Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors Disturb Peace in Tupper Lake

Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors in an internet photo with this caption: “The juxtaposition between the brawny Hudson and the dorky Nabors, who were friends, made it even more hilarious. Many in Hollywood knew Hudson was gay, but Jim Nabors was deeply closeted, although their mutual friend Carol Burnett knew about both. Nabors had a post-Gomer Pyle variety show, The Jim Nabors Hour, where Rock had guest appearances.”

This story is by the late Kathleen Bigrow of Tupper Lake who was an Enterprise reporter for decades. Kathleen produced reams of stories and photos over those years…if one heard about a happening in Tupper Lake and it was not covered in the newspaper by Kathleen Bigrow then it probably never happened.

I love the headline [because I probably wrote it] but I could never match Kathleen’s story: “The excitement that rocked [no pun intended] Park Street in Tupper Lake yesterday noon was no doubt the greatest since the big fire of the late 1890s. Never have so many people been shaken up by an event that ever befell this lumberjack town.

“The cause of such agitation was the unexpected appearance of none other than the great movie idol, Rock Hudson, and the great TV comedian, Jim Nabors, otherwise known as Gomer Pyle.

“The forty women who descended on the Blue Anchor Restaurant between 12:05 and 1:20 were a sight to behold.

“According to an eyewitness account, the first to spot and recognize the visitors was Bruce Van Vranken who was dining in the restaurant with his working companion, Delia Payment. They passed the information on to two other diners, Lillian Cootware and Mrs. Fred Futterman.

“Simmone LaBarge, the waitress at the noon hour rush, served the guests. With shaking hands and stumbling feet she served them chopped sirloin steak, medium done, and both had a second cup of coffee with their meal. Cooking the food, which the visitors said was delicious, was Peggy Haile, second in command of the restaurant, who under no condition would leave the safety of the kitchen.

“Late yesterday as the crowds continued to tour through the Blue Anchor Restaurant and the telephone continued to ring, it was rumored that the restaurant management had roped off the table where the distinguished had dined. During the slow winter months, when business is at a standstill, they hope to make enough to keep the wolf away from the door by charging a small fee to those who would like to sit where Hudson and Nabors sat.

“Not only were the women of the community thrilled but some of the male inhabitants were equally ecstatic. One gentleman, who we will not name, nearly fell out of a second story window trying to get a glimpse of the famed visitors. He would have fallen to the sidewalk below if some less excited gals at the window hadn’t grabbed him by the boot straps. If he had fallen the spot where he landed could have been roped off with a monument erected bearing the inscription, ‘His downfall attributed to Hudson and Nabors.’ “While we didn’t see the visitors, we were unfortunate to receive some of the backlash. At that time we had an appointment with our hairdresser, and, believe me, I hope this is the last time Hudson and Nabors visit Tupper Lake during the noon hour. Mrs. Payment was in no condition to resume her hairdressing duties after a close-up of Hudson and Nabors. She really was ‘shook.’ “The gentleman who was keeping watch at the Blue Anchor Restaurant said, ‘here they come’! And come they did in a yellow Chrysler taking the road to Watertown.”

Hudson [1925-1985] was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. He served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. He was 6’4″ and made the 6′ Nabors look short when they were pictured together.

James Thurston Nabors [1930-2017] was best remembered on the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ as the service station attendant constantly driving Deputy Barney Fife nuts with his, ‘Shazam’ and ‘Goillllly’!


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