Monday, October 08, 2012

The CHEERS 30th Reunion Party

You know it’s a great party when it lasts for six hours. The CHEERS 30th reunion bash Saturday night in Beverly Hills was the perfect blend of laughter, tears, memories, and alcohol. If ever they gave an Emmy for “Best Show Party” (and they really should – it makes as much sense as Best Reality Show Host) Jimmy Burrows and Glen & Les Charles would win that too. It was like my 30th high school reunion except I couldn’t impress anybody that I worked on CHEERS because everybody there worked on CHEERS. We all looked pretty good for thirty years – even the writers.
Me, Glen Charles, David Isaacs
I wore the CHEERS tie I had gotten somewhere. Not many places I can wear that. CHEERS reunions and maybe Comic-Con.

The soiree was held at the Bouchon Bistro so you know the food was going to be better than the Rosendorf wedding at Leonard’s of Great Neck. And it was. No wonder everyone including the busboys have their own shows on the Food Network.
ET was there, so you know it had to be important. For some odd reason they only wanted to shoot footage of the actors. But just knowing I was at an event covered by ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT gave me the warm delusion of still being in the business. I imagine the segment will air tonight following the story on whatever singer Chris Brown beat up over the weekend.

I said to Ted Danson when I greeted him: “Hey, there’s a dead body in the stairwell I think you should look at.” And Ted replied: “I already counted the maggots.” Ted is in his second year starring on CSI.

Spent some time talking to the very busy Shelley Long. She did five movies this year. I haven’t seen five movies this year. When she and Ted chatted it’s like they weren’t Ted Danson and Shelley Long. They were Sam & Diane. And they always will be.
Kirstie looks spectacular. She’s dancing ten hours a day rehearsing for DANCING WITH THE STARS. Former DWTS contestant John Ratzenberger agreed it was grueling. (Oh, the fun we could have had with Cliff the dancing mailman.) Ironically, Bebe Neuwirth, who is a dancer and could win that competition with both legs in a cast hasn’t entered. Forget the babes on REVENGE and SCANDAL. Lilith is still hot, boys!
George Wendt was happy because Notre Dame beat the shit out of the University of Miami. My writing partner, David, was less ecstatic. Rhea was there with her sister, fellow writer Heide Perlman. And you know how on Saturday I talked about their dad being an extra on the show? Happy to report he’s 93 and still going strong. Living off the residuals I’m sure.

Only main cast members missing were Kelsey Grammer (who is out of the country) and Woody Harrelson (I don't know where Woody was, but I'm not sure he knew either).  However, they both sent lovely videos.

Friend of the blog, Jackie Swanson was there. She says a month doesn’t go by when somebody doesn’t sing “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly” to her.  I'd be slugging people by now but she doesn't mind. Jean Kasem (Loretta) and Paul Willson (Paul) also attended. CHEERS had some pretty great semi-regulars, didn’t they? I didn’t see Fred Dryer (sportscaster Dave), but I see him all the time at the gym so I didn’t feel cheated.

Judy Hart Angelo, who penned the lyrics to the theme song was there.  Who could have possibly predicted thirty years ago that when she wrote "Where everybody knows your name"that she'd be helping to sell State Farm Insurance?

Now that we have iPhones, everyone was taking pictures all night of everyone else. There were a couple of professional photographers hovering. I bet they have sixteen shots of Bebe and Rhea taking photos of other people.

Was seated at a table with enormously talented CHEERS writers – a few of them (Dan O’Shannon, Dan Staley, and Phoef Sutton) are still employed if you can believe it. Lots of laughs and begging the working writers for jobs.

The highlight of the evening came after dinner. Our gracious hosts put together an amazing 38-minute compilation video of the “Best of CHEERS.” It seemed like ten minutes. I can’t begin to express how proud I am to be a part of such an extraordinary body of work. And then how nice to be able to personally thank those responsible.

The video ended with all of our credits, the number of Emmys the show won (28), the number of children born during its eleven-year run (37 – my son Matt was the first. Happy 30th birthday in three weeks, Matt), and a list of those we lost. They deserve recognition in this piece as well. Nicolas Colosanto, David & Lynn Angell, David Lloyd, Jerry Belson, Brandon Tartikoff, Steven Kolzak, Gary Nardino, Linda Burrows, and Maryann Charles.

