Dave Calabro/Eyewitness Sports
Hawaii - Morning breaks in Maui across Jim Nabors' private slice of heaven.
"It's fun. I love the lifestyle. It's what I grew up with in Alabama," Nabors says. "I love the lifestyle of this kind of place. This is absolutely paradise, it really is. Truly paradise. It's not an overused word."
For the past 30 years, Nabors has enjoyed his very private escape.
"Well, Hollywood is a different type of animal, totally. I had burned out on it when I moved to Hawaii. That kind of lifestyle was pretty heavy, so I found this magical place here and I thought, 'Well, this is it'," he says. "I also live in Honolulu, which is my main residence, and I live right on the point of Diamond Head, that's a historic spot. Then I found this place. I got double lucky."
In the 1960's and 70's, Nabors became a big hit with his character Gomer Pyle. He was discovered by Andy Griffith.
"I had never acted. I have a degree in business, so I was singing in a little nightclub and my act consisted of singing like this and talking like this," Nabors says in some of his familiar voices. "It sort of got everyone's attention. It was kind of surprising to me. Andy Griffith saw me there one night and, long story short, he invited to have me."
His famous phrases made him popular. He still remembers the first time he uttered "Goll-ee" and "Shazam!".
"We had a script reading and if we think of something to say, we can ad lib it there. But once we nailed it, we had to do it when we shoot on stage. [It was] fun for me," Nabors says. "One day I was trying to make everybody thing that Gomer was really a fan of Barney's, he thought he was just the most sophisticated guy in the world. So that's where I used it, I went, 'Well, Goll-ee Barney!'."
Gomer became a household name around the world.
"It's always pretty unreal to me. I can't quite put my finger on it. I was in Malaysia, I had lunch with the king. His son came over to shake hands with me, he said, 'You Gomer Pyle?' I said, 'Yeah'," Nabors recalls. "He said to the king, 'Gomer Pyle. Ha! You're Gomer Pyle!'. He knew all the episodes. I was shocked. I was, like, 'Wow!' Gomer Pyle had been number one in Singapore."
To this day, Gomer lives on.
"It's fun. It's really been fun for me"
Gomer was just the beginning. His walls are covered with memories from his singing and acting career. The walls of the bar area in his home are covered with pictures of celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone, Dolly Parton and Tommy Lasorda. Nabors was also good friend with former President Ronald Reagan and his family.
"This particular time I was visiting, it was a national prayer breakfast, I sang 'How Great Thou Art'," Nabors says.
One of his greatest joys, however, is his annual journey to Indiana.
"Getting kind of long in the tooth, but I hang in there. I think I still sing it pretty good," Nabors says.
After more than 40 years of entertaining fans, Jim Nabors is still a humble and gracious man, enjoying life.
"Somebody asked me once what I wanted on my tombstone. 'He was a nice guy'," he said. "That's about it."
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