The name George Lindsey is synonymous with nostalgic television; i.e., the character of Goober Pyle in The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D., and Hee Haw.
The legendary performer has also guest-starred on many shows including Daniel Boone, The Rifleman, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Gunsmoke, MASH, and Fantasy Island.
Born December 17, 1935 in Jasper, Alabama, this entertainment icon is just as well known and greatly admired for his humanitarian efforts over the last forty-something years.
Lindsey conducted the George Lindsey Celebrity Golf Tournament in Montgomery, Alabama, proceeds of which went to the Special Olympics program, and he helped to establish an aquatic center for the Alabama State Hospital in Tuscaloosa.
The George Lindsey UNA Film Festival was started in 1998 in part by the school’s alumnus and celebrated actor, and held annually in the spring at the University of North Alabama in Florence. It welcomes local, national, and international film entries and provides attendees with an exceptional lineup of workshops, panels, screenings, networking opportunities, and informal interaction among filmmakers and guests.
This year the 13th annual festival was held March 4-7. On the third day, George Lindsey was gracious enough to speak with Our Prattville at the beautiful Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, overlooking the Tennessee River.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Mr. Lindsey, thanks so much for taking the time to talk this afternoon.
George Lindsey: Thanks for having me.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): This film festival gives young screenwriters and directors a chance to get their work out there, doesn’t it?
George Lindsey: Yes it does. We have cash prizes for practically everybody and it gives them a chance to mix with other people who do the same thing as they do.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Back to the Future film series, so a cast reunion was combined with the festival. How did that come about?
George Lindsey: To tell you the truth, I don’t have a lot to do with that end of it. But, each year we try to bring in some famous people … this just worked out great.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): How are the films judged?
George Lindsey: I think it goes in tiers. The films are screened by the preliminary judges and then they go to the final judges in both the film and screenplay categories.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Actor Ernest Borgnine is on the Festival Advisory Board. Is that because of your friendship?
George Lindsey: Yes, he started coming down here with me. He liked the school and everyone here.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): He was also involved with your celebrity golf tournament held in Montgomery for seventeen years.
George Lindsey: Yes he was, along with Bear Bryant, Shug Jordan, Roy Clark, Leslie Nielsen, and many others.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I believe that I attended at least ten of those seventeen tournaments. Is there a reason you quit doing them?
George Lindsey: Well, you start losing the stars and players. In all of those years, you know, the guys get old. But, for the Special Olympics, all of my friends came to my aid … we raised a lot of money.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You attended the University of North Alabama, correct?
George Lindsey: Yes, I graduated. It was called the Florence State Teacher’s College then.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What has changed at the college since you went there?
George Lindsey: Well it was smaller (laughs). I don’t know how many students we had then, but four or five buildings were there. But, it’s still a learning institution and you still have to make good grades to go to school there. That will never change.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Have you always known you wanted to be an actor or a comedian?
George Lindsey: Yes, I won every talent show they ever had in school. Then I went to New York and studied acting. I figured if you were going to do it, that’s the place where you needed to go.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did your parents support you in your acting endeavor?
George Lindsey: My mother and daddy divorced a long time ago and were poor, so there wasn’t any support to it. But, I was going to do it regardless.
I joined the Air Force – figured if I went into the service I could get the G.I. Bill. The American Theatre accepted people who were on the G.I. Bill. So, that’s how I got into acting school. It was a plan.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What was your first professional acting job?
George Lindsey: I went on a United States tour with Florence Henderson in A Wonderful Town. We ran on Broadway, then we went to Atlanta, San Francisco, and all of the major cities. We went by train and it paid good money.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Who were your matinee idols growing up?
George Lindsey: I especially liked the cowboy stars. I always wanted to be in The Wild Bunch.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You played a maniacal killer in The Rifleman.
George Lindsey: Yes, that was fun. I also did The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea … I did a lot of television in television’s heyday. It was enjoyable … you got treated really great.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Your character Goober made the “beanie” famous on The Andy Griffith Show. Where are all of the beanies now?
George Lindsey: Well, I’ve got some and I had the original one bronzed. Hopefully one day I’ll either give it to the school or the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian was interested but they wouldn’t tell me when they would display it, so I didn’t want it going to the basement. I’ve been in the basement of the Smithsonian and they have tons of stuff there!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are you still in contact with Andy Griffith or Ron Howard?
George Lindsey: Well, I must say that Mr. Howard is about as pleasant a guy to work with that I’ve ever been around. As a youngster, he always came with his words learned.
Andy and I still talk – we talked last week.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): How is Andy Griffith doing?
George Lindsey: I think he’s had some health problems, but we talk on the phone a good bit and he called me “Grover” so I know that he was okay.
Grover was his nickname for me, but I don’t know how that came about (laughs) … hey Grover!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I always wondered if “Judy, Judy, Judy” was written in the script for you to do.
George Lindsey: No, I came up with that myself. There’s not really a story behind it. I got the script and I saw that Cary Grant was written there so maybe I had it in the back of my mind that he said “Judy, Judy, Judy” in one of his movies. I don’t know. But, I transcribed it into a “gooberism.”
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did you ever have any problems being typecast as Goober?
George Lindsey: Oh no, it has helped me. If it hadn’t been that, it would be been something else. I’m quite sure of that. I was ready to be on the national television scene.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What kind of shows do you watch now?
George Lindsey: I watch a lot of television … and I watch a show called Mayberry R.F.D. I like watching me (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): In the late 70s you had a show called Goober …
George Lindsey: And the Truckers’ Paradise. It didn’t sell, but the pilot showed on TV. The concept was terrific because there were all of these female mechanics which people will watch, you know, girls. And Goober liked the girls, but it didn’t sell so you move on.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are either of your children in show business?
George Lindsey: Yes my son is doing summer stock and he’s on the road a lot. My daughter who lives right outside of Los Angeles is a runner and she’s going to be in the LA marathon … about 20 miles.
My daughter has two children; I have a grandson, five, and one who is two. They also have a bulldog who is twelve or thirteen years old named Wilson and he’s part of the family.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you have pets?
George Lindsey: Just an orangutan and a giraffe.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Really … I like giraffes.
George Lindsey: Well, they’re hard to feed (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You could probably teach the orangutan a variety of tricks.
George Lindsey: Yeah, I taught him to feed the giraffe (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Is there anything you haven’t done in your career that you would have liked to do?
George Lindsey: Yes, live in Prattville.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, I don’t know what acting work you could get there except some off off Broadway.
George Lindsey: Yeah, it’s a little slow this time of year (laughs). I was sort of crushed when I couldn’t be in the senior play in school because I had an “F” on my report card. They were doing Arsenic and Old Lace and I wanted to play the crazy colonel that comes down with the sword all of the time saying, “Charge!” But, I didn’t get to be in the senior play.
But, really, I’m retired. I don’t know of anything else I’d like to do. I’ve accomplished all of my goals.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Take me through a typical day with George Lindsey.
George Lindsey: Well, I get up in the morning and have cereal and milk for breakfast, and then I figure out where I’m going to eat for lunch (laughs). Then I eat lunch and I come home and then I figure out where I’m going to eat dinner (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What advice would you give to young actors just starting out in the entertainment field?
George Lindsey: Just don’t give up. There’s the stage, film, and television. You’re not going to go to any of those and find one wanting. There is always going to be a need in those areas. New York is tough, but there is only one Broadway.
Actors get old and retire, but there is always going to be entertainment. If you persevere, you can make a place for yourself.
Interview by Melissa Parker
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