Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Guilty As Charged

I do not care for puppets.  I must emphasize that I am not, as many people are, AFRAID of puppets.  But they are disconcerting to me;  I traced my discomfort with them here
My dislike for puppets began here, with the marionette boy
who was turned into a donkey. Frightening.

The most famous of the puppets of the modern era must surely be the Muppets.  While I can appreciate the creativity which went into the creation of the Muppet World, I have never been able to feel the slavish attraction to these figments that just about everybody else feels.  I'm sure it's my loss, but there it is.  Still, my unease around these creatures notwithstanding, the Muppets have appeared on the Dance Party several times. 
These are the only Muppets I can stand.

I willingly concede that the syndicated program which brought them to the attention of the adult world, a satire of the standard variety show called, appropriately, The Muppet Show, was creatively produced.  That program furnished this Dance Party starring Juliet Prowse, and this one starring Lynn Redgrave.  Considering my antipathy toward these annoying creatures, it's surprising that this week's Dance Party, once again, features the Muppets.  They return to the Dance Party because of this guy:
This is Dan Cathy, the current CEO of the fast food giant Chik Fil-A.  His father created the company, and now, Dan runs the organization.  He's been in the news this week, as I'm sure you know, because he has publicly confirmed his company's attitude toward marriage equality. 
Cathy with his father, the founder of the
company. Still family-held, they are unlikely
to change their stance until a board of directors
forces the issue,
as happened with Coors years ago.

This is old news to many of us;  it's been known for years that Chik Fil-A contributes buttloads of money to anti-gay causes.  But CEO Dan, bless him, significantly raised the profile of his company's prejudice this week, and now, everybody knows exactly where his company's profits are going.

The vast majority of the Chik Fil-A franchises are in the South;  as such, I have often lived in close proximity to one or more of them.  I have never given them my business.  If I want fast food chicken, it's KFC for me.  I was never even tempted to go into a Chik Fil-A. 
Standard ad for the company.
The company seems to have aimed its product toward Southern Crackers and Hillbillies, even basing the name of their restaurant on the assumption that their target constituency was illiterate.  Perhaps their misspelling of Chick can be deemed playful, but there is no doubt in my mind that they came up with "Fil-A" because they were sure their customers would recoil from an unusual word like "filet." Even in today's sophisticated world, their motto for years has been "Eat Mor Chiken." 
Another ad celebrating their
customers' illiteracy.

I'll pass on any corporation who, from their name to their advertising, ridicules the fact that, for decades, many southerners could not read nor write.

But back to those warhorses, The Muppets.  The Jim Henson Co. has publicly disassociated itself with Chik, while the franchise has yanked Muppet merchandise from their kids' meals, due to "safety issues."
The company's PR machine is lousy, and this feeble explanation as to why Muppet toys are no longer available at Chik Fil-A is laughable, not to mention a hypocritical slap in the face of the company's so-called Bible-based conscience.
The Henson Co has announced that all the proceeds they have received due to their unfortunate relationship with the bigoted company will be donated to GLAAD. 
The mayors of both Boston and Chicago have issued statements that Chiks are not welcome there;  in retaliation, Mike Huckabee and other right wing pols are staging a Support Chik Fil-A day next week. 
Paul Williams wrote "Rainbow Connection," and
sang it a number of times, including in an episode
of Picket Fences.

