Hollywood party comes to ‘Mayberry’

Tom Joyce Staff Report

September 26, 2013

It had all the makings of a Hollywood party — a group of people who’ve been on television and in movies, assembled in a luxurious home for a great dinner and the pleasure of each other’s company.

But when just such a scenario unfolded Wednesday night, the celebrities and food and spacious house were there all right — only it wasn’t occurring in Tinseltown, but the residence of Tanya Jones in the Cross Creek community of Mount Airy.

The executive director of the Surry Arts Council, which sponsors Mayberry Days, and her husband Hobart were hosting a party in which the special guests included people who have appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show” or family members of key cast members.

Wednesday evening’s affair gave local residents, such as members of the arts council governing board, arts supporters and special guests, an opportunity to mingle with the Hollywood types.

While the annual gathering at the Jones homes could be viewed as a kickoff event for the 24-annual festival that officially runs today through Sunday, several of its attendees used another word to describe the dinner event.

“It’s like a reunion,” said George Lindsey Jr., whose late father played Goober on “The Andy Griffith Show.” During the course of Mayberry Days, Lindsey Jr. will be making public appearances and performing in his dad’s memory. But on Wednesday night, the emphasis was different.

“It’s nice because you don’t have to be ‘on,’” Lindsey said of the laid-back atmosphere.

That was echoed by a smiling Betty Lynn — a transplanted Mount Airy resident known for her role as Thelma Lou, Barney’s girlfriend, as she sipped coffee while seated at a table with a glass top.

“It’s a wonderful event,” she said. The retired actress, who will have lived in Mount Airy for seven years come January, also had other reasons to smile. “I’m alive, for one thing,” said Lynn, who is now in her 80s and recovering from recent surgery, but is once again looking forward to Mayberry Days appearances.

The comparisons to a Hollywood party weren’t absent Wednesday night. But Margaret Kerry, an actress who guest-starred in multiple episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” as well as serving as the model for Tinker Bell in the Walt Disney animated movie “Peter Pan,” pointed to a key difference.

While watching people whose show business paths have crossed over the years warmly greet and express genuine affection for each other during the party, Kerry remarked that the scene was “like they did in Mayberry.”

“When you go to a Hollywood party, everybody’s looking around to see who’s who,” she said of the contrast.

In addition to acting, Kerry is a radio host and motivational speaker whose work takes her around the country. “This is the one break that I get,” Kerry said of her annual visit to Mount Airy, indicating that she doesn’t really consider it work.

Others attending Wednesday night’s event included James Best, an actor best known for his role as Sheriff Rosco on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” who also showed up in the Griffith show from time to time as musician Jim Lindsey; Maggie Peterson Mancuso, also known as Charlene Darling on the show; Karen Knotts, daughter of the late Don Knotts; LeRoy McNees, a musician appearing in two “Andy Griffith Show” episodes; The Mayberry Deputy David Browning; and others.

“It’s like a family reunion for us,” McNees said while immersing himself in the meet-and-greet session, which could have been viewed as a microcosm of Mayberry Days itself.

“We meet so many great friends here.”

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