Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Questions

Friday Questions – a holiday tradition.

Kyle Burress starts us off:

I stumbled across this blog looking for information on some of the minor characters on 'Cheers' ie Tim, Alan, Steve, Hugh just to name a few.

I was curious as to how and why some characters such as Paul Vaughn from seasons 1-2 or others such as Hugh Maguire, Larry Harpel, Mark Arnott, or Jack Knight only appeared in a season or two but had several appearances throughout those seasons suddenly just disappeared. Was it a case of local talent just getting their shot? Then you have others like Alan Koss, Tim Cunningham, Steve Giannelli and Pete Schreiner that appear in multiple seasons and a couple throughout the entire course of the series. I know they were all minor characters but why were some featured for a majority of the series and some for only a season or two?

The barflies were usually paid as extras unless they had a line of dialogue. Extras don’t make much money. And even a line or two a few times a season is not enough bonus loot to support a family. To my knowledge these people moved on to better paying jobs or careers.

Ironically, several of them wrote spec episodes of CHEERS and invariably their character would be the star of the episode.

A few of the extras caught on and started receiving more and more lines – like Al Rosen (“Man Who Said Sinatra”), Tom Babson (Cliff was always giving him shit about going to law school), and Phil Perlman (Rhea and Heide’s dad). In later years we used Paul Willson as a recurring character, but that was different. Paul was hired as an actor, not a background player.

MW makes his FQ debut:

I hadn't seen the first year of Cheers since the first year of Cheers, but recently Netflixed through it. What was amazing beyond the fact that the characters and humor were perfect with the very first episode, is that the show hasn't aged. Aside from hair styles, the size of the bar phone and a few baseball references, it's as absolutely fresh today as it was then. The jokes and characters still land today as they did then. So many shows, even truly great comedies, show their age, but Cheers doesn't. Since you were involved with the show pretty much from the beginning, how did you work to make it timeless. Was that a concern of the creators or was that just an outcome of the way you all worked?

You can see why I used his question – so many compliments. Thank you, MW. The short answer is we made the problems universal. The issues that the characters are wrestling with are relatable and the same as today’s issues. Relationship problems, addiction problems, finding your place in the world, the need to be accepted – these are timeless.

The Charles Brothers didn’t set out to do a show that would stand the test of time, but they did want to do a show that concentrated on the characters – their emotions and humanity. It was not enough that the audience found them funny, they had to care about them. To me, that’s what makes a lasting sitcom.

From John G:

You and I are both huge fans of Dan Ingram, quite possibly the greatest top 40 radio DJ of all time(you won't find anyone saying that in LA though). I would love to hear anything and everything you have about him, especially for the benefit of those who do not know him.

Even though I’m from LA and had the privilege of hearing the Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan in their ‘60s heyday, I still feel Dan Ingram on WABC New York was the greatest disc jockey of the Top 40 era. For voice quality, spontaneity, timing, warmth, and humor there’s never been anyone who could touch him. Any one random show of Dan Ingram has more laugh-out-loud moments than a month's worth of anyone else's. He has one of the greatest comic minds I’ve ever seen. I think I’m pretty quick, but I’m not even in this guy’s league.

Watching him do his show was wild. For every hilarious thing he said on the air there were usually five he said off the air that he COULDN’T say on the air.

Okay, so you want a story. Dan also had an amazing voice over career. For about thirty years you heard his voice on hundreds, maybe thousands of commercials. I was in the studio with him one day during a New York visit and mentioned that I recognize his voice on lots of commercials but no one in LA knows him. This is what he said:

“When I walk out of a building I don’t want people saying, ‘Hey, there goes Dan Ingram.’ I want them saying, ‘Hey, who is that guy getting into a Rolls?”

Dan is retired now, living mostly in Florida now. For the millions of people who grew up listening to him, he’s a national treasure.

And finally, DrBOP asks a question about gambling on sports.

What were/are the guidelines for broadcasters vis-a-vis laying down the occasional bet? How about broadcasters being sources of "inside info" for fantasy, or other, gambling interests? Ever see it? Ever happen?

This is hazy, but I think as a broadcaster I had to sign some document saying I wouldn’t gamble. I never bet on sports anyway so it was always a non-issue.

I know announcers that do gamble on sports, and even with all their “inside information” they usually lose.

I did have a Rotisserie team when I was broadcasting for the Orioles. Conflicts arose when one of the players for the opposing team was on my Rotisserie team and hit a home run. My call had to be muted, but inside I was going “YES!!!!”

By the way, with all my “inside information,” my team finished second to last. George Bell of the Blue Jays killed me in the second half.

What’s your Friday Question, and happy holiday shopping this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Were you involved in the Raymond where his dad is looking for inside info for betting?

Kent said...

My mother did some extra work after she retired. There wasn't much money in it, but she enjoyed doing it. She said it beat staying at home and watching reruns on the Game Show Network. I remember she said there was always going to be the guy who was going to suggest a line for himself. ("Wouldn't it be better if I said . . . ?" The answer was inevitably, "No, it wouldn't.") She said there were also the extras who didn't work out because they couldn't resist staring at the actors and watching what they were doing. They couldn't seem to grasp that unless there was something going on where it would be natural and normal for the extras to be watching the actors or the action, in which case they would be directed to do so, you don't pay attention to what they're doing. You stay in the background and have make believe conversations with other extras.

