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A Friendly Tradition
Jim Nabors - A Friendly Tradition A friendly tradition was a yearly event Jim Nabors loved to be a part of.

Jim Nabors and more than 100 friends will fill the Hawaii Theatre with music and stories

By John Berger
Star Bulletin

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 27, 2009


Christmas ShowIt's the smiles that mean the most to Jim Nabors these days. Smiles from people who recognize him, recall some special moment -- maybe a "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." episode, maybe a comic sketch with Carol Burnett -- and smile with their memories.

"That means more to me than anything," Nabors said during lunch with his sister, Ruth, and several friends on Saturday. Several people at nearby tables recognized him; one group, all too young to have seen "Gomer Pyle" during its original run in the '60s, asked whether he would join them for a photo afterward. He graciously complied.

Hawaii residents, especially those who remember Nabors' annual Christmas show, "A Merry Christmas with Friends & Nabors," have more reason than usual to smile when they see him these days.

Nabors announced several years ago that with the death of producer Tom Hansen, the time had come to retire the always popular production. But he's been persuaded to bring it back for a hana hou run this weekend at the Hawaii Theatre, thanks to the efforts of Burton White, artistic director and general manager of the theater.

"Tom Hansen is the one who put the show together for me each year," said Nabors. "Tom was my choreographer all the years I played Las Vegas, (and) he did such great shows.

"When Tom died I didn't really want to produce it ... so Burton White is producing it this year. It took all the pressure off me. He's doing a great job."

Nabors will be joined by Jimmy Borges, Guy Merola, Karen Keawehawai'i, puppeteer Phillip Huber, perennially popular Emma Veary and maybe 100 or so other performers. Matt Catingub will direct the Hawaii Theatre Orchestra, and the cast also includes the Hawaii Theatre Ensemble Singers, kumu hula Snowbird Bento's Ka Pa Hula ka Lei Lehua, the Diamond Head Theatre Shooting Stars and the La Pietra Select Choir.

"It's all new kids, naturally, and we have new singers, and all the singers are fabulous in their own right, so I'm just coming in and doing my thing and singing my songs and rapping with the audience," Nabors said.

"Phillip Huber has two new numbers, and they're just fabulous. I was watching little kids (in the cast) who haven't seen the show before, and they were just mesmerized by the puppets," he added, also mentioning that Huber's cute marionette dog, a favorite character in past years, will appear in the curtain call.

The biggest highlights of the show throughout its original 10-year run were the stories Nabors would tell -- true stories, not figments of a comedian's imagination -- about his experiences and people he'd met over the years. Some have become such classics that a show would hardly seem complete without them. However, life continues to provide him with new stories to share. (He mentioned a few during lunch that might be part of the show this weekend.)

"I don't tell jokes," he said. "I tell true incidents that have happened in my life, so I really don't know what is going to come out this year. Everybody always wants me to tell the one about the lady in the john, which is a true story, but I've told it at least 2,000 times -- but every time it always works. It's kind of like singing a standard.

"I never realized when I told that story for the first time on 'Johnny Carson' that I would end up doing it for the rest of my life, but people always ask for it."

Nabors said that nostalgia is also an important part of the show.

"With Christmas shows it's very difficult to strike a happy medium between new productions and (old) things because people want to hear 'Silent Night,' they want to hear 'White Christmas' ... it's nostalgia time. We try to create that."

As for the return of "Friends & Nabors," he's happy to be back.

"I've really missed doing it," Nabors said. "I didn't realize I would, (and) I'm happy to be back doing it."

jim nabors
COURTESY PHOTO

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November 27, 2009

'Merry' times with Nabors, friends return

After 2-year break,review is back at Hawaii Theatre

By Wayne Harada
Special to The Advertiser

Wayne Harada
Wayne Harada covered entertainment for The Advertiser for 44 years.
His Show Biz column now appears on Sundays.

After a two-year hiatus, Jim Nabors returns to the Hawaii Theatre tonight through Sunday for his holiday tableaux, "A Merry Christmas With Friends & Nabors."

The show is the glue that keeps this merry ol' soul happy year-round.

"I missed doing it," Nabors admits about reassembling his gang for the holiday merriment. "The older you get, you wonder if the voice is still there. We'll find out together."

Before the break, Nabors logged a 10-year run as the Christmas centerpiece at the downtown theater. He's never taken pay for his endeavors — the theater is the beneficiary — so the lavish production, with a cast of 100, is an opportunity to give something back to the community he adores.

"I turn 80 next year," he gleefully giggled. "The joy is that I still can do it. I had knee surgery and though I'm not kicking high, at least I can walk. I'm doing good, really, and turning 80 (on June 12), it's kinda hard to take, in my mind."

Being surrounded by friends keeps this show biz veteran young at heart.

"The adrenalin gets running, you really do feel younger. My cast is like family to me," he said. "And I do have fun."

With no serious health issues anymore, Nabors can focus on his deeds. In the mid-90s, he went through a hepatitis B scare, resulting from a cut while shaving. He had liver issues but underwent a liver transplant and consequently supports the work of the American Liver Foundation.

