Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the CHEERS names not everyone knows

One CHEERS question I’m often asked is “who are those guys? meaning the other barflies. Here a few of the more notable ones.

Al Rosen -- the old rummy. He was really a championship TV wrestler back in the 50’s. The first line he was ever given was a one word punch line. “Sinatra!” From then on he was known as MAN WHO SAID SINATRA. That was his official character name. Al sometimes needed two or three takes to get his line right but it was always worth it. In one episode we wrote (“the Big Kiss Off”), he was supposed to come out of the back and deliver a joke. The first two takes he went up on the line. The third take he was perfect and got a big laugh. One problem though. In the first two takes he enters holding a drink. In the third he doesn’t but is holding his hand as if he DID have a drink in it. It looks totally bizarre, but we went with it because he got the line right.

The older gentleman always referred to as Phil -- that’s Phil Perlman, Rhea’s dad. Once we started giving him lines he listed himself in the credits as Philip Perlman.

Tom Babson wound up becoming a semi-regular. Cliff was always ragging on him for attending law school. Tom at various times was listed as “Tom”, “Tom Babson”, “Tom Ballard”, “Customer #1”, and “Barney”. But you may know him from KNOTS LANDING where he played “Man”.

In the later years, “Paul” also became a semi regular. He’s Paul Willson, a gifted comic actor and one of the greatest improv artists I have EVER seen. I put him up there with Robin Williams. I feel bad for Paul because we finally built an episode around him but it was the second to the last one of the series. He pops up on a lot of shows. Always funny.

One of the great sports columnists of all-time, Alan Malamud, sat at the bar for eight or nine shows. Local LA sportscaster, Steve Bailey, had a drink from time to time, as well.

I show up in only one scene in one episode, the last Bar Wars.

All of the customers hoped that their parts would expand and become a series regulars as what happened with John Ratzenberger and George Wendt. It was never to be.

And then there’s the bar patron who was supposed to be a series regular and wound up as just an extra. In the pilot from time to time you see an old woman in the background. This was “Mrs. Littlefield”, a colorful politically opinionated spinster. She had a number of lines in the pilot. But the show was long, her character didn’t really score, and her part was cut. All that remains are a few shots of her here and there.

And finally, in a few episodes my father plays an extra. You’ll see him hitting on 25 year old women. My idea. Mom was thrilled.

12 comments:

Tim Dunleavy said...

Don't forget "George," the crusty old man played by George Wendt's father, George R. Wendt!

Love the blog...

poor man said...

Great post. I was a huge Cheers fan.

Keep 'em coming.

Anonymous said...

Isn't It true that agent Bob Broder appears in the last episode?

When Danson says, "Sorry we're closed."?

Do I have my lore right?

Mark

Tom Quigley said...

Re: When Danson says, "Sorry we're closed." -- I always thought the silhouetted figure looked like (a) Jim Burrows or (b) Warren Littlefield, President of NBC Entertainment (both had beards, which the figure appeared to have)... We'll probably never know...

Now my turn to gloat: I was doing some work with Rudy Hornish in early 1993, who at the time was head of Kelsey Grammer's infant GRAMMNET production company, and worked out of Kelsey's office in Stage 25 at Paramount, where CHEERS was filmed, and where FRASIER would also be filmed. The first time I met with Rudy in Kelseys' office, he asked me if I wanted to go get some coffee, and I responded in the affirmative. He said "Let's go see if the coffee's ready," and led me down a hallway which opened up into a room with a conference table. We turned right and headed through a door and down a flight of steps to a soundstage. Suddenly I found myself standing on the set of CHEERS "My God," I said to myself," I've died and gone to Heaven and am going to spend eternity on the set of my all-time favorite sitcom".... I then heard Rudy’s voice in my head almost in a dreamlike fashion, after he had checked the craft services table, say "Come on, let's go back to the office. Coffee's not made." Well, needless to say, I was shocked back into reality and returned from the light. But for one brief shining moment....

Mike Barer said...

Interesting--I remember you from your stint as an announcer for the Mariners. I want to write a piece on the current ones soon.

Beth Ciotta said...

The barflies were great! Nice to learn more about them. Also loved the many and colorful secondary characters. Nick Tortelli and his wife Loretta spring to mind. :)

Will Teullive said...

Ken,
Since we're discussing Cheers anyway.. What's your thoughts on Jay Thomas? Better radio jock or sitcom actor?

Anonymous said...

I loved Nick and Loretta - they didn't work as the leads of their own sitcom, but they were great as recurring characters on "Cheers". Dan Hedaya is great.

I also liked the episodes with Fred Dryer (sportscaster Dave Richards) and Harry Anderson. They both kind of faded away after the early years (and after they got other gigs), but I noticed that they both reappeared during Kirstie Alley's first season, perhaps in an effort to recall the show's early days during a transitional season.

Evan Drake was also a good character. I liked Rebecca's one-sided attraction to him. They let it play out just long enough, and then wrote him out. The following season, they introduced a reverse situation, with Rebecca getting a new, young boss who was interested in her, but whom she couldn't stand. But for whatever reason, that was dropped after just a couple of episodes. Too bad - I thought that was pretty funny. I never cared for the whole Robin Colcord storyline, though.

Ken Levine said...

That last customer who was turned away was Bob Broder, the agent who handled Charles/Burrows/Charles and Levine/Isaacs.

Sam Clavin said...

For Ken;

Just cause someone else wrote "Cheers Fouls Out", why couldn't they use the "Bar Wars" title? Why didn't you write "Cheers Fouls Out"? Why isn't "From Beer to Eternity" considered a "Bar Wars"?(fist episode with Gary)

Sam Clavin said...

Just cause someone else wrote "Cheers Fouls Out", why couldn't they use the "Bar Wars" title? Why didn't you write "Cheers Fouls Out"? Why isn't "From Beer to Eternity" considered a "Bar Wars"?(fist episode with Gary) I really want to know. "Cheers Foul's Out" should be "Bar Wars IV", or 5 I guess, if you count "From Beer to Eternity".

Jonah Falcon said...

There was a Paul before Paul, though - who seemed to be a nemsis of sorts to Cliff.