With 10 bars set to participate in Hot Springs’ St. Patrick Day celebration, George Wendt (a.k.a. Norm Peterson from TV’s “Cheers”) should feel right at home.
Probably any place he goes, somebody’s going to know his name.
Wendt is coming to Hot Springs next Thursday, March 17, to serve as grand marshal of what the Spa City has dubbed the First Second Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Pub Crawl.
Perhaps you remember last year, when Hot Springs staged a publicity stunt by holding the world’s shortest St. Paddy’s Day parade, all of 99.9 feet, on Bridge Street.
Wendt called it a “clever” idea. “I’m looking forward to it. Somebody must have thought it was a good idea to have Norm lead it.”
Wendt said he’s never been to Hot Springs but has wanted to. “My grandparents used to visit back in the day to take in the waters. I’ve always been intrigued about the place.”
Cheers, which debuted in 1982, remains popular in syndication almost 12 years after it left NBC’s Thursday night lineup. Since then, Wendt has worked in a variety of TV and movie productions while wrangling with teen-age kids at home, he said. He’s been filming the movie “Edmond,” based on the David Mamet play of the same name. William H. Macy is playing the title role.
“ ‘Edmond’ is a very dark night of the soul of one man,” Wendt said. “The play premiered in 1986. Basically, Edmond is not having a good day. He starts his day out telling his wife he doesn’t want to be married anymore. He runs out into the street and into all amounts of trouble and winds up in jail. It should be a wonderful film but fairly downbeat and provocative.”
Wendt was also in the little seen but somewhat critically praised “My Dinner with Jimi,” written by Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, a 1960s pop group. Wendt played the Turtles’ manager.
Wendt, a Chicago native and former Second City performer, still waits for his Bears (remember the “da Bears” skits from Saturday Night Live?) to return to the 1980s glory days. He’s an all-around sports fan, though he’s a Southsider and more a supporter of the White Sox than the Cubs. And though “Cheers” was set in Boston but not actually filmed there, Wendt still says he still feels a strong affinity to Boston and its sports franchises.
“Boston is really my kind of town,” he said. “It’s just has a great city feel to it. It’s my second home as far as my fictional life. I really do like it, although Boston College has been dumping on my Notre Dame Fighting Irish.”
Wendt should feel at home at Hot Springs on March 17. Registration for the pub crawl is from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel ($10 registration, and everyone receives an official pub crawl T-shirt). The parade on Bridge Street will begin at 6:30 p.m., with marching bands, floats and dozens of other participating units and groups. An all-green fireworks display will follow the parade at Spencer’s Corner.
Wendt’s “Norm” character is so beloved even beyond “Cheers,” it has appeared on six different television shows, which the Internet Movie Database says is a record for one character. He didn’t know that when apprised of the fact earlier this week.
“Well, it was a great character, and like most of the characters on the show ‘Cheers,’ we shared certain qualities with our characters and I think when I get to meet the folks down in Hot Springs, they’ll find some shared qualities as we share a few beers around the event.”
That means, let’s all belly up to the bar, drinks are on the house.