I’m kinda in a CHEERS mood.
As a writer you like to think that when you write a role it so specific that only a certain number of people could play it. Well, that’s not always the case.
In the first year of CHEERS we had a role in an episode for a mysterious character who comes into the bar posing as a spy. We first offered the role to Richard Burton. Unbelievably, he passed. Then it was offered to Jack Elam (the guy with the lazy eye who played the villain in a thousand western). Elam passed and we ended up with Ellis Rabb, a very flamboyant theatrical actor who built his career on playing fops. (I think if he had passed our next choice was Billy Barty)
Several seasons later we wrote an episode where Sam brings Larry Bird back to the bar and it appears that he steals Rebecca’s hundred thousand dollar earrings. When Bird decided to pass we went to the next logical choice, Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Side trip: He turned out to be a great guy. And yes, he was always trailed by an aide with a box handcuffed to his wrist – putting the Admiral in direct satellite communication with the President, day or night. Every twenty minutes this aide had to unlock the box and place a test call. I badgered him into letting me watch this once. He opened the box. I was expecting this real high tech Star Wars equipment. It looked like used Radio Shack shit, with a black phone worthy of Maxwell Smart.
Admiral Crowe did every joke we wrote for him…except one, presented here for the first time.
He’s sitting at the bar with Norm and Cliff. Norm says, “So you got the black box, huh?” Admiral: “That’s right.” Cliff: “And you can make one call and nuclear missiles are in the air on their way to Russia?” Admiral: “Yes, sir.” Norm then slaps a bill on the counter and says, “Fifty bucks says you can’t.”
I’m only sorry Larry Bird didn’t take the role. I’m sure he would have said it.