Denny said...

Regarding the comment about some of the barfly extras on CHEERS writing specs which were built around their character, I've been working my way through WKRP IN CINCINNATI, and I've noticed that actor Richard Sanders, who played Les Nessman on the series, contributed a few scripts over the run of the series, and that his scripts were inevitably built around his character, Les Nessman. The rest of the cast would figure into them, but Les was always front and center. I guess that's to be expected, though. If you're an actor and you're going to write a script for the series you're on, how likely is it that you're going to build around one of the other characters and very modestly place your own character in the background?

Cat said...

I worked in a bookstore years ago, and we'd get a few celebrities in every now and then. I waited on Paul Vaughn, the "first" Paul, the blonde one who gave Cliff crap about being a mail carrier. I told him I recognized him and he was positively thrilled.

norm said...

Kent Said: My mother did some extra work after she retired.

Now take that sentence apart and you see how actors have to now what is what.
At 1st I read it thinking she worked after retirement.

Then I read on threw Kent's paragraph and realize she was doing "Extra" in acting.
This is why so much on the internet is taken the wrong way.

Stoney said...

I know you'd prefer to stay out of all the nastiness associated with politics but I have a feeling that this is going to be a golden year for political satire. Will Ferrell's recent SNL opener (playing G.W. Bush) was a killer and the mere fact that Bernie Sanders is more like Larry David that Larry David are the proof. Not to mention that The Donald continues to be a fountain of material for any comic. I'm keeping my HBO subscription mainly for next month's return of Maher The Merciless. Your take?

Brian Phillips said...

If you want to hear Dan Ingram and other WABC air talent, go here:

tavm said...

I remember Dan Ingram from a series of promotional HBO programs in which he'd announce upcoming movies on the channel. When the credits would roll, he'd then propose to his boss to appear onscreen to no effect. Those were amusing but I thought when he did one in which he played a bunch of recordings of a chorus singing his name, that was hilarious! I've also heard his airchecks on YouTube which were also fascinating to hear especially one of experiencing a black back in the '60s.

tavm said...

I meant to write "blackout".

Justin Russo said...


Ken, as a writer of comedy, is there any classic film actor/actress that you wish you could have written for and worked with (aside from Natalie Wood, of course - that's too easy)? Secondly are there any particular comedies of that era that have influenced your style?

Jack said...
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Jessy said...
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YEKIMI said...

Having never reached a "Dan Ingram" level of success in radio [usually working at stations where ratings were just a rumor or in negative numbers], I was never really bothered that no one recognized my voice as I was just happy "spinning the hits". The one time when I was at a station in Florida and I was in a mall talking with a friend and some girl came up and said "Your voice sounds familiar" and told her that maybe she had heard me on the radio and was waiting for a "No, that's not it" when she shrieked and said "I listen to you all the time!" and started yelling for her friends to come meet me. That was a huge ego boost and pretty damn flattering at that time but most of the time was just happy to be an anonymous face in the crowd and could go about in public without being bothered.

Kayla said...

Who decides how extras should or shouldn't react, the director? I understand that most of the time they're just background fill and aren't supposed to be paying attention to the actors, but I've seen scenes where the actors should be paying attention, but they're not. For example, two actors in a restaurant are having a loud argument, the kind of thing that in real life would be drawing a lot of attention, but in the scene the extras remain oblivious to the yelling that's going on a few feet away from them. Things like that take away from the reality of a scene.

By Ken Levine said...

Note to a couple of commenters. I deleted your comments because they were in regards to a troll. Although I do appreciate the support, my policy is to ignore trolls completely. Thanks much.

John Hammes said...

>> happy holiday shopping this weekend.

Mercy, is such a thing possible in late December?

Speaking of late December - and radio - what songs and other DJs/radio offerings help get you through "the most wonderful time of the year"? (The most stressful, we all know better.) Humorous helpings to relieve the pressure of the season and keep us grounded, as most comedy hopefully would do?

Certainly, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Demento, who is still producing and broadcasting online. Demento and Wild Man Fischer gave us the spoken word "I'm A Christmas Tree".

The good doctor also introduced us to Jason And The Strap-Tones, "I Found The Brains Of Santa Claus", among so much else.

Bob Dylan - "Must Be Santa".

Aqua - "Spin Me A Christmas".

Cyndi Lauper - "Christmas Congo".

Cousin Brucie's radio broadcasts, during the holidays and throughout the year, always inclusive, never condescending.

Heat and Snow Miser's over the top musical intros, foisted on an unsuspecting populace in 1974. 'Nuff said.

John Hammes said...

How could I have forgotten longtime radio host/DJ Dr. Cooper Lawrence, she provided some food for thought - room to breathe and relax - with this gem of an observation:

"All I want for Christmas is December 26th."


Charles H. Bryan said...

Thank you for not feeding the trolls!

