SUPERMAN VS. DON KNOTTS
Moderately embellished/enhanced and re-spaced by Rick Henry, 06-2021, firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan fiction for adult readers.
1. THE MONEY SHOT
Clark Kent endeavored to cover the 200th taping of the Andy Griffith Show called a “Money Shot”— (in the business it means syndication is now bankable in reruns). But he can’t seem to get past the stage door security, as even well-known reporters for show business tabloids like Variety and TV Guide aren’t welcomed backstage in the Green Room for the cast party after taping. Buying a studio ticket, he watches the show from the audience and laughs along with everyone else at Don Knott’s antics… such as his trademark bantam rooster swaggering braggadocio and his howler of an ad-libbed line at the end: “Well, I guess there’s “a New Sheriff in Town,” now!” when Andy temporarily puts him in charge as he prepares to go on his honeymoon after marrying his long-time girlfriend.
Leaving the theater he notices a ticket seller hawking tickets to the “Adventures of Superman” show, taping across the street at another studio. He gets a brainstorm, clandestinely finds a niche, and strips down to his costume and boldly walks back past security… one of the guards idly musing to the others, “Funny, I thought George Reeves was taping tonight, too. Must have dashed over on a break to congratulate Andy and the gang on their anniversary show.”
2. THE SINGLE BULLET THEORY
Superman hides in the wings during the party and waits for the cast and crew, reporters and well-wishers to leave. He notes Knotts is not among them. On a hunch, he carefully slips down the hall into Knott’s dressing room, whom he now sees is just removing the last of his makeup. Surprised, Don notices the costumed man in his dressing mirror.
“Hey, George, grab a chair. I thought no one wanted to talk to me. Everyone ran over to Sardi’s with his Highness and His Court. No one ever misses the lowly Court Jester, even if I have carried this damn show on my back for the last 200 freaking episodes!” Don fumed bitterly. Superman saw an open bottle of scotch on his dressing table, nearly empty. Knotts wheeled about on his chair, and gawked open-mouthed. “Hell, you ain’t Georgie Porgie Puddin’ Belly. You’re the Real Deal himself, the Man of Steel! Well ‘Doggies,’ as Andy would say. I should’a known straight-off it wasn’t Big George, not the way you fill out those tights. Pecs, arms, shoulders and all. Especially those shorts!” Superman accepted the strange compliment with a deferential nod, back-handed and odd as it seemed. He chalked it up to the booze and the actor’s apparently miffed mood.
“I’m kind of a big fan of yours, Mr. Knotts” he muttered apologetically. “I was wondering if you might give me a –well, a sort of interview… so I could pass it on to a young friend of mine who just started working at the Daily Planet?” Superman humbly asked.
“Well, well, Superman himself is a fan, eh? Well, as you can see the reporters aren’t exactly beating down my door for interviews. That’s the trouble with being a good actor, when you make it look too easy everyone assumes you’re just playing yourself. You know, ‘the cowardly blow-hard and the 98 lb. weakling.’ People would be surprised to know how tough I had to become, since I was a kid, or how tough I really became in the Army.”
“You were in the Army?” Superman asked, somewhat surprised.
“Hell, yeah,” Don shot back. “Not only that, I was a D.I., a Drill Instructor. And a damn good one. I whipped those boys into shape, too. Had ‘em shaking in their boots whenever I called them to attention.”
Superman couldn’t help smiling, picturing the quavering nerd trying to bully around some of the raw-boned farm boys and street-smart big city toughs.
“What are you laughing at, Big Man? Don’t think I had the stuff? Well, lookie here!” Knotts opened a drawer in a side table and pulled out a folder marked “Army Days” filled with photos. Superman noticed there were several other separate folders that were unmarked.
Knotts selected some pictures of himself in uniform with his troop. Superman was indeed impressed. The ramrod straight, whippet thin young man with the stern military bearing bore no relation to the character millions had come to know and love as Barney Fife, not to mention his gallery of characters that all shared the signature Knotts stamp. “See here?” he asked, pointing to one in particular. A handsome young man was posing with Knotts, handing him a Samurai sword. That’s Tim Irons, one of my recruits. He was the only one to survive a Jap assault on his group’s position. He captured a Jap colonel’s sword later on in the battle, and presented it to me as a gift. Said if it wasn’t for me drilling the field manual into his empty head, he never would have made it through the war in one piece. It was a beauty! Tim said the colonel begged for it back. Said the big green stone on the handle was what he called a Sky Stone. Blessed by some Shinto priest. Supposed to bring good luck and make him defeat all his enemies. Fat lot of good it did him!”
“So you kept the sword?” Superman asked.
“Yup. Only I lost it in a poker game when I got drunk celebrating the day the Pacific War ended. Shame, it was quite a trophy. I did pry out the green stone first, though. Figured the drunk who won it from me wouldn’t even noticed it was missing, had so many other stones worked into the grip and guard. I figured I could use the “luck,” since I already decided to try my hand at acting. I’ve carried it with me ever since. Guess where I keep it?” he teased.
