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Lilith Sternin

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Lilith Sternin
LilithSternin Ghost&Mrs.LeBec
Portrayer Bebe Neuwirth
First seen Second Time Around - Cheers
Last seen Guns N' Neuroses - Frasier
Duration 1986-2003
Profile
Date of birth  ?
Occupation Psychiatrist
Family Frederick Crane (son)
Lilith Sternin, M.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., A.P.A. is a supporting character played by Bebe Neuwirth on the American sitcom Cheers, which spans the course of her marriage to Frasier Crane, and its spinoff series Frasier, during which she made regular appearances as Frasier's ex-wife and the mother of their son Frederick.

From 1986 to 2003 Lilith appeared in 80 episodes of Cheers, including the season 10 finale, and 12 episodes of Frasier.

BackgroundEdit

Despite the character's longevity, not much is known about her. She is Jewish, with a name derived from Hebrew (in one episode guest star Brent Spiner points out that she shares her name with a "demon goddess").[2] A remarkably unemotional and restrained woman (her hair usually tightly pulled back in a severe bun), she has exceptionally pale skin, a monotonous voice, and dresses almost exclusively in drab, conservative clothing. She tends to express herself in long-winded, exacting, technical sentences suffused with psychological or medical jargon. Upon greeting the expecting Daphne and Niles, she congratulates them on "the successful co-mingling of their genetic material."

Regarding herself as quite an intellectual, Lilith takes her chosen profession, psychiatry, very seriously; forming elaborate psychological profiles to explain even the most ordinary events. She and Frasier frequently develop these psychological profiles together, though she is a firm behaviorist, which sometimes leads to clashing with his strong psychoanalytic, Freudian stance.

Lilith has a half-brother, a con-man named Blaine. He was played by Michael Keaton in the season nine Frasier episode "Wheels of Fortune", where Frasier described him as "the curse" of the Sternins, and asked, "What does it say when Lilith is the good one?"

Marilyn Cooper also starred as Betty Sternin, Lilith's domineering mother, in the season ten Cheers episode "Smotherly Love", where she insisted that the wedding be restaged because she had missed the first one. The tension between her and Lilith grew until Lilith, passive through most of the episode, finally lashed out after being told to wear make-up and an uncharacteristically feminine wedding dress. After getting screamed at by her daughter to stop controlling her life, Betty displayed tearful pride, saying, "That's exactly what I told my mother at my wedding!" Lilith's father is mentioned briefly, in season 6 "Cheers" episode "Our Hourly Bread," which is the reason Lilith doesn't like surprises. Her Father asked her to close her eyes and he left for two years.

[edit] Role on the seriesEdit

In spite of her reserved nature, one of the several running gags concerning Lilith is that beneath her icy exterior simmers a passionate libido that she must work hard to repress.[3] This was explored most deeply on Cheers, while on Frasier, the recurring joke that her body is intensely cold to the touch gained a stronger foothold. Niles, when asked by Frasier what he had learned from his ill-conceived one night stand with her, said, "I learned that if you kiss her too fast you get an ice cream headache", to which Lilith replied, "You also learned that I have twice your upper body strength, so shut your pie hole." In another episode, when asked why she didn't go exploring volcanoes with her new husband in New Zealand, Niles replies, "Because if she accidentally fell in, the shockwave from the hottest thing in nature meeting the coldest would actually crack the Earth in two." (Frasier's caustic reply: "As if a look from Maris couldn't freeze mercury.")

Many episodes contained other jokes about Lilith that addressed her personality and sense of humor: her temperament is such that, as stated in My Son, The Father she considers Zeppo to be the funniest of the Marx Brothers (Zeppo, in fact, was the straight man in the movies he starred in); after an un-heated argument with her, Frasier said, "normally, people of your limited physical appeal make up for it with an actual personality"; and when told that Frasier is hiding a deep attraction for her, she lets out three grunts and a cough, and says, "Thank you Diane, it's been a long time since I've had such a good laugh."

