This past weekend, Liz and I worked at my Mark Leslie author table at Hamilton Comic Con. It’s always a fun time, meeting interesting people, engaging in fun conversations, checking out great Cosplay costumes and observing some of the celebrity guests.
One of the main celebrity guests for this year’s con was none other that the main bar fly from the classic television program, Cheers.
George Wendt, who played Norm Peterson for eleven years on the American television program about the bar where “everybody knows your name” was not only there both days of the Con, but also participated in a special “Beers with Norm” event late Saturday afternoon.
Having been a life-long fan of the television program, and with a perhaps odd fascination with the beer-loving character, I just had to get a ticket to the event. Every ticket holder received a beer, a special collector’s beer mug, had a photo taken with George at a makeshift bar, and then got to drink beer while listening to a private Q&A session conducted by Bob Cowan from CHCH.
George Wendt was quite personable and was rather hilarious when answering questions and sharing stories about being an actor and playing one of televisions most beloved bar flies. One of the things he talked about was the “fake beer” or “near beer” that he drank a lot of on the set of Cheers.
While it might have LOOKED appealing to us viewers, Wendt explained that what they drank was a non-alcoholic beer that was quite warm (sitting out for hours under the hot stage lights) and flat and loaded with salt (from the prop-man who kept sprinkling salt in to give the beer its head) and was basically unappealing and not at all refreshing.
I think it’s the sign of a good actor, because the beer he drank never looked unappealing in any way. Cheers to that, George!
When it was my turn to walk around the side of the bar and pose for my picture with “Norm” I was one of the last people after more than half an hour.
“I’m one of the last ones,” I muttered quietly to him as we began our pose for the camera. “So are you tired of this non-stop posing, George?”
“I just can’t wait to drink this beer before it gets warm,” he said with a big grin.
Wendt was drinking an Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale for the pictures. I was drinking a Rickard’s Red Irish Style Ale. During the Q&A he explained that among his favorite beers recently were West Coast IPAs.
A few other fun trivia facts about George Wendt & Norm Peterson:
- George Wendt appeared as Norm Peterson in all 275 episodes of Cheers (between 1982 and 1993)
- He earned six Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Norm
- Wendt was an alumnus of The Second City comedy and in the early 1990s made multiple appearances on Saturday Night Live playing the role of Bob Swerski, a Chicago Bears super-fan. Wendt was born and raised in Chicago
- Norm’s full name is Hillary Norman Peterson
- The role of Norm was created specifically with George Wendt in mind, because the producers were familiar with his work on an episode of Taxi. Also, in the original script, the name used for his character was “George”
- John Ratzenberger who played Norm’s best friend, Cliff Clavin, the trivia-spouting mailman, also auditioned for the role of “Norm” and, upon realizing he wasn’t likely to get the role, asked the producers if they had a “know-it-all” bar character
- Wendt never ad-libbed his “Normisms” and praised the writers of the show for their talent and skill
- Norm’s never-seen wife Vera, whose voice was heard on the show, was played by George Wendt’s real-life wife, actress Bernadette Birkett
- Norm Peterson’s character was based on a real guy that co-creator, Les Charles knew from a bar he worked at after college, who came into the bar every single night and regularly said he’d have “just one beer” or “just one more beer”