Fort Wayne, Indiana, has the distinction of being the birthplace of five successful Hollywood actresses. Carole Lombard, Jenna Fischer, Julia Barr, Lyn Thomas, and Shelley Long all hail from the Hoosier City.
Shelley Long, famed for her appearances on Cheers, was born in Fort Wayne on August 23, 1949. She spent her formative years in the city, excelling at speech competitions and even winning a national oratory championship. Long graduated from South Side High School, before leaving Indiana to pursue her fortunes in the Windy City.
Long attended Northwestern University, graduating with a degree in drama. She began to pursue a career in acting, and soon secured spots in a number of commercials being shot in the Chicagoland area.
In 1975, Long joined the famed Second City Comedy Troupe. It was also the year that she first appeared on a television show. Long debuted as co-host of Sorting It Out, a weekly program about interesting people and places in Chicago. She also wrote for and helped produce, the show. Long’s co-host was Bob Smith, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. Sorting It Out ran from 1975-1977. Long won 3 Chicago Emmy awards for her work on the show.
It wasn’t too long before Long began making guest appearances on other shows and in movies. Some of her early performances included an appearance as Nurse Mendenhall on MASH, and supporting roles in Night Shift and The Cracker Factory.
Long’s big break came in 1982, when she was cast in the role of Diane Chambers on Cheers. The show followed the character of Sam Malone, former relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and owner of the Cheers Bar. Diane was a waitress at the bar and later became Malone’s girlfriend.
Although the show was not instantly popular, it eventually became one of the most watched shows on TV. During her time on the show, Long received 5 Emmy nominations, was named 1983 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and won 2 Golden Globes. Long left the show in 1987 at the end of season 5 to pursue a film career.
After leaving Cheers, Long continued to make guest appearances in television and movies. Some of her more famous roles include playing Carol Brady in the Brady Bunch Movies, and making guest appearances on Frazier and Boston Legal. She also appeared in the films Frozen Assets, Good Advice, and Troop Beverly Hills. Most recently, Long played the recurring role of DeDe Pritchett on the popular series Modern Family.
Despite her many appearances in film and on TV, Long remains best known for her work on Cheers. The role shifted Long into the spotlight and marked a pivotal point in her acting career. Today, Long continues to be recognized as a key player in the iconic show’s great success.