I should have known better but didn’t. I thought, “Nah, they’re not going to do it.” Sure enough, Jimmy got up and began passing the microphone around for toasts. They were funny, lovely, touching, and very spontaneous because like me, no one thought they’d do this again. Fortunately, these people have all had ample practice in award acceptance speeches. Les Charles said, “Even if CHEERS had only lasted one year it would have been the greatest experience of my life. Of course I’d now be valet parking.” And Jimmy reminded us of the late great Jerry Belson’s toast on the night CHEERS first premiered. Jerry stood up and said, “Y’know, I’ve been on a lot of shows…” and then he sat back down.
Mary Steenburgen & Ted

The toasts finally ended after four strangers spoke.  More circulating and reminiscing until about 1:00 in the morning. You know how people say, “we should get together” but never do? I made a vow to follow up with everyone I said that to. Now let's see if they take my calls.

As I watched the highlights video – filled with pride and counting the number of our episodes they included – I thought, what a tremendous gift. Not only did we all do work we’re extremely proud of, but that work is still being seen and enjoyed today. CHEERS remains on the air in syndication as well as on a few cable networks. DVD’s are available, and now you can watch the entire eleven seasons on Netflix. I invite fans of the show to revisit it, and I especially invite young people who haven’t seen CHEERS to check it out. By the second time you hear the words, “magnificent pagan beast” you’ll be hooked, I promise.

Again, my thanks to Jim Burrows and Glen & Les Charles for a magic night, a career, and those marshmallow party favors. Those were great! See you at THE TORTELLIS reunion.

42 comments:

Roseann said...

Leonard's of Great Neck??!!??!!!!

That got a guffaw from me!

David Schwartz said...

This is a wonderful thing to share with everyone, Ken. It's also great to see all of the cast members together and hear your inside stories. A real gift to all of us!

An (is my actual name) said...

Wow, Ken-- thanks so much for sharing all of this. My envy of flies on walls has never been greater, but you've helped assuage that envy just a bit. I wonder if there's any hope of seeing the compilation reel. I'll be on the lookout for that ET piece. Can't believe I'm seeking out ET, but there you have it. Thanks again-- ya done good.

Anonymous said...

That's so weird. Seeing these folks together feels like a wonderful family reunion.

Thanks for sharing - and thanks to everyone involved for creating television memories that will remain unmatched for decades to come!

Tom Quigley said...

"DVD’s are available..."

Hell, a DVD of the reunion party alone would be worth watching!

What a great time you all must have had the other night, and how fantastic everyone looks... I could sense the magic you all must have felt just reading your report, Ken!

Nathan said...

I've scouted Leonard's of Great Neck. The director liked it for kitsch value but thought it was way over the top.

Robin Raven said...

Reading this made me so happy. Thanks for sharing this incredible experience with us. :)

Max Clarke said...

Magnificent pagan beast?

Thanks, Ken, what's the message?


No television show makes me smile inside like Cheers. I'm glad so many people who worked on the series knew from the start how special it was. It's like seeing the future. Makes the work and the fun all the better.

Beth Ciotta said...

I second Robin R. Reading this made me incredibly happy. I am a long time fan of Cheers and continue to enjoy the show to this day. It doesn't matter how many times I've seen an episode, it always feels like the first time. The Cheers characters are like family and it takes some incredibly talented writers, actors, and directors to bring them to life in that way. How fantastic that you were all able to reunite and enjoy that special connection once more. Thank you for sharing, Ken. And congratulations on being a part of something so wonderful!

Anonymous said...

FYI pretty sure Woody Harrelson is busy shooting Hunger Games: Catching Fire so he probably couldn't get away.

Donald said...

Ken: Can you use your clout to post the Woody Harrelson and Kelsey Grammer videos?

ScottyB said...

Heyyyyyy now ... Nick Tortelli (Dan Hedaya) was the best part of some episodes of 'Cheers'. Too bad he got screwed with a god-awful spin off.

But I think Ken hit it on the head with "thanks ... for a magic night, a career ..." That's what I'd consider to be a life totally fucking blessed.

chuckcd said...

Oh, Entertainment Tonight. At first I thought an Extra Terrestrial was there.
Makes me want to break out my "Cheers" jacket I bought at Paramount.
And phone home...

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

CHEERS had some pretty great semi-regulars, didn’t they?
Amen. No Frances Sternhagen or John Allen Hill?

I just saw that Rhea Perleman and Danny DeVito are getting divorced. I am inordinately sad about this news about two people I don't know. I usually don't care about celebrity news. But this probably means we'll never see Rhea on Always Sunny as Frank's sister, which I've been hoping for.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

You never know. After 30 years they could be friends and just stayed married until one found another. Stranger things have happened, lol.

