He was a longtime actor who earned his greatest success as a guest star on sitcoms, as well as a unique annual bit on the couch of David Letterman. In his later years, he hosted a satellite radio talk show and continued to appear as an actor in both movies and TV shows.
Jay Thomas made memorable appearances on Mork & Mindy, Cheers, and Murphy Brown, and also appeared on The Golden Girls, American Dad!, and an episode of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. But perhaps his most famous bit was an annual Christmastime appearance on Letterman’s shows, where he always told the same story about the time he met the actor who played the Lone Ranger.
Thomas died Thursday at the age of 69, following a battle with cancer, the New York Daily News reported, citing Thomas’ longtime agent Don Buchwald.
Born in Texas in 1948 and raised in New Orleans, Thomas got his start as a radio disc jockey, a profession he would return to throughout his life. His first major acting role was the part of Remo DaVinci on 20 episodes of Mork & Mindy, between 1979 and 1981. He went on to appear on such popular ‘80s series as The Love Boat, Family Ties, and Spenser: For Hire.
In 1987 Thomas took on one of his most famous roles, the part of hockey goalie Guy Edward “Eddie” LeBec, who was one of several husbands of Carla (Rhea Perlman) over the course of Cheers‘ run. Thomas appeared in nine Cheers episodes between 1987 and 1989, a role that has lived on in re-runs, although Thomas was fired from the show — according to Cheers writer-turned-blogger Ken Levine — after he insulted Perlman’s looks on a radio show; LeBec died after he was struck by a Zamboni machine, and was outed posthumously as a bigamist. Thomas’ next big role was a recurring guest spot on Murphy Brown, which would earn him a guest-acting Emmy in 1991. Between 1992 and ’95, Thomas got a rare lead role, on the sitcom Love & War.
In his later years, Thomas hosted a Sirius XM radio show, on Howard Stern’s channel. He was also the host of the infamous reality TV special Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, back in February 2000. But Thomas’ most well-known bit was the story about having met the original Lone Ranger actor, Clayton Moore, when he was a young DJ, after which he would attempt to knock a large meatball off a Christmas tree with a football. Thomas told this story on the Late Show with David Letterman every year between 1998 and Letterman’s last on-air Christmas in 2014, with the exception of 2013.
Thomas didn’t appear in many movies, although he did play the starring role in the TV movie Killing Mr. Griffin, played NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in the TV movie Monday Night Mayhem, and also appeared in Mr. Holland’s Opus. After two years on Ray Donovan, Thomas’ final roles were guest appearances on NCIS: New Orleans and Bones, both in 2015.
Jay Thomas — July 12, 1948 – August 24, 2017
Source: New York Daily News
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