But the H1N1 threat is worrisome, so his jet rides are infrequent.

"It's my immune system. With the new flu, being in an airplane with a bunch of people for a long period is not good," he said. "I'm vulnerable."

Nabors boasts a booming baritone voice behind the gentle, iconic Gomer Pyle TV character he originated on the "Andy Griffith Show," which led to the spin-off "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C" series and subsequent variety show specials on which he surprised viewers with his powerful pipes.

After he set stakes in Hawaii nearly four decades ago, he was tapped to front a Polynesian revue at the Hilton Hawaiian Village dome that ran two years, with visitors flocking to hear his "Gollee" declaration, his Gomer trademark.

But it's the voice that fuels following; stuff like "The Impossible Dream" in general concerts, "O Holy Night" at Christmas.

He realized his grassroots appeal earlier at a casino in Connecticut. "I worked the Mohegan Sun and the place was huge," Nabors said. "You could put the whole Caesars Place in the lobby, and when I first got there, I wanted to see the showroom. The entertainment director told me, 'You're not playing the showroom,' and I thought 'Oh, oh, I was demoted to the lounge.' 'But I have to have a big orchestra,' I told him, and he said I was playing the arena."

Nabors abandoned press agents years ago, so he was slightly embarrassed with the booking. "'You're already sold out,' the guy told me, and I was dumbfounded, wondering who would come see me. Then I watched from the hotel room: 200 buses pulled up, the people got off, and many were on walkers. 'My crowd, my crowd,' I thought. It was such an upper, and I do the senior show every June."

Nabors has acted in scores of films, some cheerfully received, others badly reviewed, but Gomer has had such a strong presence, challenging some directors. "I've always felt that the film is the director's doing, not the actors'," Nabors says. "He tells you what to do. But whatever role I've had, I've never felt like an actor, because whatever character I've done, there's always been a little Gomer there."

His Southern drawl is real and homey, his honesty and courtesy natural.

"I've lived nearly half my life here. Gomer Pyle has been nice to me and I've always tried to be a nice guy," says Nabors. "I never stepped on anybody, never bad-mouthed someone. It's never my style."

He's content with his Diamond Head digs and his retirement in the Islands.

"This is home. Alabama (Sylacauga) is where I'm from," he said.

"I feel so blessed. Even if I have to 'go' tomorrow, I've had a blessed life, incredible parents, a great career, and wonderful friends. And it's wonderful to retire in Hawaii."

You hear the smile in his voice. "The voice has kept me working for the past 40 years," Nabors says. "If I don't do concerts, I could always sing at the opening of a grocery store."


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Betty G with Jim Nabors, Burton White and Karen after concert.

Information from Betty Gregory
sent 1 December 2009

Greetings everybody from Hawaii I wrote two very long notes yesterday to upgrade you all on the wonderful concerts which I attended for Jim. Somehow between the computer and the guestbook they went astray so am hopefully sending them again.

Friday night I saw the first of the three concerts and this to my amazement contained all the cast that I saw in 2006 thanks to the wonderful organization of Mr. Burton White the artistic director of the theatre. One would never have realized that our Jim had had a break between concert performances as he and the rest of "his family" were all as fine performers as ever. Jim proved himself to be not only an amazing singer as we all know but his ability as a story teller of his life experiences would have gained him an Oscar. The 100 odd young people who contributed to the success of the evening with their complicated dancing and singing routines was also marvelous. The orchestra conducted by Matt and his own singing wee beyond reproach. Sunday afternoon saw the last concert and before the performance began there were long lines of people waiting to get seats and were despairing of being able to but somehow they seemed to have succeeded,

The final bracket of Christmas Carols were sung by each family member individually with all joining in the chorus and Emma Veazry has such a beautiful voice as had Karen (but couldn’t possibly spell her Hawaiian name for you) also and then Jimmy Borg completed the foursome.

Jim Sang White Christmas, a duo with Emma Veary he in English she in Hawaiian of Silent Night, a duo with Jimmy Borg of the Drummer Boy plus O Come All Ye Faithfull and at the conclusion he received a well earned Standing Ovation from the big audience who did not want him to finish!

This production could not have been the success it was except also for supporting items of both young adults and a group of eight who sang and danced their way into our hearts. The Ushers were all voluntary folk who did a great job, Matt James the Theatre Manager had everything organized down to the last "T" and I have mentioned the wonderful work done by Burton White s Director.

After this final performance I was extended by Jim an invitation to a party for the cast and friends and was able to spend some time with his sister Ruth a dear lady and her niece and her husband and another member of the family Robert. Photos were taken with various members of the cast too and this was a lovely end to a wonderful concert! Jim came to join us after signing I guess well over a hundred autographs for all the young members of the cast and this is so typical of him to give a token of thanks where thanks were needed.

Betty with Jim Nabors, cast members and friends

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great times after the concert

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Cindy and Jim
Cindy and Jim

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