I feel perfectly comfortable with the position Dan Cathy has placed his company in, though it's said that any kind of boycott will likely harm them only slightly.  They already cater to citizens who agree with their principles regarding marriage, and boycotts don't tend to be as effective as the threats of boycotts do (I wrote about that a long while ago, and if you care to, check out that entry's comments as well, as a lively debate sprang up about "economic bullying").  Anyhoo, my admiration for the stance Jim Henson's caretakers have taken outweighs my distaste for his most famous creations, and I have a lot of respect for the Muppets these days.  So do others, of course, including the guy who edited this week's Dance Party, who also supplied the vocals.  Appropriately, the number in this clip is one of the most famous of the Muppet songs, and its message is pretty apropos.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Holm, Sweet Holm

Celeste Holm
1917-2012
She had already played Broadway (as Mary L in The Time of Your Life, which introduced Gene Kelly to the world) when she landed the role which launched her career.  Auditioning for the new musical Oklahoma!, she sang a ditty from an operetta.  Composer Richard Rodgers was not impressed, and told her so, saying that he needed someone "with a little less polish." Celeste let out a whooping hog call ("Suuuuuuuuuuu-Eeeeeeeeeeee") and landed the role of man-hungry Ado Annie, stopping the show every night with her rendition of "I Cain't Say No."  
The original cast of Oklahoma!
The lady had polish.

Richard Rodgers was right, though, when he noted Holm's natural polish.  She portrayed all sorts of characters in a career which lasted over sixty years, and her most memorable appearances were indeed ladies with "polish." 
Holm's follow-up to Oklahoma! was
the Harold Arlen rarity, Bloomer Girl.

She earned three Oscar nods, including the role for which all theatrical junkies will best remember her, as Bette Davis's wavering best friend Karen in All About Eve (she lost to Josephine Hull from Harvey; Celeste won the award for her supporting turn in Gentlemen's Agreement).
As Margo's best friend in All About Eve, Holm gave a nuanced portrayal of a woman uneasily manipulated by Anne Baxter's Eve. In the film, her Karen caused the star to miss a performance which launched  understudy Eve's career.
Celeste and her 4th husband, Wesley Addy,
occasionally worked together, including
a stint on the soap Loving.
On the small screen, our gal was a regular on Promised Land, a spin-off of the more successful Touched By An Angel, and she spent some time on the daytime soap Loving, as grande dame Isabelle Alden.  She played the press secretary on the shortlived sitcom Nancy, regarding the daughter of the President of the United States, and she earned an Emmy nomination as Mrs. Warren G. Harding in the mini-series Backstairs At The White House. 
Celeste earned an Emmy nod
in the miniseries deemed "Upstairs/
Downstairs at the White House."
The highlight of her television career, though, was probably the role for which an entire generation knows her, as the Fairy Godmother in the remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren. 
Rodger's and Hammerstein's TV musical Cinderella received a major remake in the mid-60s. It was my first encounter with Celeste Holm.
I was lucky enough to see Celeste Holm onstage, twice. 
Allan Bennett had an early flop
with this British sex farce. I saw it.
Celeste Holm was in it.

Frankly, I don't remember her at all in the Broadway production of Alan Bennett's sex farce Habeas Corpus (I wrote about seeing that show here), but I certainly remember her work in I Hate Hamlet (in fact, it was her presence in the show which encouraged me to see it, only a day after the show's star caused an onstage uproar.  I wrote about that here).  Sadly, this sophisticated, "polished" lady was forced into relative poverty in her later years, when she married a some-time opera singer (and some-time waiter) who was 45 years her junior. 
Celeste's marriage to her 5th husband ignited
a family brawl which bankrupted our gal.

Her sons from her various previous marriages objected, and they dragged their mother through the courts during the last years of her life.  Holm lived in relative poverty in her home on New York's Central Park West, an apartment she purchased for $10,000 decades ago but which is now valued at well over 2 million.  She was recently sued for being delinquent on her homeowner dues, and was reportedly living only on her Social Security pension when she died this week at the age of 95, estranged from her sons.

