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My aunt Maggie aka Charlene Darling

For eight years, The Andy Griffith show made its way onto the TV screens of thousands. Although this 1960 show never received any awards, the Nielsen ratings it received proved that the show was well liked. My aunt, Maggie Peterson Mancuso, helped the show receive a first place Nielsen rating during its last season in 1968.

Photo from Flickr
Photo from Flickr

Maggie was Charlene Darling on the Andy Griffith show and she happened to marry my grandpa's brother, Gus Mancuso. Today, the duo lives in Vegas and recently, they came to visit for our annual family reunion. If you read any of my previous blog posts, it is no surprise that I value family. I am intrigued by my family history and try to absorb as much information about my family history from my older relatives. You guessed it, when Maggie and Gus came to visit New York last week, I picked her brain.

The story of Maggie's road to stardom is one that screams luck. This Colorado native was no stranger to music, just like Gus. Even though Maggie was known for her singing voice, she was a stranger to being an actress. One day, when her and her brother Jim (who played the banjo) were performing at a small venue, she was approached by someone from Capitol Records. Maggie remembers that he told her to come to NY when she was ready. My aunt said that this stuck in her brain like glue. After her high school graduation, she followed that promising offer. When she made it to NY and contacted the man from Capitol Records, she found out that he was Andy Griffith's manager. The rest was history.

Maggie quickly turned into Charlene but she was a singer before she was an actress. She told me that she felt intimidated when she walked on set for the first time. With no previous acting experience, it is no surprise that Maggie said her heart was beating out of her chest when the camera met her for the first time. After that first encounter with the lights and cameras, she said she was flying on air and her acting career took off.

When my aunt came to visit, she was just my aunt, but so many still know her as Charlene Darling. When we took our family from Vegas to a local Italian restaurant, people noticed the woman who used to appear on their TV screen. It was a surreal moment when people approached our dinner table for an autograph and picture. Most talked about the good ole' days of The Andy Griffith show, which made my aunt shine with joy. But the most incredible moment was when we walked out of the restaurant and everyone stood and clapped for her.

She may be Charlene Darling but to me, she is a kind, gracious and vibrant woman. She is my aunt Maggie.

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