Between his numerous acting jobs, he lies around and eats. His personal trailer is big enough for four. And like Roseanne and Madonna, he’s famous enough to go by one name: Norman.
It figures that Billy Crystal’s bovine buddy from City Slickers and its sequel would win his most famous role through a cattle call. ”Billy came to the ranch and checked out all the Jerseys because they have that sweet Bambi look,” says Carol Sonheim, Norman’s 36-year-old owner and trainer. ”Norman had the cutest face of all.”
Despite his good looks, the four-year-old Norman shouldn’t be considered just another piece of meat, insists Sonheim. With remarkable versatility, Norman, who’s really a steer (a neutered bull), has convincingly played a cow (a female) and a bull (an intact male).
Although not as temperamental as some of his costars, Norman is a bit sensitive about his weight (he’s gained 400 pounds since filming City Slickers II, bringing him to a whopping 1,200), and if he senses an actor kowtowing to him, he’s been known to, well, milk it. ”He’ll just walk off and go chew on some props or find some cables to goof with,” says Sonheim. ”He knows when he can take advantage.”
While he commands up to $750 per day, the actor, who recently wrapped an episode of the ABC sitcom Blue Skies (airing on Nov. 7), has remained a steer of simple tastes. He loves to eat hay, grain, and leaves, and spends quiet evenings on Sonheim’s 20-acre Rolling Thunder ranch in Canyon Country, Calif., pushing barrels and flinging rubber cones with friends Gerdie (a Holstein ingenue who appeared in Cabin Boy) and Spencer Steaks.
”Children come to the ranch and take pictures of Norman,” says Sonheim. ”He loves the attention and moos constantly. When he sees a camera, he’s right in front of it. He’s really,” she adds, lowering her voice, ”a big ham.”