The traits Lilith possessed enabled her to act as both a romantic match and a sparring partner for Frasier, and even after their marriage, Frasier would tease Lilith: while trying to explain a minor medical procedure using her arm, he couldn't locate a blood vein through her pale skin, and asked her, "Lilith, how do you work?"

Since her name innately references the night-demon Lilith, other characters on the shows often speak of her in demonic or witch-like terms:

  • Niles once commented, "How strange. I usually get some sign when Lilith is in town—dogs forming into packs; blood weeping from the walls."
  • Daphne, who claims that she is psychic, developed a migraine prior to her first meeting with Lilith, which continued throughout Lilith's entire stay. Before Lilith's arrival, she claims that her headache is paranormal in nature; "There's some kind of negative force out there; I only get these when there's a clawing at the cosmic continuum." When she shook hands with Lilith, she lost all feeling in her arm.
  • Martin, when asked when Lilith's plane will arrive in Seattle, he says, "Her broom touches down at eleven."
  • Eddie, Martin's fearless dog, is afraid of her. In one episode, while out on a walk with Daphne, he becomes terrified upon entering the apartment complex. Daphne must drag him into Frasier's apartment, and says, "It's like he senses an earthquake or a dark force or -hello Lilith- a vortex of evil."
  • Towards the end of Frasier, the connection with the night-demon was actually referenced: guest star Brent Spiner asked Lilith if she was anything like the demoness; her answer was, "I make her look like a vacillating cream puff."

[edit] Life on CheersEdit

Lilith was introduced to the Cheers audience in 1986 as Frasier's date on the season 4 episode, "Second Time Around". Starting with season five she became a "regular" at the Cheers bar.

[edit] First encountersEdit

Lilith's first date with Frasier went less well than either had hoped, with Frasier remarking that "the closest we came to physical contact was when you closed the car door on my hand!". A foundation for a true relationship was laid down during season 5 in Abnormal Psychology, their second encounter, where Diane and a uselessly reluctant Sam act as the psychiatrists' matchmakers. Among other things, Diane instructs Lilith to untie her bun, thus allowing her hair to fall free. This turns out to be especially irresistible for Frasier, and is apparent when they are guests on a day-time TV psychology talk show: by the end of the show, their inhibitions overcome, Lilith runs her high heel up Frasier's calf, while he does the same thing to her with his balmoral.

Much later that day, the two meet at Cheers and offer mutual apologies for their unprofessional behavior. When Lilith is about to leave, however, Diane asks her for her hairpin, because the refrigerator door is "stuck" and a hairpin is needed to open it. Diane's real motive is obvious to a dismissive Frasier, who tells Lilith to "oblige [Diane and Sam]" and remove the hairpin. Frasier first scornfully sees through Diane's attempt to make him react "like Pavlov's dog", but after Lilith's hair is down, he is immediately struck, stating hungrily: "I'm going to kiss you. I'm going to kiss you hard, and I'm going to kiss you long, but make no mistake about it, I am going to kiss you. In fact, I'm going to kiss you like you've never-" yet his lengthy verbal foreplay is soon interrupted by Lilith. On impulse, she launches herself at him and the two psychiatrists share their first longing, impassioned, albeit short kiss, before setting out for Frasier's "tastefully decorated townhouse" to, as Frasier put it, "be animals".

[edit] Marriage and childbirthEdit

It wasn't long before the two fell in love, marrying in 1988 and soon conceiving a child. Their son, Frederick Crane, was born during the season 8 episode "The Stork Brings a Crane". He was delivered in a taxicab while Lilith was on her way home from the hospital after an episode of false labor. Lilith tolerated the pain by biting down on one of the cab driver's fuzzy dice.

Being Jewish, Lilith raised Frederick Jewish as well. Lilith's faith was first confirmed in the season 8 episode "For Real Men Only", where Frederick's bris was performed on the Cheers pool table.

