My girlfriend, Samantha, and I decided to vacation in Los Angeles one March. I called one of my best friends from high school to arrange dinner with him and his new bride. Dan was one of the executive producers of a popular sitcom on NBC. He realized that the last episode of the season would be taped the Tuesday we would be there so he wanted to know if we wanted tickets to see the show. We couldn’t possibly say “no.” The show Dan worked on had been one of my favorite shows long before he got involved with the staff. The prospect of being in this studio audience was exhilarating and we asked for four tickets. We were staying with Samantha’s sister and thought a ticket to this show would serve as an excellent “Thank You.”

Dan and I at our class reunion in 2015.

Dan called about four days before we were to start this adventure we had semi-planned for the coast. He advised me to bring a three piece suit. I informed him that the last time I had worn a suit was when I got kicked out of the election that he had gotten me into. What could I do? I made sure my junior Mafia

disguise was clean, then phoned Samantha to tell her what else we were going to be doing in a week and a day.

Tuesday couldn’t get there fast enough for us. That was the day of the taping. With Hollywood stars, a big studio audience, and me in a three-piece suit.

Southern California was in the midst of a terrible drought that spring so, of course, it was raining when we drove to Hollywood that morning. Paramount studios spread out in front of us as we walked through one of the side gates. This studio had produced many of my favorite motion pictures and television

shows. Dan had assured us that we would get a special tour of the studios later in the day. We wanted to see the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

We were directed to the building where we would spend most of the day. As my girlfriend and I walked into the stage area for the first time, I sensed the television history that had been made here. We were to witness another of those moments later in this day. Over and over again.

One of the floor directors told us to take a seat in the stands, that we would get instructions in about ten or fifteen minutes. We started talking to some of the people around us, neither of us had ever done something like this. Most of the people there were regulars and loved getting on camera during the last show of the season.

Dan and his writing/producing partner Tom Anderson were a team for many years.

That’s when it finally hit. It had taken me more than a week to actually admit to myself that we were really going to go through with this. We were going to be extras on this show. Dan had surprised me with many weird things over the years, but this day was going to be a blast.

The stage director told us where we had to sit, what lines we were to move on, where we had to go. We practiced rising from our barstool and ascending the stairs at the back of the set. In a later scene and after a clothing change, we were to stand next to the office. door. We went over the entire script twice, because unlike the actors and actresses, this was the first time we had heard it.

About one o’clock the cast started meandering onto the set. Most of them had been out late the night before. It had been Oscar night, and a couple of the actors had been nominated.

Kirsty Ally looked like she hadn’t slept at all. Ted Danson hadn’t put his hairpiece on yet and Rhea Perlman obviously always looks like that. Kelsey Grammer impressed us by taking the time to greet every extra at the bar. He shook our hands as he arrived at our stools and asked us how we had come about being there. We were the only two he hadn’t recognized. I informed him of my ties with Dan, and he wanted to hear a story. I could only tell Kelsey to ask Dan about the “police officer the morning he put too much sugar on his Rice Krispies.” Very pleased with the new information, Kelsey wandered off to take his place on the set.

Who wears a three-piece suit to a bar?

We eventually interacted with every member of the cast throughout what became a very grueling day. Samantha spent time teaching John Ratzinberger a couple of words in sign language. He had caught her communicating with her sister in the studio audience . I admired Bebe Newirth in the green baby doll negligee she was to wear in a later scene as she descended the stairs from the dressing rooms. We watched the rumored rivalry between Woody Harrelson and Danson. They really looked like they were messing around, but the Hollywood hacks usually blew friendly competition out of proportion.

To me, this was heaven. We drank at the bar, conversed by Rebecca’s office, climbed the stairs to Melville’s restaurant, and mingled backstage waiting to reenter for a later scene. We witnessed Elvis talking Sam Malone into asking Rebecca to father his child. The consequences of that scene not to be known until CHEERS started its eleventh and final season months later.

We eventually knew the script by heart because we went through every scene at least fifteen times before we finished taping after eleven o’clock that night.

Afterwards, we dragged ourselves back to our rented car, knowing we wouldn’t get to see our work for another month and a half. But we couldn’t be tired. We had dinner with Dan and Gina planned for the next night, and in two days we-would be off to Disneyland.

You can check out the video of our screen time here.