Ken, thanks for sharing this. We hear so much crap about celebrities with egos hating each other. Its nice to see that everyone enjoyed their time on the show and thought going to the reunion would be a good thing.

Pam aka sisterzip

Kristina said...

Ken,

Im 18, a sophomore in college, and have just started watching Cheers last Friday after reading your blog for months now. I'm finishing up Season 2 today.

I want to thank you. I've been on the fence for a few years figuring out what direction of communications I want to go into. I've always been interested in television, I wrote a spec script for The Big Bang Theory years ago, I've been reading screenwriting books for ages. I'm majoring in advertising and while I love everything it has to offer, my passion for it has been dwindling and I think I know why. I want to go into some aspect of television production. I want to write or produce or just be an assistant to someone. I want to be immersed in that life.

I've started going back and reading your archives, I just hit 2007. Every post about pitches or casting takes me one step closer to definitively deciding to work in TV. I'm going to work ridiculously hard to get an internship somewhere in the field this summer, I know its hard, and unlikely I'll ever get there, but I have to do because I just love it too much.

I'm sorry if I've taken too much of your time reading about my mundane thoughts, but yeah. Just wanted to thank you for reinspiring me.

Kristina

Steve Zeoli said...

I don't know if I should be proud of this or embarrassed, but I have all 11 seasons on DVD and I watch it over and over (not all at one time, but a few episodes every week) -- though mostly the first five seasons, when Shelley was still on the show. My wife thinks I'm nuts, I think, but she laughs out loud even when she's not sitting in front of the TV with me. It is remarkable how well the show holds up. Truly a benchmark of television greatness. Congratulations, Ken.

Amanda said...

Like Robin R. and Beth C. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this with us -- it makes me incredibly happy.

I know it was "just a TV show", but Cheers was such a part of my life that it's just good to hear that, in a way, it's still "there"... so to speak.

Peter David said...

Jackie Swanson is adorable. I spent time with her in Romania when she starred in an SF western I wrote called "Oblivion.". I'd love to know what she's up to these days.

Andrew said...

After I'd been the most starry-eyed Cheers fan in California for several years, I went to work at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Getting a job in the mailroom, meeting great people like Mr. Danson and Mr. Grammer, and sneaking onto the Cheers set after dark and playing foosball (sorry, guys) gave me the greatest thrills of the over six years I spent there.

I remain convinced that the following lines from the show were written after the writers observed me and the other mailroom guys:

Norm: "Shouldn't you be delivering the mail, Cliffie?"
Cliff: "Aah... it can wait."

(And if any writers here say "no comment" about that, I'm spilling secrets ;) )

Sebastian Peitsch said...

This was an awesome read. Thanks for sharing Ken. So glad you guys had a ton of fun :-)

david said...

You have to give the Boston Globe's TV critic, Ed Siegel, credit for admitting when he is wrong. To this day he still quotes his review of the Cheers premiere: "A bomb went off in a Boston bar last night..."

Oh, and I couldn't agree more, Lilith IS hot...

S Pignotti said...

Great read - thanks for sharing. Cheers is my favorite series of all time - huge fan. I recently started to re-watch from S1, E1 & was amazed at how many laugh out loud moments per episode. I don't recall any recent series that come even close.
Not that it was only one-liners. I really appreciate the depth. In "Coaches Daughter" I was misty-eyed as Lisa bit her tongue when she realized how honest (& right) Coach was being in his view of her being beautiful. Also love your work with the M's!

Ane said...

Read this post and told my dad Cheers was 30 years old. He said "It can't be. You're not 30 yet!" I confirmed it and he sighed and mumbled something about getting ready for retirement.

PS. On the picture it seems all the women are doing a better job staying young than the men. Except Shelley Long. Not that she doesn't still look good, but she's much harder to recognize than the rest.

Mike said...

@Peter David: Funny you should ask.

Peter David, ladies & gentlemen. Famous writer & author of a very successful run on The Incredible Hulk comic. Of which I have at least one copy - the one with the Pulp Fiction cover.

mikeinseattle said...

Ken, that brings a tear to my eye. Congratulations.

And slightly off topic regarding Ted Danson, I've been a fan of his for, well, 30 years. But his character on BORED TO DEATH, that guy had me ROFL every episode. I don't know what it was about George, but Ted embodied something that was just great.

Mel said...

On a day off from work (as a high school teacher), I spent my afternoon watching the first season of Cheers on Netflix and THEN saw this post. It is hard to believe it's been 30 years since I first saw these episodes and fell in love with this show that seemed so smart and sophisticated to a nerdy junior high school girl who had grown tired of the typical junk TV geared toward kids my age. Thank you all!

