Andy Griffith took great pains to disprove a rumor he was paralyzed in the Eighties
To silence the lie, he grinned and bore it, wearing leg braces and jogging onscreen while performing a highly visible guest role.
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A beloved episode of The Andy Griffith Show is called "The Rumor."
In it, Barney sees Andy kissing Helen and leaps to the conclusion that he has just witnessed their engagement kiss.
Hilarity ensues when Barney spreads this false rumor and nobody in Mayberry thinks to verify the story before planning a massive surprise party that requires a complete romantic remodel of the sheriff’s rarely viewed bedroom to prepare it for his bride to be.
In Griffith’s real life during the show’s run, the biggest rumors he had to contend with were whether or not his very popular show might be ending. Season after season beyond Don Knotts’ departure, fans and critics speculated whether this might be Mayberry’s last days.
But then in the Eighties, a wild rumor unlike any other started spreading about Andy Griffith, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to quash it.
The rumor followed a time when Andy had a terribly bad bout with the flu.
It was 1984 and, according to the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, that year Griffith’s illness got worse over the next few days as he started feeling what he said was a "terrible, searing pain that ricocheted through my entire body."
For weeks and then months, there didn’t seem to be an end in sight to all the searing pain.
Then one day Andy was watching the Kentucky Derby when he lost control of his feet. He tried to stand up and he dropped right to the floor, unable to hold up his own weight.
He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with an inflammatory nerve condition, but rumors had already begun swirling in Hollywood and beyond that the actor was paralyzed for life and would never walk again.
Though Griffith was never paralyzed, his recovery almost took him a full year, so nobody saw any evidence to contradict the rumor.
By the time he felt better, not only had all his job offers dried up with no one knowing if he’d ever return to the screen, but also, he couldn’t seem to convince the world that he wasn’t now nor ever was paralyzed.
He almost lost all hope, but his wife Cindi wouldn’t have it. She gave him the pep talk he needed to find a creative solution to his problem.
Side by side, they found the perfect way to show everyone how wrong they were about his condition.
"That day, and every day for quite a while, Cindi and I went over to the William Morris Agency at lunchtime and sat in the lobby," Griffith said. "My agent and every agent in the building saw us. Everybody talked to us, invited us to their offices, some to lunch."
At the time, a popular primetime soap opera called Hotel aired right after Dynasty. This would be the show that provided Andy the opportunity to prove he could walk onto any TV show he liked.
Produced by Aaron Spelling and starring James Brolin, Hotel was kind of like The Love Boat in that much of each episode’s focus was on the guest stars of the episode who were staying temporarily in the hotel.
In an episode called "Illusions," Griffith played Brolin’s character’s idol in his guest spot, and he’s come to the hotel for a banquet in his honor naming him "Man of the Year."
About 18 minutes into the episode, Griffith agreed to do a scene where his character is jogging while a camera crew and interviewers ask him questions.
It’s not a short scene, with Griffith appearing in the distance and winding up a road, a smile on his face as he jogged seemingly effortlessly.
The actor was hiding excruciating pain, wearing leg braces to get through the scene, and bravely grinning and bearing it.
All the pain was worth it when the rumor that he was paralyzed promptly ended there, with one of TV’s biggest stars acting bravely to run the rumor out of existence.