Sunday, May 25, 2014

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an American actor and singer. He may be best known by his iconic TV character's trademark expressions, "Gah-lee!" and "Sha-zam!". He is also well known for singing "Back Home Again in Indiana," prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500, held annually over the Memorial Day Weekend. Today's Out Spotlight is Jim Nabors.

James Thurston "Jim" Nabors was born June 12, 1930 and raised in Sylacauga, Alabama, with his parents Mavis and Fred Nabors. Growing up in Alabama he sang for his high school and church. He went to attend the University of Alabama, where he branched out into acting. After graduating, he moved to New York, where he worked as a typist for the United Nations;after a year, he moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he got his first job in the television industry as a film cutter.

Because of his asthma, he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a film cutter for NBC. He also worked at a Santa Monica tavern, The Horn, singing and acting in cabaret theater. His act featured him as a character similar to the Gomer Pyle character he would later portray: he would sing in a baritone and sometimes speak in his higher-pitched comedic voice. At the club, comedian Bill Dana saw Nabors' act and invited him to appear on The Steve Allen Show. Nabors signed on to the show, but it was soon canceled.

While working at a Santa Monica nightclub, he was discovered by Andy Griffith and later joined The Andy Griffith Show, playing Gomer Pyle. The character proved popular, and Nabors was given his own spin-off show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..

Though best known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle, Nabors became a popular guest on variety shows in the 1960s and 1970s, which showcased his rich baritone voice. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, many romantic ballads but pop, gospel, and country songs as well.

He hosted The Jim Nabors Hour (1969–1971), a variety show which also featured his Gomer Pyle co-stars Ronnie Schell and Frank Sutton. While not a critical success, the show proved popular with the public. After the show's cancellation, Nabors embarked on a nationwide roadshow.

Typecast from his role as Gomer Pyle, he found his subsequent roles mostly comedic. In the 1970s, he appeared in the children's television programs Krofft Supershow and Buford and the Galloping Ghost. He also appeared in every season premiere of The Carol Burnett Show because Burnett considered him a "good-luck charm".

However, on a 1973 episode of The Rookies, he played his first "serious" role, a man called on to be an assassin after the death of his sister. Also in 1973, Nabors sang the Star Spangled Banner before Game One of the Major League Baseball World Series.

From 1977 to 1978, he hosted another variety show, The Jim Nabors Show. Though the show only lasted one season, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series.

Growing tired of the "prime-time TV grind" and he abandoned television jobs for nightclub and concert gigs and a role in a touring production of Man of La Mancha. However, Sid and Marty Krofft persuaded him to star in the Saturday-morning children's television show The Lost Saucer, about two bumbling androids, Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Nabors), who traveled through time with two children. (Raise your hand if you remembe.)

After moving to Hawaii from Bel Air, California with his partner Stan Cadwallader, in 1976, he launched a show, "The Jim Nabors Polynesian Extravaganza" at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which ran for two years. Nabors eventually experienced "bright light burnout" and disappeared from the stage, save for an occasional performance. In 1984, after a five-year hiatus, Nabors returned to performing, starring in the "Moulin Rouge" show at the Las Vegas Hilton and other shows in Reno and Las Vegas. He made his theatrical debut as Harold Hill in The Music Man with Florence Henderson at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre.

In the 1980s, he appeared in three feature-length films starring his friend Burt Reynolds, at the latter's request. In The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Nabors played Deputy Fred, a character similar to Gomer Pyle, to Reynolds' sheriff. Though the film was pan, Nabors received some positive comments for his performance. However, not only was 1983's Stroker Ace panned, Nabors earned a Golden Raspberry Award for his performance as the title character's mechanic. In Reynolds' star-studded Cannonball Run II, about a cross-country car chase, Nabors made a cameo appearance along with a wide-array of celebrities.

In 1986, Nabors returned to television, reprising his role as Gomer Pyle in the television movie Return to Mayberry, in which the cast of The Andy Griffith Show reunited. Also in 1986, Nabors starred in the half-hour comedy pilot "Sylvan in Paradise" as the title character, Sylvan Sprayberry, an accident-prone bell captain at a Hawaiian hotel. The series was not picked up by NBC.

