The Characters

Alice Hyatt ... Linda Lavin

Mel Sharples ... Vic Tayback

Vera Gorman ... Beth Howland

Tommy Hyatt ... Philip McKeon

Flo Castleberry ... Polly Holliday

Belle Dupree ... Diane Ladd

Jolene Hunnicutt ... Celia Weston

Henry Beesmire ... Marvin Kaplan

Carrie Sharples ... Martha Raye

Elliott Novak ... Charles Levin

Earl Hicks ... Dave Madden

Marie Massey ... Victoria Carroll

Character Details

 

Alice Hyatt

Linda Lavin played Alice Spivack Hyatt of Newark, New Jersey. Alice always dreamed of a singing career and spent time in New York, but didn't get too far. Later, she went back to Jersey and married trucker Donald Hyatt. Alice and Don had a son, Tommy. When Tommy was twelve, Don passed away in a motor vehicle accident. To start a new life, Alice and Tommy headed west. When her car broke down in Phoenix, Arizona she rented an apartment and got a job at Mel's Diner. Alice was always the most practical waitress, and she really was the one everyone called on to do things. Her apartment was the hub for her friend's many gatherings. Once Tommy had grown, she left Mel's Diner and went on the road to pursue her singing career.

Waitress at Mel's Diner

Mel Sharples

Vic Tayback played Mel Sharples, the lovable yet often temperamental boss of the diner. He often throws insults to his waitresses: he frequently calls Vera "dingy", is always there to comment on Flo or Belle's promiscuity, and Jolene's down-home style. He also cares about his waitresses deeply and considers them family. He enjoys gambling and horse racing. He also has a love interest for most of the series, Marie. Marie and Mel fight and make up so many times, but towards the end of the series, their relationship dwindles and Mel is a swinger, relying on his little black book again. Mel's a native of Brooklyn. In season 4, his mother, Carrie, shows up, and then by season 9, she's a regular feature. She and Mel fight a lot and is often a cook at the diner, helping brings in more business. 

Owner and cook at Mel's Diner

Vera Gorman

Beth Howland played Vera Gorman (later Novack), the well-mannered but ditzy waitress. A lot of mishaps in the Diner are as a result of Vera and her clumsiness.  Through her, we also get to meet her landlady, another classic repeat character, Mrs. Walden, played by none other than Linda Lavin herself. Though she dates from  time to time, Vera lives alone but has one major love interest towards the end of the series: Elliot.  They fall in love and get married, and by series end, are expecting their first child.

Waitress at Mel's Diner

Tommy Hyatt

Philip McKeon played Alice's witty son, Tommy.  He is always there to offer an opinion to any of his mother's friends who, to him, are part of his family. He gets Alice into many predicaments: once Tommy needs to learn the facts of life, to the time eight years later when he, drunk, leaves her boyfriend's car on the side of the road. Tommy thinks that Mel is interesting, and like his father, though he likes to insult Mel a lot. Tommy is a star basketball player in high school, and goes on to play in college, though he is reluctant for a while due to intimidation, until a real pro--Meadowlark Lemon--tells him to keep on in there, if he wants to achieve a goal.

Alice's Son

Flo Castleberry

Polly Holliday played Florence Jean Castleberry.  She is the waitress who's favorite phrase is "kiss my grits!" If someone now hears this, they still think about "Alice," or maybe the short-lived spin-off "Flo".  She also uses "When donkeys fly!!". Flo tries to help Alice and Tommy, and any of her other friends the most she can. Flo's from Texas. She has the wit that Mel needs around his diner whether he knows it or not. She's the only southerner there, and she's darn proud of it, too. Flo uses "kiss my grits!" in many situations when Mel just won't listen, to a time when Mel sells the diner and wants it back, and the owner won't give it back to Mel, and he fires the girls.  Her phrases were often imitated by Alice, Vera, some guest stars (such as Eve Arden), and even Mel.

Waitress at Mel's Diner

Belle Dupree

Diane Ladd played the southern Belle Dupree. Brought in to replace Flo, we learn that Belle and Mel have a history. Belle was one of Mel's first waitresses when he came to Phoenix and opened his diner. From the minute that Vera mentioned her coming, Mel lit up with joy. Then, Belle suggests something, and Mel does it until she listens to Alice and Vera's ideas. Then, she's just back where she was. Belle is a native of Mississippi. Over the course of her run, she has to stay with Alice when she can't pay her rent, thinks she's got it made when she can become a famous songwriter but finds out it's her body the singer's manager is interested in, and turns Vera into a sexpot to find out that Vera wants to be what she was before the makeover.

Waitress at Mel's Diner

Jolene Hunnicutt

Celia Weston played Jolene Hunnicutt.  When Belle gets a new job while on vacation in Nashville, Jolene arrives at the Diner. She is a trucker who has a dispute with her then-boss that leads her to quit. Since Mel is hiring a waitress, she takes the job.  Jolene is from South Carolina and is related to Boss Hogg (of "Dukes of Hazzard" fame).  Over the course of time, gets into many situations.  In the finale, she buys a beauty shop and leaves Mel's, as does everyone else.

Waitress at Mel's Diner

Henry Beesmire

Marvin Kaplan played Henry Beesmire, the lovable telephone repairman who came into the Diner regularly during his work week.  He was a very consistent figure through the years and was considered part of the Diner "family."  His wife was Chloe (played by Ruth Buzzi), though she was only featured in one episode.  He often referred to his marriage in negative terms, though clearly they were still in love after many years together. 

Phone repairman, customer

Carrie Sharples

Martha Raye played Carrie Sharples, Mel's sharp-witted and feisty mother.  Carrie became a semi-regular in the later years of the series and would often drop by unannounced, much to Mel's dismay. She loved to cook and was known on occasion to prepare food or replace Mel at the Diner, leading to better business.  This often created friction with Mel. The interaction between Carrie and the waitresses, whom she adored, and between Carrie and Mel, which was often tempestuous, lead to a great comedic entertainment.

Mel's mother

Elliot Novack

Charles Levin played Elliot Novack.  He is a police officer who meets Vera when he gives her a ticket for jaywalking. Almost immediately, they begin dating, and later marry. Elliot and Vera buy a house and end up renting rooms to various individuals, including her former landlady and the crazy minister who married them. Vera and Elliot, in the last episode, decide to depend on Elliot's income when they discover that Vera's expecting a new addition to the Novack family.

Vera's Husband

Earl Hicks

Dave Madden played Earl Hicks, Tommy's teacher and basketball coach. He was a frequent Diner customer during the last few years of the series. Dave is very familiar to viewers as Reuben Kincaid on "The Partridge Family." Tommy had a good relationship with Earl and often sought his advice.  Earl dated several waitresses during the course of the series, including Alice and Flo.

Tommy's basketball coach

Marie Massey

Victoria Carroll played Marie Massey, Mel's on-again, off-again, girlfriend throughout several seasons. Their relationship was often rocky, having arguments one minute and making up the next.  She briefly did waitressing for Mel after Flo left but was replaced when Belle was hired.  In the last few years of the series, she was no longer seen and Mel was resorting to his little black book again.

Mel's girlfriend

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