Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise! After more than 50 years in Hollywood, 82-year-old "Gomer Pyle: USMC" and "Andy Griffith Show" star Jim Nabors has confirmed he's been in a relationship with former Honolulu fireman Stan Cadwallader for nearly 40 years and that the two got married in Seattle on Jan. 15.
While talking to Hawaii News Now, Nabors said his sexuality wasn't a big secret. He was just keeping his private life private all these years. "I'm 82 and (Stan is) in his 60s, and so we've been together for 38 years and I'm not ashamed of people knowing," Nabors said. "It's just that it was such a personal thing, I didn't tell anybody. I'm very happy that I've had a partner of 38 years and I feel very blessed. And, what can I tell you, I'm just very happy."
The now-retired Nabors, who has lived in Hawaii since 1976, was born in Alabama in 1930 and attended college in his home state before moving to New York City to try his luck in showbiz. While auditioning for his big break, he paid his bills by working as a typist for the United Nations, where he met, among others, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Nabors landed a guest gig on "The Steve Allen Show" and, after moving to California, was spotted by Andy Griffith and asked to audition for the now-classic CBS comedy "The Andy Griffith Show," playing naive Mayberry auto mechanic Gomer Pyle.
The character proved so popular that Nabors was given his own spinoff series, "Gomer Pyle: USMC," in which Gomer joined the Marines, and once that series ended, Nabors hosted his own variety series, "The Jim Nabors Hour," for two seasons.
That's the general scoop on the man who would be Gomer, but below, 12 things you might not have known about the actor and singer:
1. For 25 years, Nabors owned a macadamia nut farm in Maui, before selling it to a conservationist organization. He still owns farming rights to the farm, and a private home on the property, as well as homes in Los Angeles and Montana. In the video below, Nabors gives a tour of his mac nut farm home. P.S.: The video's director says Nabors flew him in to the property via his private plane, which we're assuming means mac nut farming, selling albums via TV commercials and playing Gomer Pyle has been very, very good to the star.
2. James Thurston Nabors's signature character, Gomer Pyle, was often described as dim-witted, but the actor himself once described the kindhearted Gomer as someone who just wanted to see the good in everyone. We'd describe him as the dark-haired, '60s version of "30 Rock" Southerner Kenneth Ellen Parcell, aka Kenneth the page, with tough, wise-crackin' Sgt. Carter as Gomer's Jack Donaghy. Gomer's catchphrases: "Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise," "Shame, shame, shame," "Shazam!" and "Goll-ll-y!"
3. Sporting oh-so-hip leisure suits, Nabors often sang with his guests on "The Jim Nabors Hour," including, in the clip below, the Jackson 5. Other guests during the show's run included Glen Campbell, Wayne Newton, Don Rickles, Carol Burnett, Bob Newhart, Engelbert Humperdinck, Rock Hudson, and Andy Griffith.
4. Speaking of the late Hudson, an urban legend in the 1970s spread that suggested Nabors and Hudson were going to marry. Many believed the gossip, even after hearing the end of the gossipy story: that Hudson was going to change his last name to that of Nabors's famous TV character, making him Rock Pyle.
5. Nabors had started singing as a child and would often perform at church. When he became a TV star, he pursued his singing career in his free time, and went on to record 28 albums, earning one platinum record and five gold records. His albums were sold via TV commercial -- in which he continued to rock those leisure suits -- like the one below for "The Heart-Touching Magic of Jim Nabors," which was available on vinyl … and, of course, 8-track tape.
6. Nabors is a longtime friend of Carol Burnett, with whom he had a comedy act in the early years of their careers. Burnett, who has called Nabors her good-luck charm, asked him to guest in the first episode of her iconic sketch comedy series "The Carol Burnett Show," and she guest-starred on "Gomer Pyle: USMC." In 1994, when the actor was nearly on his deathbed with liver failure, she found a top doctor and helped get her friend on the list for a liver transplant, which saved his life.
7. Nabors also starred, for one season in 1975-76, in "The Lost Saucer," a Sid and Marty Krofft live-action kiddie show in which he and comedienne Ruth Buzzi played time-travelling androids from the 2369 -- named Fi and Fum -- who land on Earth in their flying saucer. The show was super campy (Nabors even sang in some episodes), and … well, see for yourself:
8. In 1976, as the house performer during a two-year stint at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Nabors starred in "The Jim Nabors Polynesian Extravaganza."
9. In 1986, Nabors shot the pilot for a half-hour sitcom called "Sylvan in Paradise," in which he played the bumbling bellhop -- with the delightfully alliterative name Sylvan Sprayberry -- who worked at a hotel in Hawaii. The pilot wasn't picked up by NBC, but it did feature a future network superstar: "Friends" star Courteney Cox as the hotel owner's niece, as well as pre-"Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Brent Spiner as the hotel's manager, Clinton C. Waddle.
10. Nabors won a Razzie Award in 1984 for Worst Supporting Actor for portraying -- what else? -- a mechanic, in the Burt Reynolds/Loni Anderson stinkburger "Stroker Ace."
11. Nabors was also a frequent guest star on "The Muppet Show," where he sang comical performances -- aided or hampered by various Muppets -- of tunes like "Gone With the Wind" and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
12. Nabors has been a fixture at the Indy 500 for decades, opening the festivities with a performance of "Back Home Again in Indiana." He sang the song at Indy from 1972-78, several times in the '80s, and every year from 1987-2007, save the 2007 race when he was ill. Last year, the star was again too sick to travel from Hawaii to Indiana, but his performance of the song is so treasured by race organizers that they sent a video crew to him to record him crooning the tune.