- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Knotts remembered

Fans of the late actor Don Knotts aren’t giving up on plans to erect a statue in his honor despite a large legal headache, Associated Press reports.

Tom Hellebrand and Neal Shelton, two fans of the ‘60s family comedy, kick-started the process by organizing a fundraiser to net the necessary $35,000 for a statue of Mr. Knotts in Mount Airy, N.C. The small town served as the model for the fictional town of Mayberry where “The Andy Griffith Show” was set. Mr. Knotts played the bumbling-but-lovable Deputy Barney Fife on the series.

Paramount/CBS, which owns the rights to the series and its characters, initially granted permission for the statue, but more recently said it didn’t have the authority to do so. Network lawyers said the Knotts estate doesn’t want the statue built.

Mr. Hellebrand and Mr. Shelton say other Knotts fans have been encouraging them to move forward with the project, including organizing a letter-writing campaign to his survivors.

Mr. Hellebrand has had a change of heart and told AP he just wants to move on. He and Mr. Shelton are auctioning off a replica of a Mayberry squad car so they can refund $8,000 in donations used to pay a nonrefundable deposit for the statue.

“It’s been emotional,” Mr. Hellebrand says. “It brings back all the happy thoughts about why I moved to Mount Airy. I moved to Mount Airy to enjoy ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and fans.

“I’d like to get it behind me and move on. This is a hard thing to get behind you. You work so hard to do something like this, to honor a man like Don Knotts and to have the rug pulled out from under you is just devastating.”

Mount Airy, Mr. Griffith’s hometown, has a statue of the actor in character as Sheriff Andy Taylor walking with his son, Opie, played by Ron Howard.

Ruben wins again

Ruben Studdard’s post-“American Idol” life hasn’t been ideal, but it is looking up.

The singer was recently awarded $2 million in his lawsuit against his ex-manager for misappropriating the singer’s money and credit cards, AP reports.

Mr. Studdard, 26, of Birmingham, Ala., won the television talent show in 2003 and filed suit last year against ex-manager Ronald W. Edwards and Mr. Edwards’ promotions company, Sez Inc.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Scott Vowell on Thursday awarded Mr. Studdard $500,000 for his actual losses and another $1.5 million in punitive damages, the Birmingham News reported last week on its Web site.

Judge Vowell dismissed Mr. Edwards’ promotions company from the suit because it was bankrupt and had no assets. Mr. Edwards filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 17, 2005.

The suit claimed Mr. Edwards misused more than $246,000 of the singer’s money.

According to the judge’s ruling, Mr. Edwards took money from Mr. Studdard’s checking and other bank accounts, improperly used his credit cards and even used Mr. Studdard’s money to repay a $10,000 bank loan.

Mr. Studdard has sold more than 2.2 million records, but the damage to his credit because of the fraud made it hard to obtain financing to buy a home, Judge Vowell’s order said.

Restoring ‘Order’

Actress Alana De La Garza used her recurring role on CBS’ “CSI: Miami” to land a cush gig on NBC”s long-running “Law & Order,” Reuters news agency reports.

On “L&O;,” Miss De La Garza will play a new assistant district attorney who will replace A.D.A. Alexandra Borgia, killed off in the series’ 16th-season finale last month. Annie Parisse played Borgia for the past season and a half.

Representatives for NBC and series creator/executive producer Dick Wolf declined comment last week on the casting news.

Miss De La Garza most recently played Eric Delko’s (Adam Rodriguez) sister Marisol on “CSI: Miami.” Her credits also include the series “The Book of Daniel” and “The Mountain.”

In other casting news, Ivan Sergei has been tapped as the lead in Fox’s drama pilot “Drive.”

The series chronicles an underground race across America. Mr. Sergei leads an ensemble cast that includes Kristin Lehman, Melanie Lynskey and Alan Ruck of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” fame.

Mr. Sergei, currently on the big screen in “The Break-Up,” next stars in the ABC television movie “Mary Christmas.”

• Compiled from web and wire reports by Christian Toto

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