After I confirmed the news for one man, he responded, “Aww. Well, bless his heart.” He repeated the phrase several times during our brief conversation.
I can think of no more fitting tribute for the man millions came to love as Goober.
The cast of “The Andy Griffith Show” are so familiar to us that it’s easy to believe that they are our family members instead of actors. Some of us have probably seen those 249 episodes more often than our own home movies.
We recognize so much of ourselves and our neighbors in those characters that it seems impossible we have only met them through the magic of television.
For those of us in Walker County, Lindsey really was the boy next door.
I remember being told at an early age that he was from Jasper. Although I must confess that my heart has always belonged to Gomer rather than Goober, I am proud that both Lindsey and Jim Nabors represented our state on one of the few shows that truly deserves to be called a classic.
I spent some time over the past week watching my favorite “Andy” episodes that feature Lindsey. Oddly enough, they are all from the less beloved color seasons and share a serious undertone.
First is “A Man’s Best Friend,” in which Goober becomes convinced that his dog can talk after Opie and the new kid in town play a prank on him.
It takes some skill for a grown man to play a buffoon so convincingly, but Lindsey really shines in the scene where he learns about the joke. The look on his face when he finds out that Opie was in on it breaks my heart. So does his half-hearted grin as he offers a defense for Opie and his friend — “Andy, they’re just kids. They’ll learn.”
I love the ending scene of “Goober Goes to the Auto Show.” When Goober (who has recently become owner of Wally’s filling station) discovers that an old friend is actually a mechanic instead of the big businessman he has claimed to be, Goober chooses not to embarrass the man by confronting him. I can’t say that I would have done the same.
“Goober Makes History” shows a seldom-seen insecure side of Lindsey’s character. At first, Goober can’t speak up during his adult education history class because he feels out of his league. Then he grows a beard that makes him look like an intellectual and turns him into an obnoxious know-it-all.
Goober often comes across as a fool, but this episode suggests that he aspires to be something more.
I wonder if the writers knew then how closely life would imitate art.
Lindsey had a love-hate relationship with the character that made him rich and famous because the public and even casting directors refused to see him as anything except a goober.
I had heard about Lindsey’s bitterness before I had the opportunity to interview him in 2010 about the 50th anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
I was so scared of saying the wrong thing to this comedy legend that it was inevitable I would do so right off the bat.
I started by thanking him for being willing to share his experiences from “The Andy Griffith Show” with his hometown fans. As soon as I finished my awkward intro, I heard that familiar voice say, “Griffith.”
“I…I’m sorry?” I stammered.
“You said Griffin. His name is Griffith,” Lindsey said.
Somehow I recovered enough from my faux pas to go through with the interview. I definitely got the sense that although he was happy to talk about “Griffith,” he wanted me to know that there were other bullet points on his resume.
Lindsey had every right to want to be taken more seriously.
He studied at the prestigious American Theatre Wing and appeared in two Broadway shows and numerous TV westerns and dramas before being selected for the role of Goober.
There’s no doubt that Lindsey had the talent to play any role he set his mind to.
However, there was only one part that could make him a household name for multiple generations and lead a complete stranger to mourn his passing with “Well, bless his heart.”