Jay Thomas

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Jay Thomas
Jay Thomas at 44th Primetime Emmy Awards cropped.jpg
Thomas at the 1992 Emmy Awards
BornJon Thomas Terrell
(1948-07-12)July 12, 1948
Kermit, Texas, U.S.
DiedAugust 24, 2017(2017-08-24) (aged 69)
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
Cause of deathThroat cancer
  • Actor
  • radio talk show host
Years active1979–2017
Sally Michelson (m. 1987)
Children3, including J. T. Harding

Jay Thomas (born Jon Thomas Terrell;[1] July 12, 1948 – August 24, 2017) was an American actor, comedian, and radio personality. He was heard in New York from 1976-79 on Top 40 station 99X, and later on Rhythmic CHR station WKTU, and in Los Angeles beginning in 1986 on KPWR "Power 106", where he hosted the station's top-rated morning show until 1993. His notable television work included his co-starring role as Remo DaVinci on Mork & Mindy (1979–81), the recurring role of Eddie LeBec, a Boston Bruins goalie on the downside of his career, on Cheers (1987–89), the lead character of newspaper columnist Jack Stein on Love & War (1992–95), and a repeat guest role as Jerry Gold, a talk show host who becomes both an antagonist and love interest of the title character on Murphy Brown. He won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1990 and 1991 for portraying Gold.

In 1997, he starred in the television film Killing Mr. Griffin, based on the eponymous novel. In film, he co-starred in Mr. Holland's Opus as a high school coach with a flair for theatricals, and portrayed the Easter Bunny in The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3. He was also an annual guest on The Late Show with David Letterman during the Christmas season, where he told a story about how he met Clayton Moore, who portrayed the title character on The Lone Ranger.[2] Beginning in 2005, he hosted The Jay Thomas Show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, which aired every Friday afternoon on Howard 101.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Thomas was born in Kermit, Texas, to Katharine (née Guzzino) and Timothy Harry Terrell.[4] He was raised in his Italian American mother's Catholic religion; his father was Protestant.[5] Thomas was raised in New Orleans,[6] where he attended and graduated from Jesuit High School.[7]

Letterman appearances[edit]

Thomas made his annual Christmastime appearance with David Letterman for the first time in December 1998. Letterman and one of his other guests that evening, then-New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, took turns tossing footballs at the Christmas tree across the stage, atop which sat a large meatball. As the two tried to knock off the meatball and failed repeatedly, Thomas came back out to join in the festivities, and knocked the meatball off of the tree.[8] (Thomas had played quarterback on his college football team.)

When Letterman talked with Thomas later in the show, Thomas told a story about when he was a young disc jockey at WAYS 610AM[9] in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thomas had been making a promotional appearance at a local Dodge dealership which had also booked Clayton Moore to make an appearance, dressed in his Lone Ranger costume.[8]

As the story goes, after the appearance Thomas, who at the time sported what he referred to as a "white man's Afro", and his friend, who was wearing platform shoes, tight pants, and a tie-dyed shirt, went off to get "herbed up" (smoke marijuana) behind a dumpster, after the broadcast ended. When they returned to pack up their equipment, they discovered that Moore was still there, as the car that was supposed to drive him to the Red Carpet Inn on Morehead Street (some years he would say the Red Roof Inn) never arrived. Thomas offered Moore a ride in his old Volvo, and Moore accepted. As they were sitting in traffic, with Moore sitting silently in the back seat, an impatient middle-aged man backed his Buick into the front end of Thomas' car, broke a headlight, and drove away.[9]

Thomas gave chase to the Buick through heavy traffic, finally caught up to the man, and confronted him about the damage. The indignant driver denied breaking the headlight, and Thomas threatened to call the police. The man said nobody would believe their story because Thomas and his friend looked like "two hippie freaks". At that moment, Thomas said that Moore, who was still in costume as the Lone Ranger, got out of the car and said to the man, "They'll believe me, citizen!" The shocked perpetrator then began to cooperate.[10]

For every year thereafter, with the exception of 2013, Thomas appeared to re-tell the Lone Ranger story and once again attempt what Letterman calls the "Late Show Quarterback Challenge". For the final appearance of the story in 2014, Thomas was again successful in knocking the meatball off the top of the tree. Thomas missed the 2013 Late Show Christmas episode due to surgery on his throat; John McEnroe took his place and told the Lone Ranger story, then tried, unsuccessfully, to knock the meatball off the tree by hitting tennis balls at it.[8]

Personal life and death[edit]

Thomas fathered J. T. Harding in an out-of-wedlock relationship, and the child was adopted by another family in Michigan. Thomas and his son spoke about their reunion on the Dr. Phil Show. Harding was the lead singer of the band JTX and is a country music songwriter.[11] Thomas married Sally Michelson in 1987. They had two sons, Samuel and Jacob.[12]

