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Nicholas Colasanto

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Nicholas Colasanto
Nicholas Colasanto Coach Ernie Pantusso.jpg
Colasanto on the set of Cheers
Born(1924-01-19)January 19, 1924
DiedFebruary 12, 1985(1985-02-12) (aged 61)
Studio City, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Ann Cemetery, Cranston, Rhode Island
Alma materBryant University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationActor, director
Years active1959–1985
Military career
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Nicholas Colasanto (January 19, 1924 – February 12, 1985) was an American actor and television director who is best known for his role as "Coach" Ernie Pantusso in the American television sitcom Cheers. He served in the United States Navy during World War II and later attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the 1950s.

Early life[edit]

Colasanto attended Bryant University (now located in Smithfield, Rhode Island[1]) and was a decorated veteran of World War II, during which he served as a coxswain in the United States Navy.[2] Around 1954 he intended to work as an accountant for a company in Saudi Arabia; instead, he attended American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[3] He was of Italian descent.[4]


Colasanto is best known for his role as Coach Ernie Pantusso, a character in the television sitcom Cheers; he also directed episodes of many television series, including Hawaii Five-O,[5] Starsky & Hutch,[6] Bonanza,[7] Columbo,[8] and CHiPs.[9] He also appeared in feature films, including The Counterfeit Killer (1968),[10] Fat City (1972),[8] and Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976).[8]

Colasanto was in demand as an actor and director but in the mid-1970s he was diagnosed with heart disease, which was exacerbated by his alcoholism.[11] After twenty years of alcoholism, he became an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous from March 31, 1976,[3] and became sober in the same year.[12] In the late 1970s, he began having difficulty securing directing jobs as his health was declining. His last major film role was as mob boss Tommy Como in Raging Bull (1980).[13]

Colasanto was preparing to retire when the role of Coach Ernie Pantusso was offered to him on Cheers. Coach would become his best known role.[11] By the third season of Cheers, Colasanto's health had seriously deteriorated. His fellow cast members noticed his weight loss, but Colasanto kept the severity of his illness secret.[14] Shortly after the Christmas holiday in 1984, he was admitted to a local hospital for water in his lungs.[14] Co-star Ted Danson later said Colasanto had difficulty remembering his lines during production of the season.[14]

When Colasanto was released from hospital in the week of January 28 – February 3, 1985, after a two-week stay,[15] his doctor recommended he should not return to work.[16] Although he appeared in the cold opening of the third-season finale episode "Rescue Me" (1985),[16] Colasanto's last full episode was "Cheerio Cheers" (1985), which was filmed in late November 1984.[17]


Colasanto died of a heart attack at his home on February 12, 1985, at the age of 61.[8][18] A memorial service was held in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, and attended by the full staff and cast of Cheers.[19] In addition, over three hundred mourners, including castmate John Ratzenberger, attended the February 16 funeral mass at the Church of the Holy Cross (Middletown, Rhode Island) in his home state.[20][21] Colasanto is buried in Saint Ann Cemetery in Cranston, Rhode Island.[22]

On April 19, 1985, Colasanto was posthumously awarded the Best Supporting Actor by Viewers for Quality Television, a non-profit organization that determined what was considered high-quality on television.[23]

Colasanto's character was written out of the show as also having died. The fourth-season premiere episode, "Birth, Death, Love and Rice" (1985), deals with Coach's death and introduces Colasanto's successor Woody Harrelson, who played Woody Boyd.[24] Colasanto had hung a picture of Geronimo in his dressing room; after his death it was placed on the wall in the bar of the Cheers production set in his memory. Near the end of the final episode of Cheers in 1993, eight years after Colasanto's death, bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson) walks over to the picture and straightens it.[25]

Selected filmography[edit]





