Every city has its own form of social capital. In New York, it’s net worth. To be socially prominent, one needs to be on the Forbes billionaire’s list. In Boston, it’s pedigree. To get the best invitations, an ancestor who took a ride on the HMS Mayflower is highly recommended. In Los Angeles, fame and celebrity is all that counts.
But in Mount Airy, the one thing that matters is your personal connection to Andy Griffith. How close is it? Did you know him personally? Did someone in your family? Do you attend the same church that he did? Do you, or have you ever, lived on the same street that he lived? Did anyone in your family? These and many others are all perfectly respectable connections but unless you and probably your family before you, have lived in Mount Airy for your whole lives, this sort of connection is fairly hard to come by.
Since coming to work in Mount Airy a year ago, I have met and talked to many people with Andy Griffith connections. Last Christmas, I covered the Surry realtor group’s holiday party where they crowned the queen and king of Surry real estate for 50 years of service to their industry; Louise Taylor, who sold Andy Griffith’s homeplace for her school pal when he moved his family out to California, and Bracky Rogers who auctioned Frances Bavier’s estate after her passing. Though Ms. Taylor was the first woman to be licensed as a realtor in Surry County, the Andy Griffith connection is her real claim to fame. That’s just how Mount Airy rolls.
Perhaps I feel this a little too much. But my predecessor at the lifestyle desk of the Mount Airy News, the legendary Eleanor Powell, was a school chum of Andy Griffith. How do I compete with that? I cannot.
Andy Griffith left Mount Airy before I was born and my mom and dad did not matriculate at Mount Airy High School. They went to Mountain Park and Traphill, respectively. My dad, God forbid, was a student in Wilkes County. As was I. There is apparently no hope for me in the pecking order of Mount Airy society.
That is what I thought until last night when I consulted Google and learned from our mutual Silicon Valley friend that Andy Griffith guest starred on the Sonny and Cher Show on Nov. 16, 1972 and I saw a photo of Andy and Sonny taken that very night in which Andy was wearing a very questionable tie and a peculiar coiffeur.
What may seem to you as random trivia is the basis of my Mount Airy bona fides. Let me explain. Exactly 10 years later, Sonny Bono, after his tenure as mayor of Palm Springs, California and before representing California’s 44th congressional district in 1994, along with his then wife, model and actress Susie Coelho, bought cappuccinos and perhaps salads (it’s hard to remember) from yours truly, an impoverished fashion student toiling in the café at Barney’s, back when Barneys was still on 17th Street in Chelsea.
I remember it well. The new Mrs. Bono was exquisitely beautiful in the way that models who want to be actresses often are and Mayor Bono was a disheveled mess with his very expensive shirt coming untucked from his more expensive trousers. Since the café at Barneys regularly hosted celebrities, I was not overly impressed with Mr. Bono. After all, my first customer on the job had been Paul Newman. My low opinion of the importance of my workplace acquaintance with Sonny Bono persisted until yesterday.
That’s when it came to me. According to the rules laid down by Kevin Bacon, I am two degrees separated from Andy Griffith. By Sonny Bono, a U.S. congressman, a Republican congressman no less, the preferred brand of Surry County. Unfortunately, a congressman who met his maker by plowing his skis into a tree like the coyote on a Roadrunner cartoon but a Republican congressman nonetheless.
It would have been better, of course, if I had made an espresso for Andy himself but I don’t recall that I ever did. Two degrees and Sonny Bono will have to do.
I am humbled and honored to take my place in Mount Airy society.
Bill Colvard is the lifestyles writer for the Mount Airy News and can be reached at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.