Jay Thomas died of throat cancer on August 24, 2017 in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 69.[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1979-1981 Mork & Mindy Remo DaVinci 20 episodes[1]
1981 The Love Boat Paul Harris Episode: "First Voyage, Last Voyage"
1984 Master of the Game Levy Television miniseries
1984 C.H.U.D. Cop in diner
1985 Spenser: For Hire Tony Broz Episode: "Discord in a Minor"
1985 The Gig Rick Valentine
1986 Legal Eagles Waiter
1987 Family Ties Jerry DiNello Episode: "Super Mom"
1987 A Year in the Life Scott Spenser Episode: "What Do People Do All Day?"
1987-1989 Cheers Eddie LeBec 9 episodes [1]
1988 Monkey Business Tedesco
1988 The Adventures of Ragtime Lester Waylin
1988 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Delivery Man Episode: "Justin Case"
1989 Almost Grown Unknown Episode: "Take It Slow"
1989 The Golden Girls Sy Ferber Episode: "High Anxiety"
1989 Freddy's Nightmares Stan Brooks Episode: "Dream Come True"
1989-1998 Murphy Brown Jerry Gold 9 episodes
Two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (1990–91)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series(1989) [1]
1990 Miracle Landing Ed Meyer Television movie
1990 Open House Evan Gimbel 2 episodes
1990 Where's Rodney? Lou Barnes Television movie
1990 Little Vegas Bobby
1990-1991 Married People Russell Meyers 18 episodes
1992 Straight Talk Zim Zimmerman
1992 Batman: The Animated Series Guard 1 Episode: "The Forgotten"
1992-1995 Love & War Jack Stein 67 episodes [1]
1995 Cybill Jay Episode: "Zing!"
1995 Bless This House Ted Episode: "If It Ain't Broken, Break It"
1995 Mr. Holland's Opus Coach Bill Meister [1]
1996 A Strange Affair Eric McKeever
1996 Dirty Laundry Joey Greene
1996-1997 Ink Jack Stein 3 episodes
1997 Killing Mr. Griffin John Griffin Television movie
1997 A Smile Like Yours Steve Harris
1997 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Disembodied Voice Episode: "Spy vs. Monster"
1997 Working Mr. Peyser Episode: "Lost Weekend"
1998 My Date with the President's Daughter Charles Fletcher Television movie
1998 The Simple Life Joel Campbell Episode: "Sara's Ex"
1998 The Adventures of Ragtime Lester Waylin
1998 Monkey Business Tedesco
1998 Last Chance Artie
1998-1999 Hercules Ares 6 episodes
1999 Stranger in My House Ray Young
1999 Fantasy Island Carl Harbin Episode: "The Real Thing"
1999 Dead Man's Gun Emil Kosar Episode: "The Good Chef"
1999 The Wild Thornberrys Bull Seal Episode: "Tamper Proof Seal"
1999 The Big Tease Tony Bolero Uncredited
2000 An American Daughter Timber Tucker Television movie
2001 Surfacing: AKA A Letter from My Father Tom
2001-2002 The Education of Max Bickford Jerry Zibowski 2 episodes
2002 Ed Gary Siringo Episode: "Small Town Guys"
2002 Monday Night Mayhem Pete Rozelle Television movie
2002 Dragonfly Hal
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Joe Sherman Episode: "Vulnerable"
2002 The Santa Clause 2 Easter Bunny [1]
2003 Run of the House Bob Melman Episode: "Twas the Night Before Homecoming"
2004 Teacher's Pet Barry Anger Voice
2004 Joan of Arcadia Obnoxious Investor at Spa Episode: "Recreation"
2006 The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Easter Bunny [1]
2007, 2010 American Dad! Brett Morris 2 episodes
2008 Boston Legal Ian Hoberman Episode: "Happy Trails"
2009 The Pool Boys Marty
2009 Labor Pains Garth
2010 Cold Case Lance Katrola Episode: "One Fall"
2010 Sex Tax: Based on a True Story Charles Taylor
2010 Mysteries at the Museum Narrator 4 episodes
2011 Snatched Roger Byamm
2011 Horrorween Two Headed Monster
2011 Retired at 35 Mr. Jenkins Episode: "Workin' Man"
2011 Hung Sandee's father Episode: "The Whole Beefalo"
2012 Shake It Up Dan Gold Episode: "Copy Kat It Up"
2013 Life Tracker Attorney General
2013 Underdogs Mike Mayhew
2013 The Trials of Cate McCall Loncraine
2013–2017 Ray Donovan Marty Grossman Episode: "Road Trip" [1]
2015 NCIS: New Orleans Marc Maslow Episode: "Confluence"
2015 Bones Lenny Jay Episode: "The Promise in the Palace"


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Elber, Lynn (August 24, 2017). "Jay Thomas, 'Murphy Brown' and 'Cheers' actor, radio host, dies at 69". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  2. ^ "It's Wouldn't Be the Holidays Without Jay Thomas' Lone Ranger Story". Animalnewyork.com. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  3. ^ "Talk and Entertainment - Program Schedule - SiriusXM Radio". Siriusxm.com. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  4. ^ "Jay Thomas profile". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Thomas hopes `Love' will pave road". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1992-09-28. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  6. ^ "Famous People from New Orleans". Experience New Orleans. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  7. ^ "The Whole "Veronica Mars" Gang Is Coming Back for a New Web Series". BuzzFeed. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Jay Thomas takes one more shot at David Letterman's Christmas-tree meatball". NOLA.com. 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  9. ^ a b Laurent Bodson (31 December 2009). "Jay Thomas on Letterman.2009.12.23 - The 'Lone Ranger' Story" – via YouTube.
  10. ^ Late Show (airdate December 19, 2014).
  11. ^ "Emmy Award-Winning Actor Discovers He Has a Son". US Magazine. Archived from the original on August 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
  12. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (August 24, 2017). "Jay Thomas, Actor on 'Murphy Brown' and 'Cheers,' Is Dead at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  13. ^ "Comic actor Jay Thomas is dead at 69". New York Daily News. Retrieved 24 August 2017.

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