Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A CHEERS story I had never heard before

Last Saturday night at UC Santa Barbara there was a discussion of CHEERS by series creators Glen & Les Charles and James Burrows moderated by CHEERS writer/producer Cheri Steinkellner. It was a fun, lively, informative evening filled with clips, tips, and anecdotes.

Later in the program George Wendt joined them on stage and told a story that even I had never heard.

It was Kirstie Alley’s first week. Kirstie is a little uh… out there. On her first day for example, for the table reading, she showed up in a blonde pageboy wig wearing a sweater and apron (a la Shelley Long).

During the week the rest of the cast decided it would be a nice gesture to get Kirstie a welcome gift. Everyone contributed but no one had the time to actually get it. George and John Ratzenberger drew the assignment of picking something out.

George said they drove down Melrose at a complete loss as to what to get. Trashy lingerie? That might be a tad too personal. (But certainly a good impulse.) Conventional gifts just seemed too… conventional.

They finally wound up in Big Five (as does everybody) and there they found the perfect gift. A little wrapping paper and it was ready to go.

And so after Kirstie’s first episode, the cast of CHEERS lovingly gave their new cast member a shotgun. That’s right. What better gift to give someone you’ve only known for four days than a shotgun? (Along with a nice note that said, “You’re going to have to shoot your way off this show.”) The fact that Kirstie found this hysterical it was clear that she was going to fit in perfectly. For the next six years she was as incorrigible as anyone on that show. And you couldn’t really cross her because, well… who knew how accurate she was that thing?

I dearly miss that cast. That infectious spirit of fun came through on the air. And it was always a joy to walk onto the set… although, if I had known one of the stars was heavily armed I might have thought differently.

P.S.

Georgie and John were never asked to go shopping again. 

16 comments:

Thomas said...

Oh my goodness, that's like Pete Campbell in Mad Men. Only in America!

An (is my actual name) said...

Can't help but think of the Big 5 clerk selling that kind of hardware to Cliff and Norm at the start of the new season.

Mac said...

Love it. George Wendt always seemed like a hoot. Great to hear he was such fun off the set.

Roger Owen Green said...

Junior walker would be pleased.

Thom McCaan said...

Norm, uh George has fully recovered? Fun story. Kirstie's fantastic!

Julie Ann Sipos said...

This begs the question where is the shotgun now? Maybe she could be the poster child for a forthcoming reality series, Celebrity Cash for Guns.

MikeN said...

Nowadays, that would land George or Cliff in prison for transferring a gun without permission and without doing a background check.

Rowan said...

What a great story! I love how welcoming they all were to Kirstie. I've worked on shows where the main cast was very close, but the newbies had to "prove themselves." Why people do that, I don't know. Whether new co-stars or guests, everyone should feel welcome.

And so glad George Wendt has healed well from his heart scare.

Paul Duca said...

He's about to open, or maybe just has, on Broadway in a revival of BORN YESTERDAY.

chuckcd said...

I always have liked Kirstie Alley,
and the story about the wig and sweater is awesome!

Why ignore the fact you are replacing
a main character?

Met George Wendt once at the Paramount commissary, and he was the nicest guy.

Cap'n Bob said...

Can't stand her. I stopped watching the show when she came on.

Anonymous said...

To MikeN -- You're wrong. "George and Cliff" would not go to prison nowadays, since (thanks to the Republicans) no new gun laws have been passed. So you can still buy a pink rifle and give it to your 5 year-old daughter. Enjoy.

Mike said...

I didn't believe this story, so I checked the on-line catalogue. WalMart hunting section: for the absent-minded armed robber in your life. And balaclavas and coupons. The bank validates parking.

ChicagoJohn said...

I want credit for the title of the next book you write... the one on writing Cheers:
"Riding Shotgun"

Jake Mabe said...

I can now die a happy man at the mere mental image of George Wendt and John Ratzenberger buying a shotgun together.

What a tale!

Kimberley Koz said...

I loved Kirstie's role on Cheers. I know she behaves a little "out there" but I continue to enjoy her to this day.