Some non-fiction writers have a magic touch. They can lay out the dirt on a celebrity, but they do it in such an evenhanded, graceful way, they don’t track mud in the house.
That’s former journalist Daniel de Vise writing about Andy Griffith and Don Knotts in “Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show” (Simon & Schuster, $26). And de Vise’s task was all the more delicate as he is the brother-in-law of the late Knotts.
Two men, both born and raised in near-poverty in the South, achieving fame and wealth and remaining friends their whole lives, makes for a great story. In fact, so intense was Griffith’s affection for Knotts that he fretted about whether Knotts “had accepted God and gone to heaven.” Griffith longed to spend eternity with his pal.
I loved the section on Griffith as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. His only interests were acting and singing, and he “went through every day hoping, just hoping, they wouldn’t find out how little I knew, but sometimes they did.”
Then, of course, celebrity dirt is always delicious. Griffiths’s temper, his workaholism, his womanizing. Knotts’ shyness, insomnia, hypochondria, crippling anxiety. And the rivalries between the two, spoken and unspoken, conscious and unconscious.
Put this book on your holiday list for your favorite Griffith-Knotts fans.