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The Charles Brothers, February 28, 2017
By: Lucas Cuny, MFA
Life is really funny. I grew up in New Haven, Indiana, a small farming community about 10 minutes east of Fort Wayne. Indiana’s second largest city. Fort Wayne was once home of the now Detroit Pistons, International Harvestor (the company that passed on the mini van and then went out of business), and is home to Shelley Long. If you’re a TV fan you know her for “Modern Family,” then her adaptation of Carol Brady in the “Brady Bunch” films of the 1990s, and lastly you better know her for her role as Diane Chambers in the classic sitcom “Cheers.”
But so what? Why does it matter that I am from basically the same town as Shelley Long, well that in and of itself would be quite unremarkable. What is remarkable is where I’ve called home for about 20 years since living the midwest for Southern California, and that is Redlands, California. Redlands, as I like to tell people in Los Angeles, is the only city along the 10 freeway you pass on your way to Palm Springs that has trees. Redlands, not too dissimilar from my hometown of New Haven, was known for agriculture, oranges. It was once where old Hollywood went to vacation before Bob Hope found Palm Springs. But lastly, Redlands has a small University, the aptly named, University of Redlands, which produced through its hallowed halls, the Charles brothers, the co-creators of “Cheers”, which starred Ms. Long.
The interesting thing about the University is that it has produced at least three rather impressive screen writers: the aforementioned brothers and Daniel Petrie Jr. But you wouldn’t know it when you enter the city or the University. That might have to do with other factors. Petrie also had his big splash of success in the 1980’s with the superstar making film of “Beverly Hills Cop,” which he wrote. Walking through Redlands the other day with my fiancée, she noted something I’ve often thought of but never said out loud, Redlands seems like something out of a movie. Unbenounced to her, I immediately thought of the film, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” the Clint Eastwood Directed film starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack. Cusack is a reporter that goes to do an article for a the home garden magazine in Alabama and notes to himself that the town is like, “Gone With the Wind on acid.”
I wouldn’t go to that extreme in my description of my new home. But I would say it compares more to Amity Island in the film Jaws. They keep telling the sheriff, you may have moved here, but you’ll never be an islander. That’s kind of Redlands. I’ve now been in the area for about 20 years, but I’ll never be a Redlander. It is quite New England in that way as Jessica Fletcher discovered oft times in “Murder She Wrote.” I don’t mind being the outsider in this town, I’m curious to look at it from afar. A town incidentally founded by two guys from the Midwest, who aptly named it for it’s red soil. From that sprang a town full of Victorian homes, old money, and a marvelous outdoor theatre scene. But also sprang from it perhaps a brilliant TV show.
So, moving forward I’m going to attempt to trace “Cheers’” roots from Redlands to Boston and back to Hollywood. As a writer myself, you take from places and events in your life and exaggerate to make things interesting. There must be something of Redlands in “Cheers.” I mean listen to the theme song for crying out loud, “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” The Charles’ were in a small town during their undergrad years, those aspects just like being an outsider in New England holds true to Redlands. There’s a connection here and I am determined to find it.