Jim Nabors first came to the public's attention on The Andy Griffith Show, playing the dim-witted character of "Gomer Pyle." Wearing overalls and a baseball cap—and speaking with a slow southern drawl—Gomer Pyle nonetheless surprised everyone with his booming operatic tenor. This was Nabors' real talent. Despite this great gift, Nabors insisted on pursuing his acting career rather than dedicating himself whole-heartedly to his music—thus, his starring role in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
When the show had run its course, Nabors found that, due to the vagaries of public yearnings, he was no longer in demand—either as an actor or as a singer. Forced into early retirement from show business, Nabors settled in Palm Springs, where on good days he sat on his back porch, gazing for hours upon the flowers in his garden. On bad days he stayed inside, the curtains drawn, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon straight from the can and feeling bitter. Very bitter.
Nabors' final public appearance was a disastrous cameo on a Bob Hope Christmas special during which Brooke Shields taunted him mercilessly by threatening to beat him with a stick. One of the top three tenors of his day—and an inspiration to, among others, a young Luciano Pavarotti—Nabors' last act was to let himself be publicly humiliated by a celebrity who was even more of a has-been than he was, and who never possessed even a trace of his talent.
Originally published in Public Illumination Magazine, 1996.