Ken, for the holiday season and because it's free with Amazon Prime, I just downloaded the first season of The Twilight Zone. All 39 episodes. My Friday Question is: How the hell did they make 39 episodes of a show in one year? Doesn't that just seem insane by today's standards? Sure, one could argue that a lot of those shows back then weren't that good, but this is also the time of some classics (e.g., I LOVE LUCY - 35 eps its first season, PHIL SILVERS - avg 35 eps/4 seasons). This was well before the widespread industry-mandated use of cocaine. How did they do it? Just coffee? Really strong coffee?

estiv said...

John Hammes, Bob Dylan's version of "Must Be Santa" is actually based closely, let us politely say very very very closely, on Brave Combo's version from the early 90s. I love Bob Dylan's work, but sometimes (as in this case and with the musician credits for Blood on the Tracks) he gets a little high-handed about giving credit where it's due.

John Hammes said...


thank you for this info and addendum: will now keep Brave Combo on my radar!

Michael said...

Do you know of anyone who started out doing extra work who was able to transition to successful acting career?

Tom said...

Michael: Don't know how much work he did as an extra before getting speaking parts, but you can see Bruce Willis sitting among the spectators during the trial scenes near the end of "The Verdict," behind Paul Newman. This would have been about three years before "Moonlighting."

Pete Grossman said...

Man, Dan Ingram. What pipes. Lived to listen to his shows. As a kid, I remember getting a kick out of him commenting about an advertiser right in the middle of the read - "Schickhaus, Schickhaus, Franks, be careful how you say that."

Anonymous said...

I love Bob Dylan's work, but sometimes (as in this case and with the musician credits for Blood on the Tracks) he gets a little high-handed about giving credit where it's due.

Goes back to early in his career. in his autobiography
Hesitant to give Bobby Vee credit for picking him for the Winter Dance Party after the Buddy Holly plane crash

Didn't really give Roger McGuinn credit for popularizing his music going electronic with Mr. Tambourine Man

Didn't really give The Turtles credit for bringing his music to the pop audience with It Ain't Me Babe

Cap'n Bob said...

As a teenager in New York in the sixties I was a Dan Ingram fan. He was all that you say, Ken. But I have to admit I didn't know what he looked like. The photo you ran shows a regular-looking man, but because he want by Big Dan Ingram I always assumed he was rotund. Now I'm thinking he was tall. Or was he large and tall? Please help.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I was an extra in a little TV Programme, you may have heard of, The X-Files (does that ring a bell?),it's usually the 2nd assistant director who, directs us, cattle rustling, is the term I believe, in the scene I was in, we were marching through a graveyard to protest the exhuming of a body, so yes we reacted to the stars (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny), I wonder what became of them?

John Hammes said...

Sunny Sweeney - "One More Christmas Beer"

Merry Christmas, Dr. Demento !


DrBOP said...

Thanks much for your answer. I guess I'll have to give up the hunt for Vin Scully's ugly underbelly of sinful activity...... but I DID find his Christmas Story :

Have a rockin' good Christmas everybody!

Unknown said...


My husband is a HUGE fan; he reads your blog daily and loves your work. He falls asleep to Cheers, Frasier, or Wings every night and has the complete collections of all three series' on DVD. I often ask him what he's doing on his phone and hear the reply "Reading Ken's blog".

MY FRIDAY QUESTION (although it's Sunday, as I waited in hopes of my husband NOT seeing my comment) IS: Do you have any ideas on how I could get Kelsey Grammer to record an audio version of him reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" as a gift for my husband? My husband made this request to me a few years ago because he thinks I am a miracle worker, because he just loves the sound of Kelsey Grammer's voice (he has done great voice work), and because he loves Christmas. I have made some attempts to do this but so far am at a loss on how to make my husband's grown-up Christmas wish come true. I thought, with everything wonderful my husband has told me about you, that you would be my best resource.

Is there anything you could do to help me, Ken?

Merry Christmas!

By Ken Levine said...


I wish I could help you. I don't have a direct line to Kelsey at the moment. I suppose you could find out from SAG who his manager is and contact him. Best of luck. Kelsey is a great guy so who knows? Thanks for the kind words. Happy holidays.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Ken!

Ryan said...

My Friday question: Any memories/stories of Cheers player Al Rosen?

Rhoda Lexington said...


On MASH, it was known that Hawkeye was an only child from Maine, and that Colonel Potter was from Missouri, yet early in their development, Hawkeye had a sister and was from Vermont, and Potter told everyone that he was going to be in Nebraska after retiring. Why do writing staffs change details like this mid-series? Thanks.

Vidor said...

I don't guess anyone will ever read this, but Dan Ingram was on the air for one of AM Radio's most memorable moments. He was doing his show as the electric grid collapse that led to the great 1965 Northeast blackout was happening. This gradual collapse of the grid manifested itself in a frequency that gradually declined below 60 Hz, which meant that any machine driven by an AC motor would go slower--and that included the turntable that was turning Ingram's records. The music can be heard to slow down. Ingram makes a joke about "Songs in the key of R" and then later says "The electricity's slowing down. I didn't know it could do that."

It's on You Tube. Pretty neat.