BY GENA HUFF, Editor
The Mayberry Sock Hop is coming up in Gordo on April 21. Tribute artists impersonating characters from the town of Mayberry will be there along with Andy Griffith’s real-life daughter, Dixie. But I learned from our Gordo friend and Otis Campbell impersonator, Kenneth Junkin, the Festus character from the “Gunsmoke” series will be crashing the party. So, of course I had to give him a call.
Mark Staggs, a celebrity impersonator from Texas, talked with me over the phone on Thursday morning, Apr. 5, and almost immediately got into character. “We just hangin’ out here, and you know, waitin’ on my mule to get out of the shower. Ruth takes a shower every mornin’. A clean mule is a happy mule,” said Festus’s voice over the phone. I had to laugh. It had been a while since I had heard the distinctive Festus voice. The voice coming over the receiver was spot-on.
Festus is Mr. Staggs’s favorite character to play. “I’ve been doing John Wayne longer, but Festus is the one I have the most fun with.” He enjoys the comic relief. “I do some bits as John Wayne that are funny, but it is much easier with Festus.
“Can you give me some John Wayne?” I asked. “My dad was a big fan and so am I.”
“Well, little sister,” came the recognizable drawl, “I’ll tell ya this much. My wife had a birthday, so I asked her, I said, ‘Honey, what do you want for your birthday?’ She said, ‘Duke, I don’t care as long as it’s got about a dozen diamonds in it.’ So, I gave her a pack of poker cards.
“I’ve been doing John Wayne for 50 years,” said Staggs, back in his regular voice naturally flavored with a lot of Texas twang. “I did my first one when I was nine.”
When asked if he ever got in trouble in school for doing his impersonations, he said, “I got in trouble all the time in school, yeah. You know how the teacher has control of the classroom. You can take it away, and I learned that too early. You can take away everybody’s attention from that teacher. They (the teachers) never like that.”
See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.