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Rhea Perlman

Carla Maria Victoria Angelina Teresa Appollonia Lozupone Tortelli

Maybe it's not surprising that this diminutive actress, best known for playing tough-talking Carla Tortelli on Cheers, was born way out in Brooklyn, NY, on Coney Island. What's hard to believe is that as a child she was painfully shy, and remains so despite her success. Perlman was briefly a drama major at Hunter College in New York City, but she dropped out to pursue acting opportunities in off-Broadway theater productions, and it was on one of these productions in 1970 that she met her future husband, Danny DeVito.

The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1976 to look for film and television work. Perlman made her television debut in the made-for-TV movie Stalk the Wild Child. She would go on to make numerous TV appearances, but it was DeVito's good fortune that led to her big break. His role as volatile dispatcher Louie De Palma on the sitcom Taxi led to Perlman being cast as Louie's girlfriend, Zena Sherman, a recurring role that she would reprise until the series ended. Because of her work on Taxi, James Burrows, creator and producer of both Taxi and Cheers, remembered Perlman when he was casting venom-tongued barmaid Carla, whom she played for 11 seasons, and for which Perlman received 10 Emmy Award nominations (she won four).

Significant film appearances include the critically acclaimed Sunset Park and Matilda, which was directed by DeVito. After Cheers, Perlman continued to work in TV and film. In 1996, she produced and starred in the short-lived sitcom Pearl. She made guest appearances on Mad About You and reunited with former Cheers cast mates with guest appearances on Becker and Frasier. Perlman continues to work on projects for television and spends a great deal of time with her husband and their three children.

Character Bio

Carla's troubles probably began on the day of her christening, when she was bestowed with her birth name: Carla Maria Victoria Angelina Teresa Appollonia Lozupone. That's a lot of name for such a diminutive woman - never mind the two additional names she'll add to it with each subsequent husband. But if anyone can manage, it's this vitriolic hothead, a working mother with eight kids and Cheers' resident wisecracking waitress.

Nearly no one escapes the lash of her barbed tongue (save for Sam and Coach), and she takes absolute delight in tormenting Diane, for whom she has an assortment of unpleasant nicknames. Carla has no time for high-minded Diane, and she has no qualms about taking her (or anyone else) down a peg. She doesn't suffer fools either, and she often turns her wrath onto bar know-it-all Cliff Clavin. Sharp tongue aside, Carla is really a good waitress. She's been at it since she was 15. Twice married -- first to stammering nitwit (and father of five of her kids) Nick Tortelli, then to hockey player Eddie LeBec (father of her twins Elvis and Jesse) -- Carla's only real weakness (other than being extremely superstitious) is men. She met and married Nick when she was 15, and remained faithful to him throughout their 10 years together (the same cannot be said for philanderer Nick). LeBec is a loveable lug and the only person more superstitious than Carla. When a runaway Zamboni kills him, Carla is not only convinced she's cursed, but also that Eddie is communicating with her from the other side. Between Nick and Eddie, she has a whirlwind romance with Dr. Bennett Ludlow (Frasier's mentor), with whom she has child number six, also named Ludlow. After Eddie's death Carla has a steamy affair with John Hill, owner of Melville's restaurant and Cheers' upstairs competitor.

In her youth, Carla was a bit of a hell-raiser (she did a little time at St. Clete's Correctional Institute for Wayward Girls -- a lot of good that did), and now she's got her own wild and willful brood. Carla spends a lot of energy bickering with and managing them, particularly her oldest son, Anthony. She loves him to death, but is fearful he's following in her footsteps. Undoubtedly, Carla takes comfort in her job at Cheers, not because it provides her with her livelihood, but because it gets her away from her feral pack of kids.