Growing up in Chicago, Daniel de Visé watched reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.” But after he met his wife, Sophie, at Wesleyan College, he established a much deeper connection to the show. When de Visé married Sophie, he became the brother-in-law of Don Knotts, who plays Barney Fife on the show.
De Visé formerly worked as a journalist and said it was natural to seek out Knotts and ask him about his career at family gatherings.
Go to the book talk
1 p.m. today
Bull's Head Bookshop
“If you profile people all the time, you start wondering, theorizing about how people come to be famous,” de Visé said. “I was always searching after that. 'How did he go from being invisible to visible to known to famous to being a superstar?' I knew enough about him that I had a sense about who he was — a pretty good sense,” de Visé said.
His familiarity with and interest in Don Knotts led to de Visé’s latest book, "Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show." De Visé will be at Bull’s Head Bookshop today to discuss and read from his latest work.
The book first began as a biography about Knotts but eventually evolved into a story about Knotts and Griffith’s friendship.
“Think of a friend from college days,” de Visé said. “I think these guys had that kind of bond.”
Knotts received five Emmy awards, for his portrayal of Barney, and critical acclaim, while Griffith received more of the financial rewards. De Visé said that they were both envious of each other’s rewards from the show — but this never harmed their friendship.
“I don’t believe there was ever a time when they weren’t loving friends,” de Visé said.
De Visé said writing the book has profoundly changed the way he thinks about "The Andy Griffith Show.”
“I now feel, from my view, it’s the most profound and important television from the golden black-and-white era,” de Visé said. “It so perfectly captured the essence of small-town Americana — the essence of small-town American life and all that’s to be loved and treasured about that life.”
De Visé’s research also gave him a greater understanding of Andy Griffith. De Visé said he interviewed people like Ron Howard and Jim Nabors, but felt a great sense of accomplishment interviewing friends of Andy’s from his childhood in Mount Airy, N.C. and his college days at UNC.
“I would like it if, when I leave here, more students and more of the University community recognizes how much of Andy’s genius took flower right here," de Visé said. "I think it was here that Andy found himself, found his voice, found his talent and found his audience."
Kyle McKay, marketing and events manager at Bull’s Head Bookshop, said Andy Griffith is one of UNC’s most famous graduates and someone very important to North Carolinians.
“It’s honestly tough for me to imagine a more important Hollywood figure,” McKay said. “Maybe not now because our generation doesn’t know him as well, but historically, I can’t think of anyone more important for North Carolina.”
First-year Aiden Mccoy said she knows who Andy Griffith because her parents grew up watching the show.
“My fourth grade teacher was absolutely in love with the show,” Mccoy said. “We had a whistle competition doing the theme song.”
Other than Andy Griffith’s connection to UNC, McKay said there is another reason students should come to this particular book reading.
“It’s the kind of book that — if you got a signed copy — would make a great gift for your parents for Christmas.”
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