Whatever happened to the gang at Cheers?

MIKE ROYKO

June 02, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

While visiting Boston, I took a stroll around town and found myself in front of a bar that looked familiar.

I went in and saw that it was the famous saloon called "Cheers."

But something had changed. It was almost empty and the bartender was a bald, stout fellow with broken red veins on his nose.

Taking a seat, I asked where Sam Malone, the legendary owner, was.

He peered at me through blood-shot eyes and mumbled: "I'm Sam Malone."

I looked closely at him and, by golly, he was right. Pudgy, bald and dissipated, yes, but it was Sam Malone.

Trying to be tactful, I said that it must be the lighting, but he looked different.

He shrugged and said: "No, it isn't the light. As you can see, the hairpiece is gone."

Ah, you decided to go au naturel, huh?

"No. As a matter of fact, I was having my way with a young lady, as my manly nature used to require. And she ran her hands through my hair. The damn thing came off and scared her half to death. She thought it was a rodent and flung it out the window before she --ed out the door. So I haven't gotten around to buying a replacement. Probably won't. Time to act my age."

He paused to pour himself a double 86-proof Genuine Skullpopper and downed it in one gulp.

I voiced my surprise, since he had been off the stuff for years.

"Yeah, I fell off the wagon. But being here alone so much of the time, I find that a few nips help me cope with the solitude."

I notice that business seems to be off. Where's the old "Cheers" gang? Isn't Woody the bartender around?

He shook his head. "As you probably remember, Woody somehow was elected a city councilman. Got in on a few kinky deals and the feds nailed him for misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, and mopery with intent to gawk. The last I heard, he was with Alan Dershowitz filing an appeal."

And he used to be such a nice kid. What about Cliff, the postman?

"Doesn't come around. Hangs out in a gay bar. Didn't you ever wonder why he never had a date and still lived with his mom?"

I suppose it crossed my mind. And his fat, beer-drinking buddy Norm?

"Fat? He's down to 120 pounds. All that beer and weight got to him and he had a triple bypass. The doc made him quit drinking, put him on a veggie diet, he power walks five miles a day, and his wife watches him like a hawk. He came in here one day, had a Perrier, and started nagging me about my drinking and how fiber would cleanse my inner organs, so I tried to punch him and he power-walked out of here real fast and hasn't been back since."

Clean living will do it every time. And Carla? What time does her shift begin?

"Gone. She had two more kids, which made 10, and figured out she could earn more on welfare. Last I saw of her, she was on TV, lying down in front of an abortion clinic."

Always was feisty. How about Rebecca? Is she still married to that sewer worker?

"After one week of marriage, he went down in a sewer and didn't come out."

The poor guy drowned?

"No, he's still down there. He sends up notes saying there are hTC worse things than living in a sewer."

There is some truth to that. And Frasier the shrink?

"You can find him at a maximum security institution for the criminally insane."

When did he go to work there?

"He's not working. He's an inmate. They locked him up when he started to nibble a female patient's ear."

Sexual harassment?

"No, he thought he was Hannibal Lecter. They subdued him before he got the other ear."

Gosh, that must have been a shock to his wife.

"Nobody knows. She hasn't been seen. The police went to their house but all they found were some leftover fava beans and some empty Chianti bottles."

That is sad. So the gang is gone.

"People change," said Sam, pouring himself another double.

Not to pry, but do you ever hear from Diane?

At the mention of her name, a tear trickled down his cheek, and he said: "She calls once in a while. Just for old time's sake. To make me feel inferior. I should have married her so I could have cheated on her and made her feel inferior. We were really made for each other."

Then she's still in California?

He shook his head. "She went for a while, and she wrote a big smash hit TV sitcom and made a lot of money. Then she formed her own production company and made even more money. But now she spends most of her time in Washington."

What is she doing there?

"She's in and out of the White House. Part of the Hollywood political crowd. Kind of an unofficial adviser to the president."

On the arts and culture, I would imagine.

"As a matter of fact, no. She's advising him on Bosnia."

Now that you mention it, I can see the influence. Well, Sam, it was good seeing you. Lots of luck.

As I was going out the door, he said, "Drop in again sometime." And poured another Skullpopper.

Maybe. But I think I'd rather catch you on the reruns.

"Me, too," he said. "Me, too."

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