  1. ^ Snauffer 2008, p. 51.
  2. ^ Brant, Marley (2006). Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms 1974–1984. New York City: Billboard Books. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-8230-8933-8.
  3. ^ a b c "Colasanto Strayed from Directing to Take Role as Cheers Bartender". Schenectady Gazette. Schenectady, New York. August 4, 1984. p. 25, TV Plus section.
  4. ^ Snauffer 2008, p. 56: " 'He was very Italian, and family meant a lot to him,' [...] says old friend Dean Hargrove."
  5. ^ Rhodes 1997, pp. 55–56, 58, 70.
  6. ^ a b "Nicholas Colasanto, Cheers Bartender". Sun Sentinel. United Press International. February 13, 1985. Archived from the original on November 3, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Leiby, Bruce R.; Leiby, Linda F. (May 31, 2012). "Part II: Episode Guide / Fourteenth Season". A Reference Guide to Television's Bonanza: Episodes, Personnel and Broadcast History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 184. ISBN 9781476600758. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2015 – via Google Book.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Jones, Jack (February 13, 1985). "N. Colasanto; Played Coach Role in Cheers". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c "Celebrity Mailbag". Toledo Blade. March 2, 2002. Archived from the original on May 27, 2016. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Willis, John (1983) [1969]. Screen World: 1969. 20. Biblio and Tannen. p. 95. ISBN 0-8196-0310-4. Retrieved December 26, 2016 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ a b Snauffer 2008, p. 52.
  12. ^ Holsopple, Barbara (February 14, 1985). "Cheers pays tribute to "Coach"". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  13. ^ "Nick Colasanto Dead at 61; Played Bartender in 'Cheers'". The New York Times. February 14, 1985. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c Snauffer 2008, p. 55.
  15. ^ a b "Coach on TV's Cheers actor Colasanto dies at 61". The Gazette. Montreal. Associated Press. February 13, 1985. p. D-8. Archived from the original on January 28, 2016. Retrieved October 10, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
  16. ^ a b Snauffer 2008, p. 56.
  17. ^ Gendel, Morgan (April 6, 1985). "Loss of key cast members a fact of TV life". The Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on January 28, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2015 – via Google News Archive. Morgan Gendel worked for Los Angeles Times at the time of publication.
  18. ^ Keets, Heather (February 11, 1994). "Coach's Last Call". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  19. ^ Levine, By Ken (August 26, 2016). "By Ken Levine: Friday Questions". By Ken Levine. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  20. ^ "300 Mourn 'Coach' Colasanto". The Miami Herald. The Associated Press. February 17, 1985. page 4, section B (Local), Obituary column.
  21. ^ "Services planned for 'Cheers' bartender". UPI. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  22. ^ Snauffer 2008, p. 57.
  23. ^ Buck, Jerry (April 19, 1985). "The Results Are In for Quality Television's First Poll". The Orlando Sentinel (Three star ed.). Sentinel Communications Company. The Associated Press. p. E9 – via NewsBank. Record no: 0290180135.
  24. ^ "Birth, Death, Love, and Rice." 1985. Cheers: Season 4: The Complete Fourth Season. Paramount, 2009. DVD.
  25. ^ Liner, Elaine (May 21–22, 1993). "TV's favorite bar turns off the tap". Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Texas. p. A1. Record no at NewsBank: 113001A60C3FB35B (registration required).
  26. ^ Roberts, Jerry (June 5, 2009). "Dean Hargrove". Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. p. 233. ISBN 9780810863781. Archived from the original on April 30, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2015 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ Ironside: Season 1 (DVD). Shout Factory. ASIN B000MGBSQM.
  28. ^ Rhodes 1997, p. 55.
  29. ^ Rhodes 1997, p. 56.
  30. ^ Rhodes 1997, p. 58.
  31. ^ Rhodes 1997, p. 70.
  32. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1985). "1121 Hec Ramsey". Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials 1974–1984. 2. New York Zoetrope. p. 189. ISBN 0-918432-61-8. LCCN 84-061786.
  33. ^ a b Bjorklund, p. 39.
  34. ^ "Man Out of Time". Logan's Run. Season 1. Episode 5. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2016.


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