Mayberry will have to find another way to honor its favorite deputy.
The Mount Airy, North Carolina, man who commissioned a statue of Don Knotts in full-on Barney Fife mode has ordered that the half-finished work be destroyed after one too many obstacles got in the project's way. Mount Airy, which served as the inspiration for The Andy Griffith Show's Mayberry, already has a likeness of Sheriff Andy Taylor walking with his son Opie.
"I'm just tired and emotionally drained from the last few months," restaurant owner Tom Hellebrand told the Associated Press. "I put my heart and soul into the statue project and I'm just drained."
Knotts, who won five Emmys playing Barney Fife, the always-bumbling sheriff's deputy with heroic aspirations, passed away Feb. 24 at the age of 81.
The work was underway, obviously, when Paramount/CBS withdrew its backing, saying it didn't have the authority to grant permission to create a likeness of Knotts, who helped make The Andy Griffith Show a big ol' hit from 1960 to 1965 (he left after the show's fifth season). The series was one of only three in history to end its run while still at the top of the Nielsen ratings, I Love Lucy and Seinfeld being the other two. Paramount/CBS still owns the rights to the show.
Hellebrand originally offered the unfinished statue to anyone who could somehow obtain the go-ahead, but after Statues.com refused to return the $9,000 he had already spent on the work and CBS offered to reimburse him only after the statue had been destroyed, the Andy Griffith fan had to do the unthinkable.
He's also selling his restaurant, the Mayberry Kountry Kitchen, and wants to wash his hands of most things Mayberry, the AP reported, but he still plans to live nearby.
"I appreciate the fans," Hellebrand said. "They are truly sorry this happened. They just don't get it. I don't get it. It's going to take a while to get over."
Knotts' widow, Francey, and Griffith were also on board with the idea of a statue commemorating Knotts, but they thought that it should be erected in his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia, and that it should depict Knotts himself rather than his most famous character.
"No one cares more about Don's image than we do," Francey Knotts and Griffith said in a statement.