This week's Dance Party deals with the double-edged sword of wealth and privilege.  It comes from one of Celeste's movie musicals, High Society.  It's the musical version of the Philip Barry classic The Philadelphia Story, with a score by Cole Porter, and features the final film appearance (and only musical role) of Grace Kelly. 
For the musical,
Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and
Jimmy Stewart were replaced by Bing,
Princess Grace, and Ol' Blue Eyes.
By the time the movie was released, Kelly had fled Hollywood for Monaco and acquired the title of princess. When compared with the breezy perfection of the original, High Society does not measure up, but viewed on its own, the musical contains a few gems (none of them involving Bing Crosby, who was too old for the role made famous by Cary Grant).  Frank Sinatra is playing the role which won James Stewart his only Oscar, and our gal Celeste is playing his confederate journalist.  There may be a bit of irony in viewing this number, which wonders who wants to be a millionaire, when our heroine was in such financial difficulty at the time of her own death. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Dance Party: A Little Brains, A Little Talent

Gwen Verdon does not star in this week's Dance Party.

Richard Adler
1921-2012
Though this guy had a very long career as a composer, lyricist, and producer, it must be confessed that he peaked pretty early, back in the 1950s.  He provided Tony Bennett with a top-selling hit ("Rags to Riches"), and years later, he did the same for Doris Day ("Everybody Loves A Lover"). 
Adler's first Broadway show was this
revue, starring Hermione Gingold and
Billy DeWolfe.
But he is surely best remembered for his Broadway career, during which he won back-to-back Tony Awards for two musicals which are still considered classics of the golden age of the musical comedy.  Those hits were the result of his collaboration with Jerry Ross, with whom he teamed to write both music and lyrics.  
Jerry Ross's untimely death in 1955 ended their collaboration, and though Adler continued working until his death last month, he never matched his earlier achievements. 

He wrote a couple of forgettable musicals for his wife at the time, Sally Ann Howes, and he produced one of Richard Rodgers' flops, Rex
Who thought the life of Henry VIII would make a good musical? Adler did, as he produced Rex, one of Richard Rodgers's late-career flops. The gal on the far left is Glenn Close, making her Broadway debut as the princess who would grow up to become Bloody Mary.
Monroe's Happy Birthday song to
JFK has become an historical
video documenting his infidelity.
Speaking of producing, our hero was responsible for one of the most memorable events of the Kennedy presidency, the birthday bash during which Marilyn Monroe turned the Birthday Song into a seductive siren's song. 

But let's get back to Broadway.  In the 1950s, Adler and Ross became proteges of the great Frank Loesser, so it was a natural step for the team to hit Broadway.  Their first show was a musical revue, John Murray Anderson's Almanac, which ran a full season in 1953, which was considered a respectable run for writers making their Broadway debuts. 
Almanac launched Hermione Gingold's career
in America.

Their next two shows, though, were legitimate smashes, and solidified their place in the history of American Musical Theatre.  In 1954, Adler and Ross adapted a novel about union workers into The Pajama Game, which remains one of the most revived musicals in educational and community theatre settings. 
Harry Connick, Jr.'s acclaimed performance
in this 2006 revival created expectations
which were dashed when he returned to
Broadway in On A Clear Day, which I
wrote about here.

The show is often remembered for its launching of the career of Shirley Maclaine, who was understudy to supporting player Carol Haney when Haney broke her foot. 
Carol Haney in the role in The Pajama Game which Shirley Maclaine covered.
Maclaine went on in her place and, as legend has it, was discovered by a Hollywood producer who turned her into a movie star. 
Shirley Maclaine
The story is true, but is often a bit misunderstood;  theatrical lore has it that Maclaine had incredible good luck to be viewed by Hal Wallis, the producer from Paramount in question, during the one performance she gave as understudy.  In fact, Carol Haney was out of The Pajama Game for several months, and Shirley performed the role of Gladys during that entire period, not, as is supposed, for a single show.   Haney won the Tony for her performance, but Maclaine got the Hollywood career.

Only a year after The Pajama Game opened (it was still running to full houses), Adler and Ross delivered their second smash, Damn Yankees.  This show elevated dancer Gwen Verdon to star status;  she won the Tony, as did her co-star Ray Walston. 
Gwen Verdon initially turned down the
role of Lola in Damn Yankees. She changed
her mind and landed on the cover of Time.

