Actor Jay Thomas, whose most famous roles include that of TV talk show host Jerry Gold on “Murphy Brown” (for which he won two Emmy Awards) and hockey player Eddie LeBec on “Cheers,” has died. He was 69.
According to hollywoodreporter.com, the actor succumbed to cancer.
Other television credits include “Ray Donovan” and “Love and War.”
Mr. Thomas was also known for 16 holiday season appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman,” during which he’d relate what Letterman called “the single greatest talk show story ever,” about the late “The Lone Ranger” star Clayton Moore. Mr. Thomas and Letterman would then follow-up with a skit during which they would try to knock a giant meatball off the top of a Christmas tree by throwing footballs at the food target (see video below). The story and the meatball stunt became an annual tradition on the show, ending in 2014.
In 2013, the only year Mr. Thomas did not appear on “Late Night” for his annual holiday gig, the actor, recovering from surgery, issued a statement saying: “Throwing a football at a meatball on top of a tree in front of a national broadcast audience is the greatest Christmas tradition there is, but it requires me to be 100 percent healthy. Anything less would dishonor the ritual. I’ll be back in action next year for sure.”
Mr. Thomas is survived by his wife Sally and two sons.