Jay Thomas

Jay Thomas
Thomas at the 1992 Emmy Awards
Born Jon Thomas Terrell
(1948-07-12)July 12, 1948
Kermit, Texas, United States
Died August 24, 2017(2017-08-24) (aged 69)
Santa Barbara, California, United States
Cause of death Throat cancer
Occupation Actor, radio talk show host
Years active 1979–2017
Sally Michelson (m. 1987)
Children 3, 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

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

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

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
1979-1981Mork & MindyRemo DaVinci20 episodes[1]
1981The Love BoatPaul HarrisEpisode: "First Voyage, Last Voyage"
1984Master of the GameLevyTelevision miniseries
1984C.H.U.D.Cop in diner
1985Spenser: For HireTony BrozEpisode: "Discord in a Minor"
1985The GigRick Valentine
1986Legal EaglesWaiter
1987Family TiesJerry DiNelloEpisode: "Super Mom"
1987A Year in the LifeScott SpenserEpisode: "What Do People Do All Day?"
1987-1989CheersEddie LeBec9 episodes [1]
1988Monkey BusinessTedesco
1988The Adventures of RagtimeLester Waylin
1988Walt Disney's Wonderful World of ColorDelivery ManEpisode: "Justin Case"
1989Almost GrownUnknownEpisode: "Take It Slow"
1989The Golden GirlsSy FerberEpisode: "High Anxiety"
1989Freddy's NightmaresStan BrooksEpisode: "Dream Come True"
1989-1998Murphy BrownJerry Gold9 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]
1990Miracle LandingEd MeyerTelevision movie
1990Open HouseEvan Gimbel2 episodes
1990Where's Rodney?Lou BarnesTelevision movie
1990Little VegasBobby
1990-1991Married PeopleRussell Meyers18 episodes
1992Straight TalkZim Zimmerman
1992Batman: The Animated SeriesGuard 1Episode: "The Forgotten"
1992-1995Love & WarJack Stein67 episodes [1]
1995CybillJayEpisode: "Zing!"
1995Bless This HouseTedEpisode: "If It Ain't Broken, Break It"
1995Mr. Holland's OpusCoach Bill Meister[1]
1996A Strange Affair Eric McKeever
1996Dirty LaundryJoey Greene
1996-1997InkJack Stein3 episodes
1997Killing Mr. GriffinJohn GriffinTelevision movie
1997A Smile Like YoursSteve Harris
1997Aaahh!!! Real MonstersDisembodied VoiceEpisode: "Spy vs. Monster"
1997WorkingMr. PeyserEpisode: "Lost Weekend"
1998My Date with the President's DaughterCharles FletcherTelevision movie
1998The Simple LifeJoel CampbellEpisode: "Sara's Ex"
1998The Adventures of RagtimeLester Waylin
1998Monkey BusinessTedesco
1998Last ChanceArtie
1998-1999HerculesAres6 episodes
1999Stranger in My HouseRay Young
1999Fantasy IslandCarl HarbinEpisode: "The Real Thing"
1999Dead Man's GunEmil KosarEpisode: "The Good Chef"
1999The Wild ThornberrysBull SealEpisode: "Tamper Proof Seal"
1999The Big TeaseTony BoleroUncredited
2000An American DaughterTimber TuckerTelevision movie
2001Surfacing: AKA A Letter from My FatherTom
2001-2002The Education of Max BickfordJerry Zibowski2 episodes
2002EdGary SiringoEpisode: "Small Town Guys"
2002Monday Night MayhemPete RozelleTelevision movie
2002Law & Order: Special Victims UnitJoe ShermanEpisode: "Vulnerable"
2002The Santa Clause 2Easter Bunny[1]
2003Run of the HouseBob MelmanEpisode: "Twas the Night Before Homecoming"
2004Teacher's PetBarry AngerVoice
2004Joan of ArcadiaObnoxious Investor at SpaEpisode: "Recreation"
2006The Santa Clause 3: The Escape ClauseEaster Bunny[1]
2007, 2010American Dad!Brett Morris2 episodes
2008Boston LegalIan HobermanEpisode: "Happy Trails"
2009The Pool BoysMarty
2009Labor PainsGarth
2010Cold CaseLance KatrolaEpisode: "One Fall"
2010Sex Tax: Based on a True StoryCharles Taylor
2010Mysteries at the MuseumNarrator4 episodes
2011SnatchedRoger Byamm
2011HorrorweenTwo Headed Monster
2011Retired at 35Mr. JenkinsEpisode: "Workin' Man"
2011HungSandee's fatherEpisode: "The Whole Beefalo"
2012Shake It UpDan GoldEpisode: "Copy Kat It Up"
2013Life TrackerAttorney General
2013UnderdogsMike Mayhew
2013The Trials of Cate McCallLoncraine
2013–2017Ray DonovanMarty GrossmanEpisode: "Road Trip" [1]
2015NCIS: New OrleansMarc MaslowEpisode: "Confluence"
2015BonesLenny JayEpisode: "The Promise in the Palace"


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 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. 1 2 3 "Jay Thomas takes one more shot at David Letterman's Christmas-tree meatball". NOLA.com. 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  9. 1 2 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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