Though solidly constructed, I would not call this show a masterpiece by any means.  In fact, the show was so tailored to the talents of Verdon that one of her dance numbers (which graced the Dance Party here) is sometimes cut from the show these days, rightfully so.  Not everybody can dance like Verdon.  But Damn Yankees remains a particular favorite of mine, as Walston's role, the Devil, is a dream role of mine.  I played it in Glendale, CA in 1992 (and would kill to play it again before I have to play it in a wheelchair.  I pompously offered this clip from that production as a Dance Party on my birthday a few years ago). 
Jerry Lewis made a belated Broadway
debut replacing Victor Garber in the
1994 revival of Damn Yankees. His
presence extended the run, but his antics
became legendary. He often halted the
show to drop character
and present a stand-up routine.

Both Pajama Game and Damn Yankees have had several Broadway revivals, and this week's Dance Party comes from one.  Musicals from this period usually featured a supporting female character which was primarily a dance role.  Carol Haney's role in Pajama Game was such a role, as is the role featured in this week's clip.  Though Damn Yankees hardly needed another dance role, since Gwen Verdon's Lola did more than her share of hoofing, the writers added one anyway, that of female sports reporter Gloria Thorpe.  In the 1994 revival, the role was played by Vickie Lewis, who co-starred on the sitcom NewsRadio before turning to the Broadway stage.  Here she shows off strong musical comedy chops, in her big number which was broadcast on the Tony Awards that year.

Richard Adler and Jerry Ross were on their way to becoming a substantial composing team when Ross suddenly died in 1955. Because their output was halted, they are not always as admired as other musical writers of the period such as Lerner and Loewe, Sheldon and Harnick, and the very young Stephen Sondheim, all of whom created a full canon of musical theatre gems.  But I submit that the back-to-back successes of Pajama Game and Damn Yankees place Adler and Ross in the pantheon of great
composers of the American musical theatre.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Theatre Droppings: The Night Larry Kramer Reminded Me

Last week, I saw Arena Stage's production of The Normal Heart. It brought back many memories of a particular time in my life, and of a particular production in grad school.
Brad Davis starred in the original Off-Broadway production. He went on to Midnight Express, Sybil, and a notorious performance in the French film Querelle. He was one of a number of Normal Heart's original players to die of AIDS.
As everybody knows, or ought to, The Normal Heart was written by that mouthy firebrand Larry Kramer when the AIDS epidemic was roaring to life in 1985.  It concerns the early days of the disease, and the group of men (and one female doctor) who were fighting to bring this puzzling killer to the attention of the public. 
This Arena Stage production is billed as the first stop of a national tour. But future dates have yet to announced. Such an incendiary piece is tough to book for the road.
I loved the Arena production, which is peopled with many of the same actors who performed the recent Broadway revival which won the Tony. 
Patrick Breen has been one of my
favorites for years. He's leading a
great cast at Arena.
Some of the local critics complained that the text is preachy and didactic, but I did not find it so.  I found the show to be scarily prophetic and darkly humorous, winningly played by a dynamite cast.  The "speechifying" which some critics disliked was dynamically delivered, and I wept with frustration and sorrow through much of the show.
Panels from the AIDS quilt are on display in the lobby of Arena Stage during the run of The Normal Heart. Large portions of the quilt are currently on the National Mall and other DC venues, to coincide with the International AIDS conference to be held in DC this month. The full quilt can no longer be displayed in one place, as it measures 50 square miles and weighs 54 tons.
The Normal Heart has itself been on my radar for many years, though I had never seen a production of it, nor even read the full script. 
Patricia Wettig won Emmys for
thirtysomething, and is pretty
ferocious in the role which won
Ellen Barkin the Tony.

