Vera Louise Gorman-Novak
Vera was the only original waitress besides Alice who lasted all of the show's run. She was born in New England, it was rumored to be in Boston, (where her Aunt Agatha still lived) and moved to Phoenix, Arizona, some time before the series began.
She was often remembered for her shy and quiet nature, as well as her clumsiness. She is an ardent animal and nature lover, with several pets, most notably, hamsters Harold and Mitzi. She also had a parakeet. Through the series' nine year run, she also mentioned her goldfish named Starsky and Hutch and towards the end of the series, a cat named Mel. At one point. she even had a parrot named "Birdie".
One of Vera's memorable quirks is her uncanny ability to do math quickly by using her finger to "write" out the numbers in thin air, and if she was racing against Mel and a calculator, she would often have the solution before Mel would.
Vera was also the only one of any of the waitresses who did not have a drivers license, but would often forget about it until about 10–15 seconds after becoming part of a situation involving her and a motorized vehicle, in which she would say, "Wait a minute. I don't know how to drive." (Two instances of this were when Mel offered her his car in his will, and when she and the other two waitresses were charged with driving a tractor-trailer truck and after they all moved around to change seats, she found herself in the driver's seat.)
Vera's cousin is actor Art Carney. She clearly loved her co-workers, notably Alice Hyatt and Florence Jean Castleberry. Later the series shows Vera and Jolene Hunnicutt in a close friendship also. Jolene affectionately called her "shoebutton". Vera also had a fondness for Alice's son, Tommy Hyatt whom she called "Toms". She also got along well with Mel Sharples's mother, Carrie Sharples.
Her relationship with Mel was very hard to figure out. During the first season, Mel referred to Vera as "the Banana"; the catchphrase never really caught on and was dropped after only a few references. Sometimes Vera and Mel would get along wonderfully, but Mel would also get angry with the very nervous Vera, and as the series evolved, often called her "Dingy". He explained to her once why she was called "Dingy". "It's a lot nicer than calling you a stupid broad!"
Vera sometimes would get angry with Mel herself, and when she did, she would scream at him, "In a rat's hat, dumbo!", that was considered to be her catch-phrase. She also called Mel, "fatso" on occasion, also when she was angry with him.
One situation where Vera got exceedingly angry at Mel was when she brought Birdie to the diner and her boss and the parrot got into a screaming match where they traded the "Stow it!" line until Birdie collapsed and died. A brokenhearted Vera was extremely furious with Mel, because she thought he had killed her pet, until the truth came out that her beloved Birdie was 106 years old and senile to boot (he had made a pass at the pet store owner's cuckoo clock).
Vera tends to be very emotional and when someone really hurts her feelings, she would start crying. A prime example of this was when Randolph Briggs, (played by Hans Conreid) a strict no-nonsense chef who bought the diner from Mel, fired Vera for the petty reason that she merely messed up an order. At Mel's Diner, messed up orders were commonplace, and not just with Vera.
One time, Vera thought that she wasn't attractive enough, and so she enlisted the help of fellow waitress, Belle Dupree, who taught the shy, awkward Vera to "move, like the waves in the ocean." It was an attempt by the writers to develop Belle's character as much as Vera's.
Belle also came to Vera's aid when Mel was intent on cutting down a century year old tree near the diner property. Nature loving Vera chained herself to said tree, convincing Alice and Belle to help her, along with the construction workers who were moved by their plight. Furious at this, Mel decided to take matters into his own hands, and cut the tree down himself, totally infuriating Vera. She felt totally awful, although Belle, Alice and Sonny Santini, the construction foreman, tried to comfort her. The tree crashed through the Diner roof, driving Mel into a frenzy. "MY DINER!!!" he howled. He did, however, make up for it, by buying Vera a new tree to replace the old one.
As time went on, Vera's character became stronger. The character developed from being plain stupid and clumsy to a somewhat more sophisticated Vera that saw things from a unique perspective and was not always able to relate to the rest of the world. She always seemed to date fairly regularly, sometimes more successfully than others, and once even dated Mel in the fifth season, which was a major disaster.
Her most frequent boyfriends were Brian (Alan Haufrect) and her former boyfriend from Boston, Steve Marsh (played by Linda Lavin's second husband, Kip Niven). She and Steve reconnected at their high school reunion, and were swiftly engaged; but they parted after realizing they went way too fast. He had made a previous visit to Phoenix, where he inadvertently bounced a check after well-meaning Vera cashed it, infuriating Mel. Steve's twin brother, Travis (also played by Niven) was the one who finally allowed Alice to realize her singing dream.
Then, out of the blue, true love came to Vera Louise Gorman in the person of policeman Elliot Novak (Charles Levin).
Elliot first met Vera when he ticketed her for jaywalking. (Vera and Elliot planned on reenacting the jaywalking scene a year later to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.) They fell in love at first sight, and soon got married, despite Mel almost blundering the wedding, which earned him the wrath of both Alice and Jolene.
After marrying, Elliot and Vera moved into a huge house with the two of them and Vera's pets. Two different episodes feature Vera's wizened former landlady, Debbie Walden (also played by Linda Lavin), and the often forgetful pastor who married them, moving in and taking over.
When the last episode aired, it was discovered that Elliot was promoted to detective and Vera was going to have their first child, which, she said, if it were a boy, would be named after Mel. Mel was honored and so touched by the gesture that he gave Vera his beanie which he told her to save for the unborn child. The diner was shutting down for good and Mel was selling out and it all worked out well. Vera would be able to become a stay-at-home mom and Elliot would be the breadwinner.