Yes, I blew him off, unfortunately.
Sometime around March 1st, 2000 — a year after moving out of my parents house — my Mom called me to tell me that someone had called looking for me. This had only happened once prior; an ex-girlfriend who I refused to call back. He had, apparently, found my video list online, figured out my last name (which I now try not to mention, but didn’t care bout back then), paid attention to where I lived, and gone through the phonebook and found our phone number. He was the only person to ever use my webpage to call me. But I had moved out, so he talked to my mom. She gave him my email address instead, but pretended that she wasn’t sure it was the right address — presumably to leave me an out if I decided not to reply.
On March 2nd, 2000, I received an email from Gary Portnoy. He had stumbled upon my vhs video catalog and noted that I had taped the final episode of Cheers. Hello. His email said: “My name is Gary Portnoy. I am a songwriter living in New York. I am the writer and the singer of the theme from “CHEERS” (Where Everybody Knows Your Name). / I would very much like to speak with you about a video in your collection, as listed on your web site. / I spoke with your mom. She wasn’t sure if this was still your e-mail address or not, but I figured it was worth a try. (She said she would speak to you within the next day or so.) / If you could, I would really appreciate it if you would call me at 914-666-xxxx tonight (Thursday) or tomorrow morning, or at 212-246-xxxx on Friday afternoon, or back at 914-666-xxxx on Saturday. I realize this is a long distance call for you; I promise to cover the charges. Or, if you prefer, I would be happy to call you. / I hope this doesn’t seem too crazy to you. I hope to hear from you soon.”
I always liked to imagine this being said in the voice of Lionel Hutz (Phil Hartman) from The Simpsons. “Hi! My name is Gary Portnoy! You might remember me from such classic TV themes as Cheers, Punky Brewster, and Mr. Belvedere!”
It actually was a bit too crazy for me. I found out that what he wanted was a copy of my VHS recording of the last episode of Cheers. It was a bit too much for me at the time, so I eventually stopped responding.
By the way, my personal VHS recording of the Cheers Series Finale DOES NOT contain the post-show segment, where the cast comes out of the Cheers bar and seems to be visibly drunk in real life. I don’t think that bit was released on DVD, because Cheers was highly controversial in that it took place in a bar and thus tacitly endorsed drinking, and then sold it to families where children would watch people drink all the time. Bad P.R. Recall that That 70’s Show had a HUGE backlash before episode #1 aired simply because they smoked pot in it. Nothing has really changed…. So anyway, if someone could find that segment and let me know where to get it — I’d love to see it again. In case no one remembers, that night in 1993 was a big deal, as Cheers had run for 11 years:
So this was a weird experience that I figured I should write down before I forget the details. (I had to GREP txt files of old acm.vt.edu email dumps just to figure out what happened to blog this…)
I’d dealt with online people on the phone before — voice verification (to prevent fake/dupliate accounts) in the BBS days was a standard practice. But I’d never had a celebrity called me on the phone. I’d emailed with a few celebrities (April Winchell) and well-known musicians (Bobby Steele, Voltaire) before, but I don’t usually get a chance to talk to them on the phone.
So. That’s it.
For reference, Gary Portnoy co-wrote (with Judy Hart Angelo) and sung not only the Cheers theme song, but the Punky Brewster theme as well. He also composed the music to the Mr. Belvedere theme. In 2007, Gary released a new album, Dynasty, with a “full” version of Mr. Belvedere, sung by himself. Purchase that version DRM-free HERE for 99 cents. You can also get the full two-verse version of the Cheers theme song HERE. If those links fail to work, this is the link to Gary Portnoy (in general) on Amazon: LINK. It’s quite strange hearing Mr. Belevedere sung in his voice, instead of the goofy voice NBC chose to use. (more…)