Sunday, May 29, 2005

We'll Miss You Ernest T.

I knew this day would come, but I didn't want to face it. Howard Morris is dead. He was crazy Ernest T. Bass on the "The Andy Griffith" show and gave one of the most fearless performances I've ever seen. In only 5 episodes, he created an indelible persona as tough and wiry as an overcooked chicken leg. If you want to know more about how "Howie" came up with this classic nutcase, you gotta go to the Ernest T. web site…it's precious insight from an actor who appeared goofy on the outside but who took his work very seriously.

I didn't realize how great he was until I watched some reruns of "Your Show of Shows" and there he was: as the German general's assistant, a member of the spoofed 1950s musical group "The Haircuts", as a stuffed suit board member acting shocked at Sid Caesar's outrageous antics. He could do it all and underneath his performances were sparks of madness and a really nice guy.

As a cartoon fan, I heard his voice in lots of commercials, "The Jetsons" and "The Archie Show." Even Qantas Airlines is paying tribute to Howard this week. He was the voice of the koala bear who hated Qantas for bringing all the tourists to Australia.

I think everybody has one or two performers in their lifetime who they become curious about. Although I never wrote Howard Morris for an autograph or attended an Andy Griffith Show reunion, I continuously sought out other Ernest T. fans and I regularly checked the internet to see what he had done lately. In the meantime, my mom and I could always crack each other up doing Ernest T. imitations.

I can't really add anything interesting to the obituaries and tributes that have already been written. Except I have to say that the fact that he was married and divorced FIVE TIMES says a lot about his tenacity when it came to women and romance. He was a chameleon who started in show biz early, worked hard and achieved popular success. He showed flashes of brilliance and I'm just really glad Howard Morris was in this world. And I'm equally sorry he's gone. Thank goodness for reruns and sweet memories.

Washington Post obituary

San Jose Mercury News obituary


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