MOUNT AIRY, N.C. - Two fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" who planned to erect a statue of Don Knotts have new orders from CBS: Nip it!
Network attorneys and representatives of the actor's estate said this week that proper permission had not been granted for the project.
Tom Hellebrand and Neal Shelton were trying to raise $35,000 to put a statue in Mount Airy - model for the town of Mayberry - as a tribute to Knotts, who portrayed the bumbling Barney Fife on the popular show.
Knotts died on Feb. 24 at age 81.
The two worked out arrangements with the city for placing the statue, and thought they'd gotten a green light from CBS Corp., which owns the rights to the show's characters.
But Hellebrand said he received a letter this week from a second CBS attorney demanding that the project be halted.
Mallory Levitt explained to Hellebrand and The Mount Airy News that, while Paramount/CBS owned the rights to the character of Barney Fife, the group didn't have the authority to give permission for a likeness of Don Knotts.
"That right belongs to the Knotts estate," she said.
Levitt told Hellebrand she contacted the actor's estate and business associates of Andy Griffith, who is still living, and none wanted to go through with the project.
"We believed we had all the approvals and OKs we needed and that's the only reason we went ahead," Hellebrand said. "We never meant to hurt or offend or take advantage of anyone. We just wanted to honor the memory of one of the great Mayberry characters, Barney Fife."
Hellebrand said he has already made a nonrefundable deposit of more than $8,000 for the statue. He and Shelton plan to sell a restored squad car and a golf cart to raise money to refund more than $10,000 donated by fans for the project.
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