Nicholas Colasanto as Ernie 'Coach' Pantusso (Photo by Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Nicholas Colasanto, 1982 (Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Nicholas Colasanto was all set to take a job as an accountant for a Saudi Arabian company, but he had dreams that someday everybody would know his name. He is known to millions today as "Coach," the addle-minded barman for the first three seasons of Cheers, and he had a long career as a television director and character actor long before he started slinging suds. Colasanto found fame behind the bar at Cheers, but he also found solace in being unknown in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Colasanto battled alcoholism for 20 years but found sobriety in 1976 and remained an active member of the program. We remember his life today and the lives of other notable people who died on this day in history.
2012: John Severin, U.S. comic book artist who was one of the founding cartoonists of Mad magazine and worked with Marvel Comics, dies at 90.
2012: Zina Bethune, U.S. actress and dancer who was the star of the TV series The Nurses, dies after a hit-and-run accident at 66.
2011: Betty Garrett, U.S. actress and dancer who was in many musical films and also played Edna the landlord on Laverne and Shirley, dies at 91.
Garrett was best known as the flirtatious girl in love with the shy Sinatra in Take Me Out to the Ballgame and On the Town, both in 1949, and later in life she became well-known to TV audiences with recurring roles in the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family and Laverne and Shirley. Her movie career was brief, largely because of the Red Hunt led by congressmen who forced her husband, actor Larry Parks, to testify about his earlier membership in the Communist Party. Read more
2008: Oscar Brodney, U.S. screenwriter whose credits included the movie Harvey, dies at 100.
2007: Peggy Gilbert, U.S. jazz saxophonist and bandleader who was a pioneer when she started an all-female jazz band in 1933, and whose appearances included The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, dies at 102.
2005: Sammi Smith, U.S. country music singer and songwriter who had a hit song with "Help Me Make it Through the Night," dies at 61.
2000: Oliver, U.S. pop singer who had a hit song in the 1970s with "Good Morning Starshine," dies at 54.
2000: Charles M. Schulz, U.S. cartoonist who created the legendary Peanuts characters, dies at 77.
Charlie Brown, Linus and Frieda are all based on co-workers at Art Instruction Inc. The “Little Red-Haired Girl” – Charlie Brown’s great unrequited love – is based on an accountant Schulz fell in love with named Donna Johnson. They dated for three years, but when he proposed she rejected him and married a fireman. Schulz called it “a bitter blow,” but the two remained friends throughout life. Read more
2000: Tom Landry, longtime U.S. Hall of Fame coach of the Dallas Cowboys who won two Super Bowl championships, dies at 75.
2000: Screamin' Jay Hawkins, U.S. rhythm-and-blues musician who was one of the first shock rockers and had a hit with "I Put a Spell on You," dies at 70.
Hawkins was one of the earliest shock rockers, shouting and groaning his way through songs, and performing bizarre antics in live shows long before it was the hard-rock norm. When Hawkins was emerging from a coffin onstage, the metalheads who would one day bite off the heads of bats were still in short pants. Read more
1995: Tony Secunda, English rock band manager who managed the Moody Blues and T. Rex, dies at 54.
1991: Robert Wagner, U.S. politician who served three terms as the mayor of New York City, dies at 80.
1985: Nicholas Colasanto, U.S. actor who starred as Coach on the hit sitcom Cheers, dies at 61.
1984: Anna Anderson, Polish-born factory worker who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, dies at 87.
In 1920 a woman in Berlin, Germany, attempted to kill herself by jumping off a bridge. She carried no identification and refused to tell her rescuers her name. She stayed silent for years –– and then said she was Grand Duchess Anastasia, the only surviving member of the Russian royal family. Read more
1983: Eubie Blake, U.S. composer and pianist who wrote "I'm Just Wild About Harry," dies at 96.
1982: Victor Jory, Canadian actor who starred in the TV series Manhunt, dies at 79.
1976: Sal Mineo, U.S. actor who starred in Rebel Without a Cause, is killed during a robbery at 37.
Teenage girls across the country were swept up in “Mineo Mania” and, when Bob Hope joked in a TV appearance that there would be no school the next day because “It's Sal Mineo's birthday – all those in the Bronx can stay home,” hundreds of Bronx school children did just that. But while Rebel Without a Cause made Mineo a teen idol, its popularity also led to him being typecast as a tough-but-vulnerable juvenile delinquent, a role he played in Crime in the Streets, Somebody Up There Likes Me and The Young Don’t Cry. People started referring to him as “The Switchblade Kid.” Read more
1965: Henry Kulky, U.S. actor who appeared on many television shows including Life of Riley, dies at 53.
1947: Sidney Toler, U.S. actor who starred in the Charlie Chan movie series, dies at 72.
1942: Grant Wood, U.S. painter who is known for his painting American Gothic, dies at 50.
1929: Lillie Langtry, English actress and socialite, dies at 75.
1804: Immanuel Kant, German who was a well-known figure in modern philosophy, dies at 79.