Peter David said...

Thanks for the cross reference, Ken! It's good to know that she came out of such a catastrophic car accident unscathed, and how sad to hear about her sister. I'm glad she's happy with doing commercials, although I wish Hollywood was making better use of such a gifted comic actress. I remember her recounting how she had to go about telling her father of her role in the beginning of "Lethal Weapon"--that it basically consisted of her getting high while half naked and throwing herself off a building. Just what every dad wants to tell the guys his little girl is up to.

Speaking of that, I remember all the "Oblivion" cast and American crew would typically eat together in the hotel restaurant in the evening. And one evening as everyone's eating, word filters through that River Phoenix had died, the cause unclear at the time...except Jackie and every young actor in the place looked at each other, nodded, and muttered "Drugs." Everyone was VERY quiet for the rest of the time.

If you're in touch with Jackie, please tell her I said hi and think of her often.

Glad you liked the Pulp Fiction cover. It's one of the very few covers that I personally conceived of since I loved the original so much.

PAD

Jeremy Dylan said...

If anyone, like me, is following years of watching episodes at random in syndication by starting from the top, I recommend buying the HD versions through iTunes.

The transfers looking AMAZING. Gorgeous, crisp film. Leagues ahead visually from any contemporary multi-cam show.

An (is my actual name) said...

Just watched the ET piece and was so disappointed at the glaring lack of Shelley in the group interview. What happened there? How do you shoot a Cheers reunion interview without Shelley?

Ken Levine said...

Shelley had not arrived yet. I think that's why she's not in the ET piece as much.

An (is my actual name) said...

Thank you, Ken. Sucks that they didn't wait for her or at least shoot a bit more with the group when she arrived. I really hope she gets some comments in tomorrow's follow-up. Yeah, I'm a Shelley fan. Thanks again!

cadavra said...

Speaking of Bebe's hotness: Last spring I saw her in an off-Broadway production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, in which she was clad in a black leather bustier, fishnet stockings, boots and a riding crop. Needless to say, my program remained in my lap all evening.

Incidentally, Christina Ricci and another woman spent most of the show in their underwear. During intermission I said to my girl friend, "Now THIS is how you get kids interested in Shakespeare!"

Libby (Applebaum) Harrison said...

Thanks for sharing this! Having started my career in entertainment working as a P.A. on the 9th season, I am so honored to have been part of this wonderful show.

John said...

Great posts! Thanks for sharing those great pictures.
Doesn't NBC have anything planned to acknowledge the anniversary? It is a shame if they let this pass. Cheers is a great show.

JS said...

What a laugh I had reading that Shelly was late for the ET cast interview. Nice to know that after thirty years some things never change. Sorry I missed the party. Everybody looks great.

Stev e said...

So great, Ken. Thanks for sharing that.

Chasrich said...

This was the last primetime sitcom I watched.They don't make them like this anymore.

Now if only NBC would have a Cheers 30th anniversary reunion!

Precious Paws said...

Great write up Ken! Working on Cheers and around Cheers for six years was amazing. The actors were awesome.. Ted and Kirstie went out after every shoot night with us to the Columbia Bar and Grill. I remember one night we even went dancing, had a blast dancing with Ted and Woody while George watched my purse for me :) They treated all of us as equals, not just the staff, all of you guys did and I truly appreciated being treated as an equal by all on this show. Jimmy and Les were wonderful to me, I never knew Glen, met him once. But the love and friendships on this show were genuine. and one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Sad that most of the staff and crew were not invited to the reunion but I do understand how out of control that party would have been.

It was great working for Ted, he is the real deal, he was a great boss and once I went over to work on the show he always made sure I was taken care of.

Thank you for posting the pictures... they are awesome to see... and bring back a flood of memories....

I wish now we could just throw a big pot luck somewhere and we could all get together!

Love,

Georgyne.

Brian said...

Hi Ken - I enjoyed this post as I did the show. But I was curious about something (and sorry if I'm not the first person to ask).

I read the article online GQ had about Cheers's 30th, and it brought up your story about what happened to Jay Thomas. Rhea Perlman disagreed with that version, and now I don't know what to believe.

Ken Levine said...

Brian,

Like I said in the piece, I was as candid and honest as I could be. Infer what you will.

cheripipay said...

Thanks for sharing! I am a huge fan, I have all 11 dvds. Actually re-watched all episodes for 3 months while recovering from surgery. I wish they would have a reunion show with everyone.