — lifted off him, and he became old enough that he was able to get the other brother under control, so he was no longer terrorized at home.”
Knotts eventually spent years in therapy but also found solace in entertaining. When he served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, he participated in a variety show that toured the Pacific.
“He saw ventriloquism as a way for him to get out of his impoverished surroundings,” said Karen.
And when he later took on the iconic role of Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1960, he happily immersed himself in the workload.
“We didn’t see him a lot, because he worked 10, 12 hours a day,” said Karen. “And when he was home, he was always holed up in his room working on his lines and stuff like that. At that time, we kids were pretty young, and he confided whatever he was feeling about working on the show to my mom.
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