It became clear that her approach to parenting was as frigid and calculating as her scientific research, except she displayed gentle tenderness too. In the season 8 episode "Mr. Otis Regrets" when Lilith took singing lessons so she could sing to Frederick, several wisecracks were made by the Cheers barflies at her expense. Intending to prove her genuine commitment, Lilith sang "Sonny Boy" to Frederick, which moved the entire bar to tears, with Cliff running to the phone to call his "Ma".

[edit] Separation and reconciliationEdit

Lilith did not stay faithful to Frasier. In the 11th and last season, she confesses to Frasier that she cheated on him with her colleague Dr. Louis Pascal (Peter Vogt). Frasier forgives her on the condition that she must tell Dr. Pascal she will never see him again, but when she goes to do so, she changes her mind, deciding instead to live with Dr. Pascal in an underground eco-pod. Frasier's reaction culminates into a suicide attempt—walking up to the ledge of a third floor window above the bar, he threatens to jump, but steps down after thinking about the fate of his son. When Lilith arrives, she promises not to abandon him if he doesn't kill himself. Not wishing to hold his wife back, however, Frasier lets Lilith go.

Lilith eventually sends a Dear John letter to Frasier from her eco-pod, because she's in love with Dr. Pascal. At Cheers, Frasier remains disconsolate despite a divorce party arranged by Rebecca. Being slightly inebriated, he lets her drive him home; when they reach his apartment, Frasier invites her in for coffee, after which they find themselves in his bedroom. Possible non-drinking activities are postponed, however, when, one by one, his friends walk in to cheer him up. After the last person finally departs, Frasier and Rebecca decide that they still want to continue what was interrupted, but just when they are about to begin sexual intercourse, Lilith walks in.

Shocked even more than Frasier or Rebecca, Lilith immediately heads for Cheers to ask Sam about her husband's situation, but he is just as surprised. When Frasier (along with Rebecca) enters, Lilith professes her desire to be taken back. Rebecca has no intentions of continuing her short affair with Frasier, but he is deeply hesitant to re-embrace Lilith as his wife, given the pain her letter caused him, so Lilith makes it clear that the letter was actually written by Dr. Pascal to widen the rift between her and Frasier, thus allowing his own relationship to be consolidated. She explains that not only did she not love Dr. Pascal, she also had to leave the eco-pod because claustrophobia caused him to act irrationally. This is verified when Dr. Pascal storms into the bar with a gun, looking for Lilith and threatening to shoot anyone standing in his way. The situation is ultimately defused when Lilith persuades Dr. Pascal to give up his gun. Frasier still refuses to forgive Lilith, but, along with the rest of Cheers, is soon won over by her sobbing.

[edit] Life on FrasierEdit

When Cheers ended, Bebe Neuwirth reprised her role as Lilith on Frasier. At the beginning of the latter show's pilot episode, "The Good Son", it is revealed that the two psychiatrists' marriage ended in divorce, with their temporary reuniting described as "excruciating" by Frasier, who moved back to his hometown of Seattle while Lilith stayed in Boston with Frederick, having gained full custody of him. This led to Lilith's becoming a rare, albeit memorable, guest of Elliot Bay Towers' apartment 1901 (she stayed with Frasier to its very last season, but she was in only 11 episodes, compared to 80 episodes on Cheers). Over the course of those episodes, her relationship with her former husband evolved from strained and uneasy to, at the end of the series, more warm and close.

[edit] The return of Dr. SterninEdit

Several characters from Cheers traveled from Boston to visit Frasier, with each re-introduction episode being named "The Show Where [X] Comes Back/Shows Up". Of the four characters who made trips to Seattle, Lilith was the first.

In the season 1 episode "The Show Where Lilith Comes Back", Lilith hears Frasier giving advice to an overeater, and decides to call in. Roz Doyle, the call-screener, informs Frasier that there is "someone on line one who disagrees with your advice." Lilith proceeds to congratulate Frasier on leading "another unsuspecting innocent" down one of his "dark, dead-end, Freudian hallways." She continues, "Overeating is very simply a behavioral problem caused by negative reinforcement—it can be cured quite readily by behavior modification."