This is shameful on my part, as the play is one of the monuments of modern theatre, and I own a prestigious copy of it.  Years ago, a dear friend sent me a fantastic birthday gift: an autographed copy of the play's original working script, complete with edits pencilled into the margins by the one of the original cast members.  She bought the item at auction, just for me.  She knew I would treasure it, as The Normal Heart played a big part in one of the most significant periods in my own life.
Joe Montello, on the left, returned to acting to play the lead role in the recent Broadway revival. I saw him in the original Angels in America, before he became a respected director. (He turned the critically dismissed Wicked into the smash of the decade.)
In 1993, I left Los Angeles, where I had been living for almost 20 years, for the east coast, to attend grad school in South Carolina.  Before the big move, I drove into Hollywood to see David Drake perform his self-written one-man play, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me
David Drake won the Obie.

It was all about coming of age as a young gay man during the late 70s and early 80s, a time of discos, gym bunnies, sexual freedom, and, tragically, the outbreak of AIDS.  I was greatly moved by Drake's play.  I arrived at the University of South Carolina, wondering if there would ever be a time in my life that I could attempt such a feat, to appear alone onstage for 90 minutes, performing such a provocative yet deeply personal piece.

I was kept exceptionally busy during grad school (I appeared in 11 shows during the two years I was on campus), but by chance, there was a break in my performance year, in the early spring of 1995.  At one of the periodic meetings I had with my advisory committee, I was asked what I wanted to accomplish during my second year of study.  Almost off-handedly, I mentioned that I would love to attempt to perform the solo role in The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.  Immediately, the chair of my committee, Jim Patterson, asked, "Oh, may I direct you in it?"

This reaction took the idea out of the realm of dreamy "what-ifs" and into the arena of "What the hell have I gotten myself into?" 
Jim ran the MFA directing program on campus, and was an admired director in the professional theatres in the region as well. 
Patterson directed me as Algernon in ...Earnest,
in a production which transferred to
Charlotte Rep for a professional run.

He had already directed me in The Importance of Being Earnest and Anything Goes, and we had developed a good working relationship. Still, the fact that a man of his reputation was eager to direct a student-generated production was pretty big news.  (Jim had seen the same production of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me that I had, in New York,  before it transferred to L.A..)
A promo shot of our ...Larry Kramer...

The play was a series of monologues, taking a gay man from early childhood (and his fascination with Barbie and the Village People) into his life as an out-and-proud gay artist.  It was really David Drake's own story, but it spoke to many of us, as it gave a very personal look at the obstacles, defeats, and victories a lot of us endured.  Some of the monologues were hysterically funny, some deeply tragic (in particular, when the AIDS crisis hit Drake's life in New York).  There were only a few really dark moments in the piece, and all of those dealt with AIDS. 
Drake lit a candle as he told the story of each of his
friends who were dying of AIDS. In rehearsal, I was
thinking of my high school buddy Matthew, my college
chum Gordon, my favorite bartender Justin, and the first
openly gay man I ever knew, my high school
 music teacher, Mr. Hill.

Drake told the story of several of his tribe who were taken by the disease, and how he coped with the mounting losses in his life.  In rehearsal, I was to find these scenes particularly moving to play, and I was often thinking of those in my own life I had lost.  This play was to be the most challenging piece of theatre I have ever tackled. 

In addition, I was to be challenged in another way: physically.  The narrator of the story is extremely well-built, and extremely sexual, and I was neither. 
Two sequences in particular were the most frightening to me.  In one, I was to move through a full gym workout, and in the other, I was to cruise a leather bar.  Oh, and in the bar, I was to be shirtless, and in the gym, I was to strip to a jock-strap.  Sounds just like me, doesn't it?  I was terrified of these two sequences.
David Drake worked his exhibitionism into "12-inch Single," the sequence taking place in the leather bar. There was no way to fully realize his play without the overt sexuality.
Director Jim and I agreed that I could not realistically portray this guy unless I put on some muscle, so, about 10 weeks before we opened, I started a diet and hit the gym.  These were two things I had never done before;  I enlisted my grad school cohort Elliot, who was a gym bunny at the time, to teach me how to work out effectively. 
Elliot nearly killed me in the gym.

