George Robert Wendt is a native of Chicago and proud Cubbies fan. One of six children, he was raised in a well-to-do Chicago suburb and briefly attended the University of Notre Dame (where he was expelled for low grades). He transferred to and graduated from Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Missouri with a B.A. in Economics. After graduation, Wendt took off for Europe for a couple of years.
When he returned from his travels, Wendt signed up for an improvisational comedy class at Chicago's famed Second City. He had a knack for improv, and eventually was invited to become a member of the famous troupe, where he met his wife, Bernadette Birkett, a fellow actor. From 1974-1980 Wendt was a member of Second City, until he and his wife left the windy city for Hollywood to help develop a television series for the troupe, which never materialized. However, once in Hollywood, Wendt made a name for himself as a character actor. His first significant television appearance was on Soap in 1981, and other TV credits included Taxi and M*A*S*H. Producer James Burrows, remembering his appearance on Taxi, asked Wendt to read for Cheers; Wendt won the role of Norm Peterson and for 11 years he portrayed the down and out everyman, who got to deliver some of the pithiest lines on the show, and whose nightly entrance into the bar became a running gag. Wendt's wife also had an unseen role on the show as the voice of Norm's oft mentioned but never seen wife, Vera. During the course of the show, he received eight Emmy Award nominations.
Wendt made his film debut in 1980's Somewhere in Time, and has appeared in numerous big screen and made-for-TV movies. Credits of note include Fletch (1985), Gung-Ho (1986), Guilty By Suspicion (1991) and Outside Providence (1999). After Cheers, in 1995, CBS gave him his own sitcom, The George Wendt Show, but it didn't have the ratings and was dropped after one season. Like many of the original Cheers cast members, Wendt reprised his Cheers character on Frasier, and also appeared on Becker with Ted Danson.
In 2001, Wendt and fellow Cheers cast member John Ratzenberger won a law suit they had filed against Paramount Pictures (the production company for the show) when the court ruled that the company had illegally used their likenesses for two robots named Hank and Bob that appeared in Cheers-themed airport bars. Wendt and his wife Barbara have five children.
If Sam Malone is king of Cheers, then its most ubiquitous patron, portly everyman Hilary Norman Peterson, is its mayor. Norm, as he is known to everyone in the bar (and it would seem that everyone does know him based on the greeting shouted whenever he enters), has a nightly ritual of stopping in for a beer before heading home to wife Vera, the seeming bane of his existence. Norm's seat of honor is at the extreme end of the bar, where he can be found trading quips with best buddy, postal employee Cliff Clavin. No one ever sits there except him, and if they do, it's only because they're new and don't know any better. Norm is such a steady regular at Cheers that his running tab (one that Rebecca Howe futilely tries to get him to pay) is so large it's kept in several black binders behind the bar - even unemployment won't stop him from indulging in his nightly beer. It's not that Norm doesn't want to pay; it's just that his employment situation isn't always steady. It's not that Norm doesn't want to work; he just can't manage to keep a job for very long. He works at several accounting firms from which he is subsequently fired, and in tight times he even takes a dishwasher job at reviled Melville's upstairs. Eventually, Norm figures he'll be happier being his own boss, and tries his hand at several business endeavors: accounting, house painting and interior decorating. Norm's a pretty sharp fellow; he just doesn't seem to have a passion for much beyond spending time at the bar with his friends.
And after years of married life, it's painfully apparent that Norm doesn't have much passion for Vera - commenting once that she has a face like Ed Asner. It is clear, though, that however much disdain he may feel for his wife, Norm is devoted to her. He'll have his temptations through the years (believe it or not, some women find this rotund wiseass quite sexy), but in the end Norm remains true to Vera - whom no one in Cheers has ever seen.