Shelley Long: Her Life and Career


Ever wonder what happened to Shelley Long, the quirky and lovable Diane Chambers from Cheers? She was one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s, then seemed to disappear from the spotlight. But Shelley never really stopped working. She just opted for smaller roles that gave her more freedom.

Now in her 70s, Shelley’s had a long, impressive career on stage and screen that spans over 40 years. Though she’ll always be remembered as Diane, the brainy barmaid who matched wits with Ted Danson’s Sam Malone, there’s so much more to Shelley’s story.

From her early days in theater to her breakout TV role to the ups and downs of fame, Shelley’s life has been filled with surprises. So grab a drink and settle in, because we’re pulling up a barstool to get the inside scoop on Shelley Long, the actress who proved you can be both intellectual and funny. This is the story of how Shelley found her way into America’s hearts and never really left.

Early Life and Career Beginnings for Shelley Long

Shelley Long was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1949. Her first home was a Quonset hut, and she grew up in a working-class family. Shelley attended Kekionga Junior High and South Side High School before enrolling at Northwestern University. ###Early jobs

Her first job was as a meal plan checker at the university, where she got her break as an actress doing local commercials for Homemakers furniture in the Chicago area. After graduating with a degree in speech education, Shelley taught high school for a short time but found the work unfulfilling.

In 1975, Shelley joined The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago and began her career in the entertainment industry as a writer, producer, and performer. She started out serving food and cleaning up, but soon worked her way into bit parts, eventually becoming an understudy. Shelley described her time at The Second City as “like going to comedy college.”

After leaving The Second City, Shelley moved to New York City to pursue on-camera work. She landed minor roles on shows like Family Ties and Cheers, as well as TV movies. Her breakthrough came in 1982 when she was cast as waitress Diane Chambers on Cheers, a hit show that aired for 11 seasons. Portraying Diane earned Shelley two Golden Globes and five Emmy nominations, cementing her status as a comedic television star.

Though she left Cheers in 1987 to focus on movies, Shelley continued working in TV with roles on shows like Troop Beverly Hills and several made-for-TV films. She has had a long, varied career spanning over four decades—not bad for a girl from Fort Wayne who got her start checking meal cards!

Shelley Long’s Big Break on Cheers

Shelley Long’s big break came in 1982 when she landed the role of Diane Chambers on the hit show Cheers. For five seasons, viewers tuned in each week to follow the on-again-off-again romance between Diane and Sam Malone, the retired baseball player who owned the bar where she worked.

As the prim, cultured barmaid, you provided the perfect foil to Sam’s machismo. Your witty banter and sexual tension kept people coming back for more. For her memorable portrayal of Diane, Long received five Emmy nominations, winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1983.

Though you left Cheers after season five, Diane Chambers remains an iconic character. Your impact on the show was immense. Without your smart, sarcastic barbs and tumultuous relationship with Sam, Cheers just wouldn’t have been the same.

Many wondered why you decided to leave such a hit show at the height of its success. At the time, Long said she wanted to focus on her family and new opportunities in film. Though she starred in a few movies after Cheers, including Outrageous Fortune and Hello Again, none matched the success or cultural resonance of Cheers.

Decades later, Long’s turn as Diane still stands out as a high point in her career and one of the most compelling comedic performances of the 80s. Her wit, vulnerability, and undeniable chemistry with Ted Danson showcased Long’s considerable talents and ensured her status as a sitcom legend. For five seasons, she kept us laughing and charmed us week after week. Not bad for a barmaid from Boston.

Life After Cheers: Movies and Other Roles

Life after Cheers was filled with movies and television roles for Shelley Long. Following her 11 seasons as Diane Chambers, Long landed notable film parts, showing her range beyond the sitcom that made her a household name.

The Brady Bunch Movie

In 1995, Long starred as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie, a comedic take on the 1970s television show. Long slipped into the role of the quintessential TV mom and brought humor to the film adaptation. The movie was a success, spawning a sequel the following year.

Look Who’s Talking

One of Long’s biggest film roles was in the 1989 comedy Look Who’s Talking, co-starring John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. Long played the biological mother of an infant who communicates with the audience through voiceover. The film was a major hit, earning over $140 million at the box office. A sequel followed in 1990, with Long and Travolta reprising their roles.