Superman smiled, all it would take was a glance with his X-Ray vision. He saw it wasn’t set into any of Knott’s jewelry, either his ring or the religious medal dangling on a necklace under his police officer costume. Nor in his belt buckle or even hidden in his shoes. The only spot he couldn’t make out was an object in his upper shirt pocket. The gray blob must be composed of lead as he couldn’t see inside it. But the silhouette looked like a simple large lipstick or eyeliner pencil case, doubtless for last minute makeup touch up on the set.
Knotts watched Superman’s eyes wander over him and then fixate on his pocket. “No fair using your super-powers, although I’m guessing from your puzzled expression you’re still not sure you’ve spotted it. And I can guess why, too.” With a grin he reached into his pocket and withdrew the object, a single bullet. “Lead-jacketed case, which is what must have thrown you off. Recognize it?”
Superman did, for it was a well-known gag on the show. He’d even used the gimmick on tonight’s show. Andy would reluctantly hand Barney a single bullet when they went armed to capture some local ne’er do well, securely buttoning it up in his breast pocket for safekeeping, so the famous hair-trigger temper of the nervous deputy wouldn’t cause a fatal accident.
“It’s much bigger than a round for a police revolver, like the one you carry in the show,” Superman noted.
“Yeah, it’s a souvenir from my rifle-range practice in the Army. Fits a heavy-caliber machine gun. I figured it would be more visible as a sight-gag on the small screen.
“The stone’s inside?” Superman quizzed.
“Yep, that way it’s always on me even when I’m in costume and on the set. Here, let me show it to you. I always wondered if it was a real gem or just costume. I showed it to jewelers and they always told me they didn’t recognize it, since it wasn’t a precious stone. But you can never trust those guys, always trying to get you to sell things to them cheap. Maybe with your super-vision you can check it over for me.” Superman shrugged and said he’d use his microscopic vision. He wasn’t an expert gemologist, but he could tell him if it was just glass, a mineral accretion, or a true crystal gem.
Knotts twisted the brass bottom until the four-inch lead bullet casing separated from the firing base. He tipped the top over the table and shook the stone out onto the table. It bounced once with a slightly tinny ping and then spun briefly like a top before settling onto one of its lopsided facets. Superman gasped and leapt back. The green glow was unmistakable, as was the pain shooting through him. The tiny long stone wasn’t enough to kill him, but being this near was excruciatingly painful, and the radiation was already affecting his super-powers.
Superman didn’t know if this was some sort of a trap or just an unlucky coincidence. Knotts’ look of genuine surprise at Superman’s strange reaction spoke innocence on his part. But a Machiavellian villain such as Lex Luthor could have easily switched this piece of Kryptonite with the original Sky Stone and planted it on Knotts. Although how he could have known he would eventually show it to Superman seemed beyond him at the moment.
So Superman tried to mask his discomfiture and simply blurted out some weak excuse that his super-hearing had picked up the sound of nearby police sirens and he should check it out immediately. Superman started to lurch out of the room backwards, but his knees buckled and he crashed into the small side table, smashing it to bits. The folders spilled out onto the floor, revealing dozens of glossy photographs. Superman’s vision was already getting weak and fuzzy, and the room was starting to spin slowly. But he was able to focus enough to verify what his startled first look had told him was true. Photo after photo showed extremely handsome young men either nude or in the act of disrobing. He recognized at least a few of them as young actors on the show, and others he’d glimpsed in the group of well-wishers he’d seen leaving for the after-show party. They were obviously taken in this very room, and in more than one Knotts himself could be seen in reflection in the dressing room mirror, half naked and manning the camera. In some, Knotts had set up elaborate lighting and even installed portable movie cameras, doubtless borrowed from the set after hours.
Superman bent down and picked them up and stared at them for several seconds, then glared up at Knotts. This was something that needed to be dealt with.
“It, it isn’t what you think. Those are just t-test shots…you know, s-s-s-screen tests with some young uh, h-hopefuls. I… I try to help some young actors get a …a foot in the door. This is a t-tough business,” Knotts nervously stammered. And Superman knew from the sweat beading up on Knotts’ forehead his agitation wasn’t just play acting this time.
“Yes, a tough business. Made all the tougher by people like you preying on ambitious and naïve young men and boys. I suppose that is your ‘casting couch’?” Superman thundered in disgust, pointing to the small bed in the back of the dressing room.
“It isn’t what you think. I…. I n-never touched them, I s-swear!” Don said, almost pleading now. “I.. I never touched any man. I never dared. First there was my religious family, then my superior officers in the Army watching my every move. Now there are these scandal sheets, ready to ruin careers just to sell copy. But I couldn’t help myself. All of those beautiful young boys, all so willing to do just about anything to break into the business. But I could never trust them, even the ones that let me know they would go all the way if I just said the word. So I just “looked,” I swear. Please don’t tell anyone, Superman” Knotts pleaded woefully, finally breaking into tears.
Superman didn’t know if the nausea in his stomach was from disgust at the revelation that one of America’s favorite funnymen was a pervert, or the radiation streaming from the Kryptonite shard. He just knew he had to get out of there quick, desperate to clear his head. He could work out a plan to deal with Knotts and the Kryptonite later. He turned with the photos and rushed towards the door.
To be continued…