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Floyd Lawson (Floyd the Barber) is a fictional character on the American sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, who was likely inspired by barbers in Andy Griffith's real-life hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina. One barber named Russell Hiatt was known as "the real-life Floyd". Hiatt may have cut Andy Griffith's hair while Griffith was young and living in Mount Airy, and was still cutting hair daily at "Floyd's City Barber Shop" in Downtown Mount Airy until several years before his death on May 3, 2016.
History of the character
Floyd the Barber was the slow-paced, somewhat absent-minded barber in the series' fictional town of Mayberry. He was first seen in episode #12, "Stranger in Town," played by actor Walter Baldwin. Baldwin established the running gag of Floyd's inability to trim sideburns evenly, which continued throughout the run of the series. Baldwin portrayed Floyd for just one episode; from 1961 on, the role was played by Howard McNear, the actor most commonly associated with the role. In McNear's first appearance as Floyd, the character's last name was "Colby"; thereafter the character was always "Floyd Lawson".
Over the first few seasons, the importance of Floyd the Barber to the series increased. Slowly, McNear changed his delivery of dialogue for Floyd from fast-paced to slower and slower as time went on. Floyd also became involved more in the plots of the various episodes as time went on.
In early 1963, midway through the third season, Howard McNear suffered a serious stroke. He was left with limited use of his arms and legs, especially his left arm, which rarely moved. The producers of the series and Andy Griffith wanted McNear to return as Floyd when his health permitted it, and after about a year, McNear was talked into coming back (which he was not going to do at first). The series had a special chair constructed that McNear was able to sit in most of the time while on the set, as the stroke had left him only able to stand for short periods of time. Accordingly, the Floyd character then began to appear regularly again on the series towards the end of season four.
The last appearance of Floyd the Barber on The Andy Griffith Show was in the final episode of the seventh season. Howard McNear's health worsened and he was not able to return to the series for season eight, and he died less than a year later. To try to fill in his loss on the series, a new character named Emmett Clark (a fix-it man) was brought in. It was announced on the series that Floyd had retired because he had earned enough money. Emmett (played by veteran character actor Paul Hartman) moved his fix-it shop into Floyd's old barber shop location in Mayberry.
Once McNear took over the role, Floyd had a mustache and wore thick glasses and usually a white barber jacket. He was a whimsical, laid back, but occasionally excitable fellow whose barber shop was somewhat of an institution in the fictional town of Mayberry. The men of town would gather there, not only to get their hair cut, but to play checkers, discuss current events, read comic books, or generally just to "shoot the breeze" and "carry on".
At the start of the The Andy Griffith Show, Floyd was a secondary character, despite the fact that his barbershop was one of the main centers of action in Mayberry. Over time, Floyd's role gradually increased, and he began to be featured as a main character in several episodes. On one such occasion, in a 1962 episode called "Floyd, the Gay Deceiver", Floyd's female pen pal, with whom he has been corresponding, writes to tell him she will pay him a visit. Floyd begs Andy to help him because he has been deceiving her into thinking he is a wealthy businessman. Andy reluctantly agrees to help put up the act, only to discover that the woman is a con artist herself, intent on getting her hands on Floyd's "money".
Floyd was also an amateur poet, sometimes composing verse for Mayberry civic events. These poems always consisted of repeating, over and over, the same few words. He also had an inexplicable fondness for Calvin Coolidge, often attributing quotes to him.
Floyd Lawson was the uncle of Deputy Warren Ferguson, who replaced Deputy Barney Fife in the 1965 season, after the departure of actor Don Knotts. He also had a son, Norman, who appeared with him in the episode "Those Gossipin' Men" in 1961. His wife was never seen (and seldom discussed), but in one episode (Quiet Sam, Season 1) it was revealed her name was Melba. Due to Floyd's mentioning that he was a member of a "Lonely Hearts Club" in "Floyd the Gay Deceiver", it is implied that his wife had died sometime between that episode and "Quiet Sam".
When not cutting hair, Floyd can generally be seen sitting on the bench outside his shop. In fact, in almost all of his appearances later in the series, Floyd is only seen sitting or apparently standing behind the barber's chair. This was due to the effects of the stroke; in real life, it left McNear unable to stand for any significant length of time. From 1964 on, scenes with Floyd standing were accomplished with the use of a special brace that was hidden from view behind the barber's chair.
In popular culture
The character of Floyd the Barber has proved to be a large part of the popular culture as proven by these examples: In two episodes of the comedy sketch program Second City Television, actor Eugene Levy played Floyd the Barber. His first appearance was in a parody of The Godfather, in the opening scene as Amerigo Bonasera, in which he asks the Don to hurt Opie for breaking his barber pole. The last line delivered by Floyd is "Ohh, and would you kill Howard Sprague for me?" referring to Howard Sprague, a character from The Andy Griffith Show. His other appearance was in a parody of The Andy Griffith Show, "The Merv Griffith Show," in which he is in his barber shop cutting hair and at a surprise party for Gomer.
Kurt Cobain wrote a song titled "Floyd the Barber" that was recorded on Nirvana's first album Bleach (1989). In the song, Floyd, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee hold him captive after he comes in for a shave, torturing and murdering him.
