Thursday, August 24, 2017

RIP Jay Thomas

So sorry to hear of the passing of Jay Thomas.  He was 69.   All of the articles announcing his death point to his roles on TV, notably as Eddie LeBec on CHEERS.   My partner, David Isaacs and I created that character.  And I suggested Jay to our casting agent.    We were friends from radio. 

The articles focus primarily on his TV roles (MURPHY BROWN, RAY DONOVAN, LOVE AND WAR, etc.)   His annual David Letterman Show appearance is also highlighted.  And as an afterthought, his radio work.  They mention he had a show on Sirius/XM and was a longtime "DJ." 

But for me, as good as his acting ability was, his real genius was on the radio.  Extremely funny, original, smart -- Jay could really connect with his listeners.  He was fearless, even controversial at times.  Some believe he was radio's first shock jock.  But he understood that that made for good theater. 

Jay was a sensation in the '70s at WAYS, Charlotte and moved on to New York at WXLO.  That's where I first met him.  Later he did mornings at POWER 106 in Los Angeles.

Off the air, he was a terrific guy.  Not as brash; just as funny.   You wanted to hang around this guy. 

Very few disc jockeys are able to make the transition from radio to a successful acting career.  Bob Crane, Dick Van Dyke, Robert David Hall, Rick Moranis, a few others.   It required talent and a lot of work.   Jay threw himself completely into any endeavor he undertook.  I always admired him for that.

69 is too young.  Jay Thomas had way too much to accomplish yet.  I will really miss him. 


22 comments :

Carol said...

Thought of you almost immediately after hearing the news. Sorry for your loss.

Paul Duca said...

I have to admit I don't know Robert David Hall...

Bobby said...

My first thought was, "69?! How the hell could Jay have been 69?" Then it occurred to me that Eddie LeBec was thirty years ago. Jesus.

CRL said...

One wife, right? Just checking.

RIP.

Patrick said...

I am listening right now to him on an airplane. It has been a ritual of mine for several years to download a show I missed. He was radio gold.

John Nixon said...

I bring my lunch to work Monday through Thursday. But every Friday I make sure I go somewhere for lunch and just drive around for awhile before I stop. That's because my favorite radio show is...has been...Jay Thomas on Sirius/XM 101, the 2nd Howard Stern channel. I just listened to him and his sidekicks last Friday and was looking forward to tomorrow when I could do my weekly listening. I could never tell that he had anything wrong with him. He just kept going the same as ever without a hint of complaint all the way to the end. This is a shock.

D. McEwan said...

I'm terribly sorry to hear this. I knew Jay at The Comedy Store, where he used to work out with The Comedy Store Players and Robin Williams (Leading directly to his being on Mork & Mindy), and I can confirm that this was a hell of a great guy, never full of himself, generous, and very funny.

ScarletNumber said...

Really Ken? Nothing about why Eddie LeBec was killed off?

Guy Kipp said...

I remember Jay Thomas as a morning DJ at WXLO (99X) in New York in the late '70s when it was a Top 40 station and the biggest competitor to mighty WABC 770 in that format. Thomas was the DJ and current Dodgers announcer Charlie Steiner did the morning sports on 99X.

Glenn Eibe said...

Jay Thomas as Eddie Lebec in a Penguin costume on the phone to Sam at the bar, while behind Jay the Panda Bear gets his costume panda head knocked around 360 degrees, leading into the all-animal locker room brawl.

Season 6, Episode 19 “Airport V” – about 15 minutes in. One of the best comedy moments ever.

Always wondered how Jay Thomas kept a straight face filming that scene.

Thanks Ken and thanks Jay.

Stuart Raish said...

I remember him from his days as the morning dj on Power 106. Only reason to listen to that station was Jay. Sorry to hear of his passing.

Paul Duca - Robert David Hall was coroner Dr. Al Robbins on the original CSI. He was also a part of one LA's greatest radio stations, KNX-FM...the mellow sound. Great DJ and actor.

Artie Breyfogle said...

Meet him, listened for over a decade on Sirius XM, and chatted numerous times "on air"...Last of the great DJ pros...His best work was when he just winged it...He took off and did verbal touch and go's then came in for a triumphant landing...I am shocked AND saddened... and will so miss his massive comedic and communicative talents...

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steve warren said...

1970, Jay came to visit his friend Bill Burkett, then PD of WBSR in Pensacola where I was working. With our young wives, the five of us went into a small club downtown. It was filled with Navy boys. As the girls took seats, he said to Bill and me, "let's play some pool". When we walked into the billiard room in the back, Jay loudly declared something about sailors being gay, having a long history of it and he bet the guys in the room couldn't wait to get back out on their boats. They all turned. The room got quiet. Burkett and I cringed. Bill said, "Jay, I think that's enough. He's just joking guys. Come on, let's get out of here." Jay said, "No, I'm gonna show these queers how to play pool." Bill and I exited back to the table and told our wives Thomas was causing trouble and we may well have to take him to the hospital soon. Then, a few minutes later, we heard laughter. Big roaring laughter. Walking back into the pool room, there was Jay Thomas with his stick sinking balls and cracking wise. And the sailors were enthralled. Two minutes earlier, I though they were going to kill him. Now they were slapping him on the back, giggling and belly-laughing. I was amazed. At 22, he was the funniest guy I ever met.

Anonymous said...

I grew up listening to him in Charlotte. He was great.

Dave Creek said...

Yes, Scarlet Number, nothing about why Eddie LeBec was killed off. Because Ken is a class act who knows that a man's death is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the good things about him, not his faults.

Rod said...

I looked forward to Jay's appearance every year on David Letteman's show. The Lone Ranger story was the best. No matter how many times I heard it--or watch it on YouTube, it still cracks me up. It's the only time I've heard the expression "herbed up." Classic.

Pete Grossman said...

Sorry for the loss of your bud. Wishing all who knew Jay, peace and strength as they go through this time.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Jay Thomas. Nice nice human. This dying thing really sucks.

And my heart goes out to everyone in Texas.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Jay Thomas was the announcer for the, Ed Sullivan Rock & Roll Classics series for PBS.

Although I was alive in the 60's I was too young to appreciate Ed Sullivan, but, thanks to Jay Thomas, Ed Sullivan is cool.

Nick Archer said...

Jay blazed a radio trail across the southeast U.S. on many of the best Top 40 stations, WKDA Nashville, WKGN and WNOX Knoxville, WAPE Jacksonville, and Big WAYS Charlotte.

Artie Breyfogle said...

I still tear up several weeks after Jay's passing...Why? He has been the ONLY Hollywood celeb who's death has really made an impact on me...

He WAS my friend...On the radio for years, Jay was always a welcome addition to my listening day...Even meet up with him once at an event in Hollywood and he was a dynamite guy...

So little talent is left on the radio dial and now we have lost another RADIO giant...but you know he is up there at the pearly gates telling Saint Peter, "Get RID of him!"