Actor Jay Thomas, who became a radio legend in Charlotte, dies at 69

Jay Thomas.
Jay Thomas. Observer File Photo

Actor Jay Thomas, who cut his teeth in the entertainment business as a legendary DJ for Charlotte radio station Big WAYS in the 1970s, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 69.

His death was first reported by the New York Daily News, which had been contacted by Thomas’s agent and longtime friend, Don Buchwald.

“Jay was one of a kind, never at a loss for words and filled with so much fun and wonderfully wacky thoughts and behavior,” Buchwald, who repped Thomas for 35 years, wrote in a statement to the Daily News. Thomas’ wife Sally and his sons Sam, Max and J.T. were by his side when he passed, according to reports.

Thomas was perhaps best known for roles on “Murphy Brown” (he played her boyfriend from 1989-1998, winning an Emmy for his efforts) and on “Cheers” (from 1987-89), in which he played Rhea Perlman’s character’s husband, Eddie LeBec. In recent years, he’d had a recurring role on the Showtime drama “Ray Donovan.”

In Charlotte, Thomas helped Big WAYS to the top of the ratings heap in the 1970s. He still made occasional visits to Charlotte; as recently as 2010, he filled in as a guest host for John Hancock on WBT-AM (1110), and in 2012, he was in town as a special guest for the Charlotte Chamber’s annual meeting.

Until recently, he could still be heard on the radio on Sirius XM’s “The Jay Thomas Show.”

If you aren’t familiar with Thomas, this appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” will give you a good idea of his sense of humor (and for those who are, you know he told this story on Letterman’s show multiple times over the years, because the host loved it so much).

It’s about his Big WAYS days, it features the Lone Ranger, and it’s worth it – Dave Barry once called this “the best anecdote in human history”: