A number of people commented on yesterday’s post mentioning Kevin McHale’s two appearances on CHEERS.
As a rule of thumb, when you stunt cast with non-actors, especially sports stars, it’s best to give them the minimal to do and say. And by that I mean, have them enter, stand there, and leave.
A real exception was Kevin McHale.
McHale, who was then the Boston Celtics’ Hall-of-Fame sixth man, was hired for one brief scene in one episode. But he proved to be so good, so natural, and even (shockingly) so funny that we increased his part and then brought him back for a second episode. If this GM of the Timberwolves thing doesn’t work out Kevin could always star in the next STILL STANDING.
The only other time we did that with a celebrity was Alex Trebeck. Remember the Cliff-on-JEAPORDY episode? Alex was only slated to be in the actual JEAPORDY scene, but he was so funny we brought him into the bar as well. And if he screwed up we could always sound a buzzer.
One trivia note re Kevin McHale: In the Boston Gardens bolts episode (written by David Isaacs and me) there’s a brief scene where he’s in bed with his wife. We used his actual wife. And she was funny too! Not Alex Trebeck funny but still.
On the other hand…
The first season we used former pitcher Luis Tiant for a beer commercial scene. It took 100 takes. And we still settled.
And then there’s the Wade Boggs affair (literally). It was the very end of season six. NBC ordered an additional show. We put together a story called BAR WARS where CHEERS got into a practical joke war with Gary’s Olde Town Tavern. We thought it would be funny for a real Boston sports star to enter CHEERS but the gang think it’s an imposter, pants him, and chase him out of the bar.
The first name we came up with was Red Sox All-Star, Wade Boggs. Trouble was, it was March and he was in Spring Training in Winter Haven, Florida. We inquired anyway, and to our amazement, he agreed to do it. He even got the Red Sox to give him three days off. We thought, wow, CHEERS must really be influential now.
A few years later we learned the truth. An article by Margot Adams in PLAYBOY revealed that she was having an affair with Boggs and the real reason he was so hot to do our show was that he got a free trip to LA to see Margot. So much for our show’s massive influence.
Years later I was broadcasting for the Orioles and Mariners and encountered Boggs in the clubhouse. He wouldn’t talk to me. Yeah, like it was my fault.
Kevin McHale still takes my calls.