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Everybody knows his name

‘Norm’ from ‘Cheers’ comes to town today

October 7, 2011
By Fritz Busch - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - George Wendt, a.k.a. "Norm" of the "Cheers" television show is in town this weekend to sign his new book and enjoy Oktoberfest.

Now 62 but with no plans to retire, the Chicago native said he became intrigued by New Ulm's Oktoberfest weekend after learning about it at the La Crosse Oktoberfest.

"I got intrigued about coming to New Ulm after enjoying some Schell's Oktoberfest beer so I googled Oktoberfest and called the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce (and talked to Terry Sveine) about coming here," said Wendt.

Article Photos

Actor George Wendt, who played “Norm” on the “Cheers” television show, is visiting New Ulm today and Saturday and will participate in Oktoberfest.

"I had a window between one-offs (short-term public appearances) in Chicago. The Midwest has the fall colors I miss in LA.," he said.

Wendt's new book "Drinking With George" is not a memoir, but it follows his life chronologically somewhat, with humor and of course, beer thrown in.

With the subtitle, "A Barstool Professional's Guide to Beer," the book includes swallows of how to survive a bar fight, beat a hangover, beer's history and health benefits plus the ill effects of drinking too much.

Fact Box

If you go:

What: George Wendt's (aka "Norm" from "Cheers" TV sitcom) appearances

When: 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7, Holiday Inn, New Ulm; visits to local bars during the afternoon

11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, New Ulm Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center; 3-5 p.m., Schell's Brewery Gift Shop; 6 p.m.-midnight, Holiday Inn, New Ulm

Born and raised in south Chicago, Wendt attended a Jesuit prep school in Wisconsin before enrolling at his father's alma mater, Notre Dame.

He left the school after two years and no declared major.

"My cumulative grade point average was 2.1, but I didn't go to classes or take any tests one semester in 1969," he said.

"I was trying to separate myself from my father. If I'd had the courage, I would have burned my draft card. Instead I flunked out of my dad's alma mater," Wendt said.

He earned an economics degree at Rockhurst College, a small, liberal arts school in Kansas City.

"Rockhurst was great. They insisted I go to class and all the sudden, college got so much easier," Wendt said.

After college, he worked in his father's construction company office and on Chicago area job sites before taking a series of european vacations over a two-year period.

"I'd go home and work until I saved about $500 and head back to winter in Spain or something. I slept on roadsides, ate lemons off trees, traveling with friends from home or other English-speaking travelers from Canada or Australia," Wendt said.

"I'd recommend traveling as a way for young college graduates to stave off reality for awhile, maybe while they grow up a little bit," he added.

Wendt joined Second City Theater, an sketch comedy and improvisational business begun by University of Chicago undergraduates, that opened in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood in 1959.

His first jobs at Second City were sweeping the floor and folding chairs after performances by more experienced actors.

By the mid-1970s, Second City in Chicago and Toronto became a source of cast members for "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) which used many writing and performing styles created by Second City and other improv groups including live, improvised music during performances.

Wendt spent six years at Second City, before moving to LA for more show business gigs.

"Cheers" premiered on NBC in 1982. On the air at the same time as "Magnum P.I." and "Simon & Simon," it finished the season ranked 77th among 77 prime time programs.

"Cheers" eventually captured a large audience. Its 270 episodes were syndicated worldwide and earned 28 Emmy Awards.

In 2002, "Cheers" was ranked 18th on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV shows of All Time.

Lately, he's been doing public appearances for pay and charity.

"Retire? I love the world frankly. My work takes me on the road quite a bit, but I've got to look after my family," Wendt said.

Besides appearances at the Holiday Inn at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Wendt will barhop in downtown New Ulm bars and stop at Sven and Ole's Books on Friday. He will sign books at the Chamber office at 11 a.m. Saturday and at Schell's Brewery Gift Shop at 3 p.m.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

 
 

 

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