In the spring of 2004, I had the opportunity to interview Jean Carson who played Fun Girl "Daphne" on "The Andy Griffith Show" (TAGS). Daphne was an aggressive "fun girl" from Mt. Pilot who greeted men she liked with her husky "Hello, Doll." Carson played many other roles, but it is as fun girl Daphne that she is best remembered.
Late in September 2005 Ms. Carson had a stoke which has left her with partial paralysis and difficulty speaking. Her condition was expected to improve, but Ms. Carson passed away on November 2, 2005.
With more than 13 movie credits as well as approximately 30 television show roles and appearances under her belt, Jean Carson is an almost legendary "other girl" in Hollywood. I have had the pleasure of seeing this veteran actress perform at several reunions of “The Andy Griffith Show” around the country where she adds zest and vitality.
This past summer, I happened to notice she wore an Icthus pin on her blouse during a press conference. I wrote Ms. Carson a note and asked her if I could interview her, and she graciously agreed. On November 3, 2003, she called me to tell me a little about her experience with “The Andy Griffith Show,” her life in Hollywood, and her amazing testimony. These questions and answers come from two short interviews with Jean Carson: one by phone and one in person.
CA: When did you move to Hollywood?
Jean Carson: I had worked for 15 years on Broadway before live television. When everything moved to the Coast, I had to move. Most of the people - the directors and producers - when it came on tape, they moved it all to the West Coast. I had to move to survive; that’s why I moved to Hollywood.
CA: What was it like to be part of the TAGS cast?
Jean Carson: It was very pleasant experience, unusually so because it was so well prepared when the actors came in. It was very pleasant between scenes because sometimes Don would come in and he and Andy would sing. In many ways it was just a job, and no one expected it to be what it turned out to be. There were other good clean shows at that time like the “Brady Bunch” - it was not unusual for there to be good shows then. Now I don't know why anyone watches TV anymore; I am just shocked with it - I even find the commercials disgusting. Even the subject matter. There are commercials on now about things that my boys never even knew about growing up, and I don't think it's going to change anytime soon, dear.
CA: What message do you find in TAGS?
Jean Carson: The message and the spiritual value of the show are that it was a clean, wholesome, high moral message. I was never sure where the fun girls fit into that message! (laughs) I think we were harmless. Evidently there was a line where I was mad at Andy and I say something as I am leaving..... well I can't remember the line exactly right now but fans have told me it had a moral to it! I think it is so great that this show is now taught in Sunday schools and churches. Did you know there is a Bible Study based on the show?
CA: Have you stayed in touch with anyone from the TAGS cast?
Jean Carson: When I was on the Coast, my home was up on the Pacific Palisades. My mama had wanted me, since I had the two boys, to live in a non-transient neighborhood. The valley was very transient and she didn't want me living in Hollywood, so I didn't live where everyone else did. The only one I have remained friendly with is Betty Lynn.
I had met Betty Lynn before, on Broadway. Did you know Betty Lynn was on Broadway appearing in one of Broadway’s first series, “The Egg and I?” New York was a small community and the television people were a small group so I got to know Betty there. You know Betty Lynn is out in Kansas City right now seeing Don in “On Golden Pond.”
CA: Did you know Aneta Corsaut?
Jean Carson: We never actually worked with the girls. They were our nemesis you know, dear. We had no scenes with them at all. In one scene the girls have gone to a movie and they were going to stop by after the movie, and when they came back they saw us giggling and laughing coming out of the courthouse, and Andy and Barney drove us back to Mt. Pilot. I met her on the set but we didn't interact. You don't want to interfere with the other characters and their situation and their reactions. Say I am working with another gal and in the script we don't like each other, I don't want to be particularly chummy with her. When I work with people on a show, I have always called the people by their character's name.
CA: When did you become a Christian?
Jean Carson: I don't usually talk about this although I do believe some of my fans know that I had a period in the early 70's when I was having trouble with alcohol. I was just breaking up out of a nightmarish marriage. I don’t want to go into the details, but it was a very bad situation. My husband and I had separated by that time and I was alone. At this time my oldest son was at Berkley and my youngest son was away at boarding school. Everything seemed to pile up on me at once. My marriage had just gone all to heck and my boys being gone...I was alone.
Alcohol is cunning and baffling and powerful. I think it is probably the worst drug of all. To me it, oh, it took hold of me immediately. I drank for about five years but I became an alcoholic immediately. I was what they call a bedroom drinker meaning I was a home drinker, not out bar hopping. I would generally drink until I passed out. Every time I drank, I got drunk.
I remember if somebody called me for a job and it was a last-minute television thing, not a major film that I would know about in advance, I would say, ‘Oh dear, I am on my way out of town.’ I couldn't take that job because I couldn't be sure I would be ready the next day.
I have been told the only way a person can quit alcohol is to have a strong spiritual experience, and I certainly did. I am very hesitant to tell this story because it makes me sound crazy. One day when I was drinking and very sick I was lying in bed and Jesus appeared. He appeared above me and said, ‘I gave you life and I can take it away.’”
The experience changed Jean’s life immediately and dramatically. She stopped drinking, joined AA and gave her life to the Lord. She found a church home and continues to be actively involved with AA.
CA: What have you learned from your experiences?
Jean Carson: The important thing I have learned from my experience is we do take it one day at a time. I do believe Jesus has the power as he told me: “I gave you life and I can take it away.” They make fun of me in AA when I tell that story because they tell me it makes me sound nutty. It embarrasses them for some reason. I just take it as being they haven't had a spiritual experience of any sort that has helped them with their AA program. It is a very spiritual program.
You know Andy is doing a retrospective later this month on CBS, dear. I think he has only involved Don and a few others. We don't know if they will show clips or what they will do. Now Goober, I think, and Betty were interviewed in New Castle. I don’t know what they will include from the New Castle show. And there is a show scheduled in Nashville sometime around June 25 and 26 at the Opryland Hotel. Betty Lynn went last time and she said that hotel is unbelievably hard to find your way around in. She said she had to take two elevators each time to find her room!
I sincerely hope Ms. Carson makes it to Nashville next June and that she finds her stay at Opryland a pleasant one. I know I will make it a point to catch the show and to shake the hand of this courageous and inspiring “fun girl.”
From our archives 6/21/4
Related Articles & Links:
Live in Tennessee? Love "The Andy Griffith Show?" Click to subscribe to TennesseeTAGS