Hooterville comes home
by Jennifer Cohron
Oct 02, 2011 | 1500 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By JENNIFER COHRON

Daily Mountain Eagle

Addison is the place to be on Oct. 8 for fans of the classic TV series “Green Acres.”

Residents will be paying tribute to Pat Buttram, the town’s native son who played slick salesman Mr. Haney on the show.

Tom Lester, who co-starred with Buttram on “Green Acres” as Oliver and Lisa Douglas’ farmhand Eb Dawson, will be a special guest at the sixth annual Pat Buttram Day. Buttram’s nephew Mack will serve as master of ceremonies.

The event will begin at 7:30 a.m. with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at the community center. Bands and tribute artists will be performing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the adjacent park.

The festival will also include arts and crafts vendors, refreshments, children’s activities, a quilt show, a yard sale and a gallery of photos from Buttram’s acting career.

Admission is free. Proceeds from the sale of food and booth space benefit Addison’s Civitan Club.

Club president Shirley Sudduth said it is unfortunate that Buttram’s connection to his hometown of Addison was long overlooked.

When signs were erected several years ago recognizing Addison as his birthplace, it was at his family’s expense.

The Civitan Club was organized a few years ago and members decided to hold a festival as a fundraiser.

Sudduth, a friend of the late actor’s family, suggested that it be named after Buttram.

“I called his brother to get permission to do that, and he was thrilled. Bless his heart, he passed away before the first one, but at least he knew that we were going to have it,” Sudduth said.

Buttram was known for a distinctive voice that he joked “never quite made it through puberty.”

The son of a Methodist minister, Buttram studied theology at Birmingham Southern College before breaking into show business with a radio interview at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.

“Everything he said in that voice — compared to a jackass with a sore throat — got laughs and he was signed as a comic,” a Los Angeles Times reporter wrote in Buttram’s obituary in 1994.

Later in life, Buttram lent his squeaky voice to animated characters such as the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood,” Chief in “The Fox and the Hound,” a toon bullet in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and Possum Park Emcee in “A Goofy Movie.”

Before “Green Acres,” Buttram worked with Gene Autry on more than 40 films. He was also the western star’s sidekick on his radio and TV series.

Buttram’s most well-known television role was that of Mr. Haney, who brought Lisa and Oliver Douglas to “Green Acres” by selling them his family’s dilapidated farm.

Haney continued to con the Douglases for years afterward by selling them junk when they were in a pinch.

“How come you always show up with exactly what I need?” Oliver Douglas asked once. Haney responded, “Well, let me put it to you another way...how come you always need what I show up with?”

Lester, the youngest and most inexperienced member of the “Green Acres” cast, said he made a point of watching Buttram work.

“I was learning my craft, and to be thrown in there among all of those really fabulous actors was real pressure. So whenever Mr. Buttram was doing a scene, I would be there,” Lester said.

Lester said he paid special attention to the comedic timing of veteran character actors such as Buttram, who had been in Hollywood for more than two decades at that point, and Alvy Moore, who played county agent Hank Kimball.

He added that whenever he approached Buttram for advice on how to play a particular scene, the elder actor always gave it.

Besides being in awe of Buttram’s talent, Lester bonded with him as a fellow Southerner.

Lester is a native of Jackson, Miss.

Lester said he became friends with his “Green Acres” co-star during the six years that the show was on the air and his respect for Buttram continues to this day.

“I loved him very much and appreciated him. It was great to work with him, and it was a gift from God to be able to know him because he was a very special individual,” Lester said.