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Trivia Makes O.C. Writer Toast of ‘Cheers’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you know--or think you know--the name of the restaurant above Cheers, what ruined Sam Malone’s baseball career, or why Carla’s family liked to watch “America’s Most Wanted,” Mark Wenger of Irvine has written the book for you.

“The Cheers Trivia Book” (Citadel Press; $9.95) provides the answers to those and 750 other questions pertaining to the award-winning comedy that aired from 1982 to 1993. (Answers to the above questions: Melville’s, Sam was an alcoholic, to rat on their neighbors.)

The entire barroom gang from the popular comedy is represented with individual chapters--from Sam and Diane to Norm (“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and I’m wearing Milk-Bone underwear”) and obscure-fact-quoting Cliff (Nobody messes with Switzerland because they all carry Swiss Army Knives).

Think you know your stuff? Scoring on the “Cheers” Trivia Rating includes The Cliff Clavin Award (You know it all--or at least you claim you do); The Carla Tortelli Award (You achieved this level not on your knowledge, but because you cheated); The Frasier Crane Award (Though not completely interested, your desire for barfly companionship helped you reach this level), and the Norm Peterson Award (You have spent way too much time at Cheers and only got the beer question correct).

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As might be expected, Wenger spent way too many hours in front of his TV set.

“I watched the show-- lots, " said Wenger, 37, manager of employee benefits for a medical testing laboratory in San Juan Capistrano.

He said he began taking notes about two years ago, during the second to last season of the series. He also spent a couple of hours a night watching reruns or videotapes of reruns.

“I took notes while I watched and at the end of the week I typed everything up on a computer,” he said, explaining that he kept his eyes open for such details as: On what “wall” did Carla claim Cliff’s social calendar could be found? (the men’s room wall) and, what was Rebecca’s nickname in college? (Back-seat Becky.)

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“What I didn’t want was very dry trivia stuff,” Wenger said. “I also didn’t want it to be too challenging. I wanted anybody to be able to pick up the book whether they saw the show 100 times or not and be entertained by it.”

Wenger said a couple of retrospective-type books on “Cheers” are available, and the series has been featured in other books about TV in general, but this is the first book to deal with the show’s trivia.

Although he was a fan of the show, Wenger said the idea behind doing the book was “to start a writing career--to do something a little more satisfying, a little more fun with my life, and maybe make a little money for my kids’ college education.”

In selecting a subject to write, he said, he decided to tackle a book that he was sure would sell, despite his lack of experience.

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Wenger said he put together a book proposal before delving into his research. But first he had to learn how to write one. To find out, he checked out a book on the subject from the library and took a couple of classes--"Seventeen Ways to Make Money as a Writer” at Irvine Valley College and “How to Get Published” at Cal State Fullerton.

He then wrote a 12-page proposal, which included sample chapters and emphasized that a reported 83 million people were watching the reruns. “I figured that would be a good selling point, knowing the show would be going off the air sometime soon,” said Wenger, who sent his proposal to a dozen publishers simultaneously and received a half dozen rejection letters and one acceptance--from Citadel.

Despite the time he spent plucking the trivia out of each episode, Wenger said he never burned out watching the folks at Cheers.

“Actually when I watched the last show I had (on tape) I cried,” he said. “I was enjoying it that much. It was sad not to watch anymore.”

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For Wenger, the show’s primary appeal was “the development of the characters and the crisp writing. I found it to be entertaining that way, and I also think it’s the thing a lot of people would find (appealing): how the song goes, ‘It’s a place where everybody knows your name.’ The characters were a diverse bunch, and yet they bonded as friends and supported each other.”

Wenger thinks Norm, who spent more time than anyone bellied up to the Cheers bar, was probably the funniest character, while he enjoyed Frasier the most “because he had that intellectual, yuppie side and yet he couldn’t resist being a barfly at the same time.”

Memorable Quotes, he said, “is probably my favorite chapter. If you know the characters at all, you can probably figure those out pretty easily.”

Sample quiz:

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Who said: “I don’t know where you guys got the idea I’m some passive, easygoing lump”?

Who said: “It’s a sad world when Sam Malone becomes the voice of reason”?

Who said: “Just like all women--if they’re not turning down your proposal of marriage, they’re accusing you of suspicious behavior in the lingerie changing room”?

Answers: Norm, Diane, Cliff.

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Book Signings. Jo-Ann Mapson (“Blue Rodeo”) will sign at 4 p.m. Saturday at The Real Bookstore, 17350 E. 17th St., Tustin. . . .Margaret Maron (“Shooting at Loons”) will sign at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin St., Orange. . . .Mike Blake (“Baseball Chronicles”) will sign from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Waldenbooks in Westminster Mall. . . .Alan Russell (“The Hotel Detective”) and Michael Connelly (“The Concrete Blonde”) will sign from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Mystery Ink, 332 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.

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Readings. Jo-Ann Mapson (“Blue Rodeo”) and Susan Straight (“Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights”) will read at 7 p.m. Friday at Rizzoli Bookstore in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. . . . Gary Lee Tomlinson, Rita McMahon Mitzner, Catherine Spear, Mary Andrews and Francisco Ortega (“Five Orange County Poets”) will read from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at The Real Bookstore, 17350 E. 17th St., Tustin. . . .Toy Box, a group of musicians, will perform before an open reading at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Las Palmas Restaurant, 122 E. 17th St., Santa Ana.

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Author Talk. Arthur Melville, a psychotherapist and former Catholic priest who spend six “life-changing” years in the mountains of Guatemala, will speak on his time there and sign his book, “With Eyes to See: A Journey from Religion to Spirituality,” at the Orange County Inside Edge breakfast meeting at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in Scott’s Restaurant, 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. Cost: $15 for first-time guests.

* Send information about book-related events to: Books & Authors, Life & Style, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Deadline is one week before Tuesday’s publication.


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