In 1994, Nabors suffered from a near-fatal case of hepatitis B. According to his account, he contracted the disease while traveling in India; he shaved with a straight razor and "whacked [his] face all up." The disease caused liver failure, and he was given a dim prognosis; however, his friend Carol Burnett made an arrangement with the transplant division of UCLA and secured Nabors a transplant. He later became involved with the American Liver Foundation as a result of his experience.

Nabors began vacationing in Hawaii in the 1960s, and in 1976, moved from Bel Air, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. For 25 years, he owned a macadamia plantation on Maui before selling it to the National Tropical Botanical Garden, a conservationist organization, though he still retains farming rights to the land and owns a second home on the property.

On January 29, 2013, Hawaii News Now reported that Nabors married his partner of 38 years, Stan Cadwallader, at Seattle, Washington's Fairmont Olympic Hotel on January 15, a month after same-sex marriage became legal in Washington.

An urban legend maintains that Nabors married Rock Hudson in the early 1970s, shortly before Nabors began his relationship with Cadwallader. At least publicly, the two were never more than friends. According to Hudson, the legend originated with a group of "middle-aged homosexuals who live in Huntington Beach" who sent out joke invitations for their annual get-together. One year, the group invited its members to witness "the marriage of Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors," at which Hudson would take the surname of Nabors' most famous character, Gomer Pyle, becoming "Rock Pyle." Those who failed to get the joke spread the rumor. Because the urban legend had raised the risk of both of them getting legitimately outed, Nabors and Hudson never spoke to each other again.

For more than 30 years, Nabors has sung "Back Home Again in Indiana" with the Purdue All-American Marching Band before each Indianapolis 500. In March 2014, Nabors announced that the 2014 Indianapolis 500 would be his final appearance singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, explaining that his health was limiting his ability to travel.


Florida Tom said...

Always Gomer Pyle. Hard to believe that incredible voice comes out of Gomer :-)

Special K said...

I agree Tom, he has a beautiful voice.

Methodical Muser said...

A wonderful tribute to Mr. Nabors, Special. Grew up watching Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. with the parents. I always liked the underlying sweetness of Gomer, but his cousin Goober definitely got on my family's nerves. LOL!

Nabors really does represent how far we have come as a society, while also providing another example that shatters those age old myths about gay men not being able to commit to lasting relationships. Thirty-nine years together is quite the achievement. And wanting to get married after 38 years to his lifelong love just shows how important that mainstream ritual really is to many folks. Domestic partnerships pale in comparison.

the real m said...

Fascinating. I grew up with Nabors as a TV staple too. Very happy to hear he married his long time partner.

Did anyone watch Normal Heart last night. Well done and lots of Bomer skin. I am familiar with all that went on in San Franciso during those years since I worked there for 20 years but was out of touch with events in New York. Well acted. Taylor Kitsch did a great job too.

prairiegirl said...

I really enjoyed the Spotlight on Jim Nabors. I was never a real Mayberry watcher but who didn't like him as Gomer Pyle with the cranky Sgt. Carter? LOL

Very nice!

Special K said...

M - I didn't get a chance to I am hoping to catch it on On Demand.

destiny said...

I watched The Normal Heart. I always have a bit of trouble with all the yelling and high drama, for lack of a better word, and I feel that lurking in there is a really great play. But it has a lot to offer too, and I thought it worked a lot better on film than on stage. It sure brought back a lot of memories of that era, and even more, for me, the era right before AIDS hit when for a moment there was so much hope for a better world for gays and lesbians.

I loved Matt in it, and Jim Parsons was really good. Always like Taylor too. Ruffalo did a good job with what is a very difficult role, playing an often agitated and angry Larry Kramer.

I was amazed at the amount of skin shown, and the sex scene with Bomer and Ruffalo. The relationship between them is really well done.
It is really worth watching.

Methodical Muser said...

I watched the movie today. Really, a powerful reminder that sometimes people have to yell loud enough to be heard. All the performances were memorable, but I was particularly impressed with Jim Parsons. He blends humor with compassion and a cutting combination of an almost detached resignation and fatalistic fight, providing some of the most poignantly memorable lines in the film.

A great reminder of how sometimes it is necessary, indeed imperative, to make the personal and private, political. And, how hard it is to make that leap at both an individual and institutional level.

Seaweed said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the Spotlight on Jim Nabors and his story, having lived a life full of love with his partner. I too recall so many great times watching the shows he appeared in regularly.

Appreciate the observations on Normal Heart, and really look forward to seeing this movie soon. Thanks so much for your recommendations.