Additional Roles

Long had parts in other well-known films like Night Shift (1982) with Henry Winkler, Outrageous Fortune (1987) with Bette Midler, and The Money Pit (1986) with Tom Hanks. She also made appearances on shows like Murphy Brown, Boston Legal, and Modern Family.

While Long never matched the success and fame of Cheers, she maintained a steady acting career with memorable roles in popular movies and television. Her comedic skills and relatable style shone through in each part, showing her talent for bringing humor and heart to the screen. Though no longer a lead actress, Long continues to entertain audiences with her memorable presence and enduring charm. Her place in pop culture as one of television’s most beloved characters secures her status as an icon of American comedy.

Personal Life and Family

Shelley Long’s personal life has seen its fair share of ups and downs. After her first brief marriage ended in divorce, she found love again and started a family. Though that relationship also ultimately ended, her daughter has been by her side through it all.

Shelley Long’s initial foray into marriage was short-lived. She wed Ken Solomon in the 1970s, but the union lasted only a few years before ending in divorce. However, Shelley Long found a second chance at love. She married Bruce Tyson, a television producer, in 1981. Together they welcomed a daughter, Juliana, the same year.

Sadly, Shelley Long’s second marriage also ended in divorce after over a decade together. However, her bond with her daughter has endured. Juliana has provided constant companionship and support for Shelley Long through all her life’s trials and tribulations. Though Shelley Long never walked down the aisle again after her two divorces, her daughter’s love and friendship have given her an anchor.

Despite the ups and downs in her romantic relationships, Shelley Long’s devotion to her only child, Juliana, has been a driving force in her life. Their close mother-daughter connection has sustained Shelley Long through good times and bad. Juliana’s support and companionship have given Shelley Long a source of comfort and joy, even when other areas of her personal life saw struggles. Though her marriages may have ended, her family is forever.

Shelley Long’s Legacy and Impact on Television

Shelley Long’s memorable performance as the intellectual yet quirky Diane Chambers on Cheers secured her place in sitcom history. Her character introduced a new kind of leading lady – smart, independent and headstrong. Diane’s on-again, off-again romance with Sam Malone, the womanizing yet charming bar owner, created comedic tension and drama over the show’s first five seasons.

Shelley’s comedic timing, witty comebacks and ability to go toe-to-toe with Ted Danson’s Sam earned her widespread critical acclaim and several Emmy nominations. Her departure from Cheers in 1987 left big shoes to fill, but it allowed her character to make a lasting impression on viewers. Many later sitcoms featured similar strong, smart female leads and love interests.

Beyond Cheers, Shelley starred in popular big-screen comedies like Night Shift, starring alongside Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler, and the blockbuster Outrageous Fortune, opposite Bette Midler. Her film work showcased her versatility and range beyond the constraints of network television.

Decades later, Diane Chambers remains an iconic sitcom character, and Shelley Long’s memorable performance serves as a model for the modern-day female sitcom lead. While her career took different turns after Cheers, Shelley’s legacy lives on through reruns giving new generations the chance to fall in love with the show’s beloved couple, Sam and Diane. Their tumultuous but passionate relationship, fueled by Shelley and Ted’s undeniable chemistry and comedic timing, represented one of television’s first “will they or won’t they” dynamics that inspired so many shows to come.

Shelley Long broke barriers for women in sitcoms and helped redefine perceptions of female leads. Her quick wit, humor and intelligence as Diane Chambers captured the hearts of viewers worldwide and left an indelible mark on pop culture. Television owes a debt of gratitude to Shelley Long for paving the way. Her timeless performance in Cheers serves as an inspiration and a reminder of her enduring legacy and impact.


So there you have it – the story of Shelley Long’s rise to fame and success. Her career has spanned over 40 years but to many she will always be Diane Chambers, the quirky intellectual who found unlikely love in a Boston bar. Though her time on Cheers was brief, those 5 seasons were lightning in a bottle and cemented her status as a comedic legend.

She took risks, followed her heart, and never stopped working to improve her craft. Shelley Long has lived a life full of ups and downs, but through it all she remained fiercely devoted to her family and her art. Her story is a reminder that sometimes the most memorable roles are the ones we play off-screen. So raise a glass of chardonnay and toast an icon who has brought us so much joy over the years. Here’s to you, Shelley Long – you did it your way!

Leave a comment