Our first day in the weight room, he instructed me on the correct usages of all the equipment.  The next day, I could barely move, and the day after that, I though Elliot had tried to kill me.  His coaching was extreme but effective, and I hit the gym on campus at least 5 days a week.  In addition, I took all the fat out of my diet (that was the latest diet fad at the time) and of course, knocked off the booze.  Because I was so busy at school, I didn't have much trouble keeping to the new routine of eating and working out: I had no time to be hungry or sore. 

Several weeks went by, and I tried not to freak out about the fact that I did not seem to be losing much weight; I was told that as fat was reducing, I was gaining muscle, which is just as heavy.  But when you examine such things closely every day, you really can't see much change.  About 5 weeks into my workout program, our movement class had a guest instructor, who was head of the dance program on campus.  She moved among the 8 of us during class, adjusting our stances and such.  Nonchalantly, as she moved my shoulders around, she asked, "You lift weights, don't you?"  I was stunned into silence.  Then I glanced in the mirrored walls which encased the dance studio.  Each and every one of my fellow students, all of whom were well aware that I was trying to get into shape for this upcoming show, had stopped in their tracks, and Elliot was beaming like a proud papa. 
Another promo shot. I regret we took
no production shots of the show.

The physical transformation worked, and at age 38, I was in the best shape of my adult life.

The title of this piece, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, referenced a moment in David Drake's life in which he was forever changed.  He was not literally kissed by Larry Kramer, in fact, I don't believe he had even met him before writing his play.  But he was figuratively kissed by Kramer, the night he saw the original production of Kramer's play, The Normal Heart.  In turn, I have always felt that, during March and April of 1995, when I donned leather jacket and jockstrap to do The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, I was kissed by David Drake, by doing his one-man play. 
Our success on campus lead to a professional run during Columbia's Gay Pride Celebration. All three theatre critics in the city sited our show among their Top-Ten Favorite Productions of the year.
Larry Kramer
This week, though, I can now claim I've been kissed by Larry Kramer, too, by seeing his groundbreaking The Normal Heart.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Dance Party: The Gentle Sitcom

This was a week full of incident, including the fourth of July, of course, and two trips to Arena Stage in DC to see some theatrical offerings.  And for a holiday week in the midst of summer, there were several newsy items of note. 
I think one of these Big Bang Boys discovered
something important to science. I didn't get
the full story.
The boys on the Big Bang Theory, or boys like them, discovered some atomic thingy which now explains the universe.  An at-home HIV test was approved, which will allow people who are too embarrassed to ask for such a test from their doctor,  to determine if they carry the virus.

The week began, as they so often do, on Monday, which happened to be my birthday. 
It wasn't one of those biggies, but I still received buttloads of salutations, thank you social media. Just as I was reveling in the realization that hundreds of people were taking the time to press some buttons on my behalf, my day was hijacked by this guy:
Don't look so cute and innocent. You know what you did.
Now, I have admired Anderson Cooper forever, and I am very pleased that he publicly acknowledged what everybody already knew, but really, on MY birthday? You couldn't have done it on TUESDAY? Well, his announcement was welcome, whenever it came, and his low keyed eloquence in explaining his reasons for remaining silent for so long rang true to me. There was a lively discussion on Monday regarding the fact that perhaps Coop (he likes me to call him Coop) should have come out a long time ago, but whatev. I believe him when he says that he remained discreet about his personal life in order to keep himself from being the Subject of the Story. 
Anderson Cooper and his flame dame Kathy Griffin are appointment television for me on New Year's Eve.
There were, however, some very shrewd decisions made about the timing of all this. The email in which Coop verified his sexuality was dropped on what is known in PR circles as "Take Out The Trash Day." 
Coop's news dropped on a day when
news is not a top priority. My birthday.

