Though he has been whispering it to confidants for decades, the news emerged in mass media just today: The artist formerly known as Gomer Pyle is gay. A stalwart of Indianapolis 500 festivities, Jim Nabors has sung "Back Home Again in Indiana" 33 times at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" since 1972. In 2012, the Andy Griffith Show alum was unable to attend the Indy 500 race due to heart-valve replacement surgery in Hawaii, where he resides. It turns out that Hawaii is also where he met his longtime partner Stan Cadwallader. The two men met in 1975; Cadwallader was a Honolulu firefighter, and they took up immediately, but just recently wed in Washington state on Jan. 15. (Same-sex marriage became legal there in December 2012.)
Some observers expressed a lack of shock about this most tender and low-key of celebrity coming-out episodes, while others were taken aback. (Nabors himself said that he was "out" in Hollywood when he worked there in the 1960s and '70s but didn't address it in the media until now.) Well, in the words of Nabors' iconic Gomer Pyle character, "Surprise ... surprise ... surprise."
Nabors told Hawaii News Now that he has no shame and has simply led a private life, sharing more about himself with colleagues and friends over time. Nabors, now 82, said that, after 38 years together, the pair had to "solidify" their relationship. His now-husband Cadwallader is 64.
Nabors told the Hawaiian news outlet that he has no intentions of getting involved in the political theater surrounding the national gay-marriage debate. When asked if he had "It Gets Better"–style pointers for today's youth who are questioning their own sexuality, he said, "I really don't have any advice. I don't think I'm qualified because I just could handle it my own way. And you don't ever understand why people look down on you, or say cruel things to you about that sort of thing, but nevertheless, that's just life, and you just have to get above it."
Even so, see the below clip from his 1964–69 TV show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., in which "Gomer Learns a Bully":
Early on in the episode, another serviceman asks him, "Gomer, if they gave you your choice right now, a girl or a candy bar, which one would you take?" His reply: "What kind of candy bar?"
So there you have it. Jim Nabors does life as he pleases, and the rest of us should have seen this coming.
Photo via indianapolismotorspeedway.com / Dave Edelstein