St. Elsewhere, which frequently referenced other television programs, had a barber named Floyd in the series finale (which also referred to Dr. Kimble's one-armed patient being on the loose, Henry Blake (patient no. 4077) being the victim of a helicopter crash, and a re-enactment of the Mary Tyler Moore’s group-hug and shuffle to the tissues).
Floyd Lawson is also referenced in the theme song for the animated series Freakazoid as being the titular hero's barber.
He is also mentioned numerous times on different episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
In the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", there is a scene where Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and guest star Joan Collins are walking down a street supposedly located in New York City during the 1930s. As they are walking down the sidewalk, the glass window clearly marked "Floyd's Barber Shop" is visible briefly. This is because both series used the outdoor Desilu Studios lot that was originally constructed as "Atlanta" in the film Gone with the Wind (1939).
In an episode of St. Elsewhere, guest-starring Griffith cast member Jack Dodson, the characters make reference to the hospital's barber also named Floyd. Dodson's character adds, "He may bury us all."
FX series Sons of Anarchy featured a barber by the name of Floyd, first showing up in season 1.
In the Animaniacs episode "Dough Dough Boys/Boot Camping/General Boo-Regard", Wakko gets his hair cut by Floyd during boot camp. Floyd in this episode was voiced by John Roarke
In the Freakazoid! theme song, it is revealed that the titular character goes to Floyd the barber for his haircuts.
In the English dub of Digimon: The Movie, Matt and T.K. go to a barber shop where the barber is addressed as "Floyd". In the closing credits, other characters in the barber shop are credited as "Andy," "Barney" and "Aunt Bea".
In the fourth season episode of Arrested Development entitled "Smashed", during the "haircut meeting", Ron Howard refers to his barber as Floyd, remarking that he calls all of his barbers "Floyd". Mr. Howard, of course, was a fellow castmate in The Andy Griffith Show.
Comedian Tim Wilson paid homage to Lawson in the lyrics of his 1999 song "Haircut Malpractice", singing "We ought to strap you in the chair with Floyd Lawson and get that mess under control."
Actor and comedian Rich Koz has portrayed Floyd Lawson on WCIU-TV's "Svengoolie" which is now seen nationally on the Me-TV Network. Koz appeared as Floyd during the program's showing of Return to Mayberry, the 1986 NBC TV movie reuniting the surviving characters of The Andy Griffith Show. Koz also portrayed Floyd Lawson during a mini-marathon of The Munsters as part of "Svengoolie's TV Graveyard".
A 1988, CBS, Saturday morning kids show titled Hey Vern It's Ernest had a segment in each episode titled "Earl the Barber". Earl is clearly patterned after Mayberry's barber, Floyd. In each episode, lead character Ernest P. Worrell comes in for a haircut and after giving it some thought tells Earl he wants his hair cut to make him look like a Wall Street tycoon. Earl is then shown in quick picture cuts (with fast music) "going to work". When finished he gives Ernest a mirror to check out his handy work. Ernest shocked at the results excitedly says "Earl, this doesn't make me look like a Wall Street tycoon." Realizing his mistake, Earl says "silly me, why I thought you said a baby baboon" or a windswept dune or a lazy lagoon for example. Earl then ask Ernest how he likes the new look. After taking a second look at the mirror, Ernest replies "It could work."
The "real-life" Floyd
In the mid-1960s, Russell Hiatt contacted Howard McNear and gained his written permission to use his likeness on T-shirts and other items for an unlimited amount of time. Over the years, McNear's likeness has been used for things such as large billboard ads advertising "Pink Floyd" on rock radio. A large pink image of Howard McNear will usually be in the ads. All rights to McNear's image are controlled by the barber Hiatt.
Hiatt died May 3, 2016 at 92 after nearly 70 years working at Floyd's City Barber Shop in Andy Griffith's real hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina. Due to health problems, he had retired several years earlier. It is uncertain whether he cut Griffith's hair when the actor had yet to become famous, though Griffith got his hair cut at Palace Barber Shop. In 1946, Hiatt started working at City Barber Shop, started in 1929, which added the name Floyd's in 1989 and now has photos and drawings of characters from the show. Jim Clark of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club doubts that City Barber Shop inspired Floyd's, but believes it was based Griffith's memories of barber shops in Mount Airy. Though Hiatt made no attempt to look like Floyd or act like him, but Clark called Hiatt "the uncanny virtual embodiment of Floyd the Barber".
People from every state and 42 countries have visited City Barber Shop, many shown in the 20,000 photos on the walls and 40,000 more in storage. On one occasion, Oprah Winfrey visited. George "Goober" Lindsey and John Schneider (of The Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville) both had their hair trimmed by Hiatt himself while visiting Mount Airy.
- "Floyd Lawson (Character)". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
- "Mayberry on Star Trek". imayberry.com. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
- The Digimon Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Young, Wesley (May 5, 2016). "'Floyd the barber' dies at 92". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- Clodfelter, Tim (May 15, 2016). "SAM". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
- "Floyd's City Barber Shop". Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2016.