These are days which surround a national holiday, when the general public is concerned with things other than current events, and when difficult news is often announced, in hopes that the majority of Americans are too busy to make much fuss. But my overall point here, Coop, is that there are several Take Out The Trash Days this week, since Independence day fell on Wednesday. Did you have to pick my birthday?
OK, I kinda forgive you.
Since Anderson Cooper so rarely sings or dances, I was forced to turn to some sad news this week to inspire this week's Dance Party.

Andy Griffith
1926-2012
Everybody knows by now that Griffith died this week from a heart attack.  He was one of the most recognizable figures ever to come out of television, which is where he made his mark in two long-running series.  Griffith started his career as a singer, and made the move to stand-up comedy with a monologue about being a hick. 
Griffith, directed by Elia Kazan, held his own
opposite Patricia Neal. For a while, he was considered
a successor to Brando.

Film roles followed, including a strong dramatic turn in A Face In The Crowd, and a career-changing role in No Time For Sergeants, which Andy played on Broadway and on film.  He was pegged to star in his own comedy series by way of a back-door pilot episode of The Danny Thomas Show. 
Danny Thomas was stranded in Mayberry, and served up a pilot for The Andy Griffith Show.
To my own disappointment, I must confess that I was not a fan of The Andy Griffith Show when it first aired in the 60s. 
I couldn't stand these "gentle sitcoms." Give
me the sophistication of That Girl.

It was part of a generation of gentle sitcoms which peppered the landscape at that time (My Three Sons, Family Affair, Ozzie and Harriet, and a bit later, The Doris Day Show, were all part of that genre, as were the Paul Henning programs like The Beverly Hillbillies and its descendants).  I was more excited by modern-seeming sitcoms of the time, like Bewitched, That Girl, and later, the MTM stable of shows.  I thought these shows were more sophisticated with their humor, a claim which I'm not sure holds true in retrospect. 

The show's progeny included a sequel,
Mayberry RFD, and this spinoff, Gomer Pyle.
The latter took place on a Marine training base
during the 60s, but never mentioned Vietnam.

There is another reason I tended to avoid the "ruralcoms" of the day.  In the 60s, I spent significant time in a small town in the North Carolina mountains, where the fictional Mayberry was located.  My parents were born and raised in Hendersonville, which was exponentially larger than Mayberry, but had similarities to that small town. 
Not Mayberry, this is Hendersonville, where I spent many summers during the late 60s. There is a similarity.
I spent many summer weeks in Hendersonville; long afternoons on the front porch swing, drinking my Aunt Millie's sweet tea, were very similar to the activities portrayed on The Andy Griffith Show. I was being raised in Atlanta, whose inhabitants considered themselves much more cosmopolitan than other southerners, especially the "hicks" (as I thought of them) who populated Mayberry, NC. 
I appreciate Griffith's supporting cast
now, though at the time, I missed
their chemistry.

I did begin to enjoy Andy Griffith's show much later, in reruns, when the chemistry among the cast was evident to me, and the gentle humor of the show, though cornpone, had its own charm.  This week's clip comes from one of the many scenes which included a song.  As I've noted before in these pages, when sitcoms of the day starred someone who was also known as a singer, those talents were put to use. 
Don Knotts won 5 Emmys for the show.

It's interesting to note that Don Knotts, as Andy's sidekick, sings quite well in this and other clips from the series.  But if memory serves, there were at least a couple of episodes along the line which centered on Barney Fife's inability to carry a tune.  Whatever, we don't expect that kind of consistency from these shows. 

And the contributions of Andy Griffith to this series were substantial.  His decision to place himself in the central paternal role, and surround himself with more comedic characters, meant that he robbed himself of many of the laughs, but in doing so, he created a lasting legacy of gentle homespun humor.