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The Third Waitress by Louis Barcia

When you think of Alice, people think of the ever-practical Alice Hyatt, Alice's son Tommy, the hard-hitting and stingy Mel Sharples, the "dingey" Vera, and of course, the three southern third waitresses.

The thing about Alice is that it shifted for the third waitress. First, there was legendary Polly Holliday in the role of Flo. With phrases like "Kiss my grits!" and "When donkeys fly!", it seemed the show would never be at a loss for comical remarks. When Polly went to star in the spin-off, Flo, many feel that Alice had a big hole that needed to be filled. Also, the spin-off didn't provide much for those suffering of nostalgia for the sassy Flo - it lasted from March 1980 to April 1981, and hasn't aired since.

There was an attempt to air Flo on TVLand in July 2000 for a showcase of little-known shows, but the death of Petticoat Junction's Meredith MacRae lead the network to showcase four episodes of Petticoat Junction. TVLand has publicly stated that they do not have any plans for the near future of re-scheduling Flo when many Alice fans e-mailed the network.

TNN, which currently is syndicating Alice, may consider Flo for their schedule. TNN's ratings improved with the addition of Alice after E! Entertainment Television stopped airing Alice (and as of June 2000, they don't air any sitcoms). TNN's ratings are also improved with the addition of the very rare Desilu Production, The Real McCoys, which is scheduled before Alice at 3pm weekdays on TNN.

Executives Producers Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davis (two of the three I Love Lucy writers - who wrote every episode) knew just where to find the second third waitress. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, the movie Alice was based upon, had Diane Ladd in the role of a deeper, brassier Flo (as well as Vic Tayback in the legendary role of Mel). Ladd accepted the part of Belle Dupree. Belle Dupree came from Mississippi, and dreamed to be a songwriter.

Belle Dupree

Belle may have come on too strong. Though Diane Ladd quickly won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy Award (Polly Holliday won several more awards than Diane Ladd), some fans feel that the character took away from Linda Lavin's firmly established spotlight, as Diane Ladd was an equally successful and accomplished a star as Linda Lavin.

Rumored to be because of disagreements with Linda Lavin, Diane Ladd eventually left the series after covering up for Polly Holliday's absense for the tail end of season four, and being on the series for almost all of it's fifth season.

The third (and final) waitress was Jolene Hunnicutt, played by Celia Weston. Diane Ladd's last episode was also Celia Weston's first (Diane Ladd was credited, Celia Weston was a Special Guest Star). Though several fans feel that Polly Holliday's last episode, "Flo's Farewell", provided enough closure for the series, Diane Ladd's didn't. A phone call from Nashville won't work, will it? Maybe, but when Mel fired Alice once, he did take her nametag... what about Belle's nametag?

Flo was never really mentioned after season four, and the same for Belle when she left. The only exception is that in the series finale, Flo was in several flashbacks. Belle, however, wasn't.

The longest-running third waitress was Jolene (she ran for the end of season 5, and for the rest of the nine-year running series). Jolene didn't have much character development unfortunately. Character development was different for Flo and Belle: Flo didn't need an introduction, and neither did Vera. Vera and Flo had worked with Mel for several years. Alice, as said in the pilot, was there for three weeks: stretching to nine years by the series' close.

Getting in Touch with My Inner Dingey by Deborah Baudoin

I'm a Vera fan. I have to admit this first and foremost. I get the oddest looks when I tell people this. I get even odder looks when I tell them that Vera is the character I most identify with on the series. The first reaction I get is, "Oh, does that mean you're dingey?" (Visual effect: Deb rolling eyes.) I would like to say here and now that if more people would get in touch with their Inner Dingey, the world would be a much nicer place.

I sometimes think that I'm the only person who gets this. After I explain my reasons for identifying with Vera, people usually say, "Oh, wow. I never thought of that."

So join me as I enter the Veraverse. Think Upon The Dingey, Grasshopper. Gaze into the world of Vera Louise Gorman Novak, and see the delight of Unfettered Dingeyism.

1. Vera is a lover of animals, nature, and the environment. She will risk her own life to save a birds nest from destruction. She will move rather than allow her pets to go homeless when mean old Mrs. Waldon (the symbolic personification of Unchecked Industrialism, in my humble opinion) declares her apartment building a no-pet zone. She won the part of Cinderella in the Children's Theater production not by following the methods of Strasbourg, but of thinking of poor Harold, her hamster, smushed under the tires of an oncoming automobile. She is truly the embodiment of Nature.

2. Vera is a firm believer in the goodness of humanity. She is trusting and naive, but this very vulnerability often brings others to live up to her faith in them. This is most clearly demonstrated in the characters of Mel Sharples and the aforementioned mean old Mrs. Waldon. By simply refusing to accept the darkness of character apparent to others, Vera serves as a catalyst for their own spiritual expansion. Mel softens; Mrs. Waldon lightens up. (Okay, holding the illegal bingo game in Vera and Elliot's house could be considered backsliding, but we're all human, aren't we?)

3. Vera is possessed of an innate wisdom that is not apparent to the casual observer. When Vera says things that could be considered dingy, it is necessary to look deeper, to see the reasoning behind the apparently foolish conclusions. Quite often, that reasoning is just as foolish as the conclusion, but once in a while--she astounds you.

4. Vera accepts wholeheartedly the emotions she experiences. She is the walking embodiment of the phrase, "Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, and dance like there's nobody watching." It sometimes gets her in trouble, but it is the only way she can thrive.

5. Vera is an optimist. Whether it's friends, animals, or complete strangers, she manages to see the good points. Her imaginative (and often unrealistic) view of the world allows her to create magic out of a flickering movie projector, a nest of birds, or the bag ladies parade. Even her periods of depression are imaginative, over the top, and possessed of a sense of whimsy most people never even consider.

It is these things, Grasshopper, that I see in Vera. It is these things I wish to develop in myself. And perhaps, through the power of my Inner Dingey, I shall enter that happy Veraverse and find the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.

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