After introducing her to his audience as his "celebrity" ex-wife, Frasier explains to a querying Lilith "Oh, they know you." Lilith then informs Frasier that she is in Seattle for a convention, but is available for dinner. Frasier's attempts to end the conversation and get Lilith off the air are sullied by Roz's suggestion of asking Lilith out for dinner. Not wishing to appear vindictive towards his ex-wife on the air, "You see, even though our marriage was unsuccessful, Lilith and I are quite capable of conducting ourselves as adults, and even enjoying spending some time together, from time to time," he unwillingly invites Lilith over to his apartment (and unsuccessfully attempts to fire Roz for getting him into this mess). The invitation is opposed by the two other Cranes, Martin and Niles: Martin never liked Lilith, claiming that she's "weird" (he prefers Maris, Niles' wife, who is only "a little strange"), while Niles still resents Lilith for snickering at Maris's wedding vows.

When Lilith and Frasier are finally alone in the living room after a long evening, Lilith confesses that she is not in Seattle for a convention, but that she wanted to see him again because of the letter he wrote when he was visiting Frederick a month ago: "My darling, how could a love like ours have fallen so far from grace? There must be some part of your heart that still resounds to the rhythm of my own. I fear that I'll be lost without you. As long as we have love, love will keep us together." Apart "from the shameless pilfering from the Captain & Tennille," she was moved and wanted to say how much she missed him. Frasier, however, reveals that it wasn't written last month, but nearly a year ago, before he moved to Seattle. It turned out that the letter had fallen behind the dresser. Wishing to have "at least a shred of dignity," Lilith quickly leaves.

At Café Nervosa the next day, Frasier asks Niles for advice concerning his response to Lilith's, but Niles merely states, "like most patients who come to a therapist, you already know the answer to the question you're posing." Realizing that he is "leaning toward taking the next step", Frasier goes to Lilith's hotel, where he finds her with her bun untied again. They once more proclaim their feelings for each other and after a moment of passion, end up in bed.

The next morning, Frasier wakes up next to Lilith and instantly regrets what he did last night. Not wishing to wound her, he does not voice his contrition, but hastily gets out of the bed to answer the room service waiter. Lilith, upon seeing the eggs they got, said, "This is a mistake." Frasier immediately agrees: although he thought last night was "very enjoyable", he also points out that they have both gotten on with their lives; he, for the first time in years, is happy, and for them "to even consider getting back together" would be "just the stupidest thing two people could do!" An astounded Lilith can only reply "I meant the eggs. I ordered poached, not fried."

Frasier desperately tries to back-pedal, but Lilith angrily forces him to confess that those are his true feelings. Lilith begins to cry, but when Frasier apologises for hurting her, she responds: I'm not mad at you; I'm mad at me. I don't even know what I'm doing here! I've just been so lonely over the last year, and when I found your letter, it was...it was like a life preserver. I'm raising a child alone. I'm scared—I always thought of myself as a strong and independent person, but the truth is, I'm afraid. I guess that's why I convinced myself that I was still in love with you. Frasier reassures her that she is "the same strong-willed, dynamic, intelligent woman" whom he married 7 years ago, and that "no matter what the future holds in store for you, you'll handle it.". The pair sit down to breakfast and agree that their marriage wasn't all bad: they did have some good moments, especially Frederick. In the final moment of the episode, Frasier says, "Even though we're not in love anymore, you were always the most exciting lover I ever had. I think in your heart of hearts that you'd say the same about me." Lilith simply says, "They screwed up the toast, too, I ordered rye," and gives him a sly look.

[edit] RemarriageEdit

During the course of Frasier, Lilith remarries to an MIT seismologist named Brian, but this ends quickly because he sought a more feminine partner and leaves her for their male interior decorator Stan. She laments, "It's ironic, isn't it? No sooner do I get the closet of my dreams than my husband comes out of it."[4] Having been so rejected as a woman, and knowing that Frasier finds her vulnerability "highly desirable", Lilith attempts to seduce him. She fails, and sleeps with Niles, which upsets Frasier.[4] Recalling the regretful night he spent with Lilith, Niles says, "I learned if you kiss her too fast, you get an ice cream headache." (Lilith's response: "You also learned that you have half my upper body strength, so shut your pie hole.")

[edit] A second childEdit

Having spent about 5 years since her divorce from Brian, Lilith decided that what is needed to complete her life is another baby, so yet again she flies to Seattle, this time to ask for Frasier's sperm. Frasier at first points out "surely, someone in Boston must have sperm." Lilith argues that she would prefer Frederick to have a sibling, saying, "I mapped out our dominant and recessive traits on a genome square, applied Mendel's laws, allowed for anomalies and concluded that you are the best biological choice." Unsurprisingly, Frasier replies that he is "gonna need some kissin'," but Lilith hastens to point out that his donation would not lead to a change in their relationship.

During dinner with Lilith, Frasier voices his concern about "doing it for the right reason," and declines her request. Lilith has no choice but to sing the song Frederick wrote for him to the tune of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, orders "pasghetti and beatmalls", and reminds him of the laughter they shared when Frederick tried to eat the bubbles from his bath. Frasier easily sees through Lilith, saying, "You are attempting to manipulate me by invoking powerful emotional memories," but is soon overcome when Lilith pleads to forget her "research" and his "work", asking him, "What better gift can we bestow on the world but another person as wonderful as Frederick?

While inside a small room at the fertility clinic, Frasier finds himself being given advice by Lilith on how to make the donation—"Lilith! If there is one thing I can do by myself, this is it! Now go away." They continue to argue, however, until Lilith, not wanting him to do it while angry, calls for a time-out. Frasier again voices doubts, this time about the nature of their child: "Oh, dear God. What if this child inherits all of our flaws instead of our strengths? We could create a real nightmare." Lilith responds, "That's not going to happen. It's going to be exactly the way it was the first time." Frasier becomes worried that donating his sample is only a futile attempt to relive an irretrievable past. While Lilith still "feels right", Frasier cannot do it. While on the plane, she flirts with a similarly pale physicist named Albert (played by Brent Spiner), and it is implied she begins a romance with him.

[edit] Final appearanceEdit

In Lilith's final appearance on the show, "Guns N' Neuroses", she and Frasier achieve the most peaceful of their reconciliations. In the episode, Lilith’s colleague, Nancy, unwittingly sets Frasier and Lilith up on a blind date with each other. Not knowing that they are each other's dates, Frasier and Lilith both try to keep their meeting at her hotel room as brief as possible. Frasier is forced to call Nancy to tell her that he'll be late, but he is put on hold when Lilith calls to tell Nancy that she will not make it in time. Nancy, not having heard Frasier's whole story, thinks he wants to cancel and tells Lilith this.

"Both" their dates end up getting canceled, but neither wants to admit it, so they stay in the hotel room. The awkwardness soon ends when they start drinking and talking, but they're interrupted by a loud argument between a young married couple in the room next door. Frasier and Lilith offer their help, and together resolve the couple's dispute. They remind each other of their dates, but are comfortable enough to disclose the cancellations and spend the night together watching the television, finally falling asleep on the couch. The next morning, after they say goodbye, Frasier and Lilith wordlessly acknowledge that, while they will never be lovers again, they share a connection that reaches beyond friendship.

Lilith's chronologically last appearance within the Cheers/Frasier universe is the end of the tenth-season Cheers episode "I'm Okay, You're Defective", during which one subplot is Lilith pressuring Frasier to finalize his will and the other revolves around Sam Malone's concern that his sperm count may be low. The episode's epilogue is described as "Many years later", after Frasier dies and an older Lilith and adult Frederick (played by Rob Neukirch) sit for the reading of Frasier's will. The lawyer opens the sealed envelope and is surprised to find Sam's sperm count report. On the mixup, Lilith bitterly comments for the episode's punchline: "That damn bar."

[edit] Life outside Cheers and FrasierEdit

Before Frasier, Lilith was consigned almost entirely to Cheers, but when Wings—set in the same "universe" as Cheers—made its debut, an opportunity opened up for her, and her husband, to appear on another show. This appearance was during season ten of Cheers, prior to Lilith's affair.

[edit] WingsEdit

In the Wings episode "Trains, Planes, and Visiting Cranes", Lilith and Frasier take a working vacation, by plane, to Nantucket—the couple's first extended period away from their now 2-year-old Frederick (Frederick himself is, as Frasier puts it, "resting in the warm and loving bosom of his Danish nanny Dagmar."). Frasier intends to hold a self-esteem seminar called "The Crane Train to Mental Well-being", but is worried about flight safety, while Lilith would prefer to make the most of their time off, saying, "Frasier, don't be such a baby; if we crash and die, we crash and die; this is a vacation for God's sakes."

At the airport, Frasier mentions Dagmar's bosom again. Lilith does not take this kindly, asking him "What is this recent obsession you have with large breasts?" They then meet a dissatisfied and quarrelsome woman, Helen, who claims that Frasier ruined her life, to which Lilith says, "Frasier, I didn't know you had any patients on this island." They find out that Helen "took the Crane Train straight to hell," and wants her money back. It is against Frasier's policy to do so (if he reimburses her, he'd have to concede to all the other refund requests too), but does, on Lilith's suggestion, invite her to attend his upcoming seminar free of charge, in order to "rectify any damage".

As the episode progresses, we see Frasier start off his seminar by putting on an engineer's hat and blowing a train whistle, allowing Lilith to quip in with intermittent sardonicisms, such as "You need a degree to blow the whistle."

Helen's unceasing expressions of discontent inevitably derail the seminar. While trying to quell a fierce argument between Helen, Joe, and Brian, Frasier becomes distracted by Lilith, who says, "I'm making preliminary notes for an article which just occurred to me about how promoting populist psychobabble can ruin a man's career.” Frasier loses control, and shouts at the three to get "competent help" right in front of the seminar's "passengers", unintentionally and irrevocably undermining his credentials. He resigns as the train's chief engineer, and offers everyone their money back.

Before they continue their vacation, Lilith bloodies Frasier's nose with the train whistle after he says "home to Dagmar" to the cab driver Antonio (note that this happens off-screen).

[edit] Will & GraceEdit

Bebe Neuwirth guest stars as herself on the sitcom Will & Grace, where Jack and Karen are so excited upon first seeing her that they overlook the fact that she only plays Lilith. She resists being personified as her, maintaining that she's "not Lilith," but "Bebe," and that she's "an actress." She nevertheless quickly admits to loving the character saying, "I want to play that bitch forever!" While describing the straightforwardness of playing Lilith, she speaks briefly in Lilith's well-known voice: "Frasier is such an easy gig, man—they fly you first class to Los Angeles, put you up in the Bel Air hotel, per diem, I deliver several lines in a robotic monotone and I'm buying a new Lexus!"

[edit] Dr Pepper commercialEdit

In a 2008 television commercial for Dr Pepper, Kelsey Grammer appears as Frasier doing his radio call-in show. In the commercial, Frasier claims that it has been scientifically proven that the 23 flavors in Dr Pepper can be "truly relish[ed]" if it is drunk slowly, comparing this to how "we [should] savor all our relationships". Frasier then asks for comments from a caller, who happens to be Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth in voiceover); she complains that "you never savored me slowly." Frasier responds that he "finally found the right 'icy' doctor," cutting off Lilith and telling the audience that "slower is better; trust me, I'm a doctor."

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