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Kissing This "Cheers" Star Was "Brutal," Cast Member Said

The insult had some pretty major consequences for the guest star.

When this actor insulted his co-star, he evidently couldn't foresee the consequences he would face. In the late '80s, actor Jay Thomas appeared on several episodes of Cheers as the love interest—and eventual husband of—Carla Tortelli, who was played by Rhea Perlman. And, according to the co-creator of the series, Thomas could have appeared on even more episodes of the popular show if he hadn't insulted Perlman during a radio show. What Thomas had to say about kissing his co-star did not go over well with others involved in the show, and they retaliated in a very creative way. Read on to find out what Thomas said about Perlman and how his storyline came to a surprising end.

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Thomas played Eddie LeBec.

Jay Thomas on "Cheers"
CBS Television Distribution

When Thomas joined Cheers, he was already known for his starring role as Remo on Mork & Mindy and for appearing on other shows including Family Ties and The Love Boat. He was also a radio DJ and continued to host a radio show while he was on Cheers.

Thomas played Eddie LeBec, a fictional goalie for the Boston Bruins, who began dating waitress Carla. Eventually, she became pregnant with twins, and the pair got married. Thomas appeared on nine episodes altogether.

He insulted Perlman publicly.

Jay Thomas and Rhea Perlman on "Cheers"
CBS Television Distribution

It's TV legend that Eddie was killed off because Thomas slammed his co-star on his radio show. In his new book, Directed by James Burrows, Cheers co-creator James Burrows tells his version of the story.

According to the book (via Page Six), a listener called in to Thomas' show and asked what it was like being part of Cheers, to which Thomas responded, "It's brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman." Burrows writes, "That was it. He insulted Rhea, which meant he insulted all of us. He crossed the family." Perlman was on Cheers throughout its 11-season run and won four Emmy awards for her work.

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His character was killed off in a unique way.

Jay Thomas on "Cheers"
CBS Television Distribution

Following his comment, Thomas was not simply written out of the show—he was written off the show through his character meeting a painful, embarrassing end. Eddie died in a Zamboni accident off-screen, and his character was only maligned further. At his funeral, it was revealed that Eddie secretly had another wife.

"Jay was fired unceremoniously," Burrows writes in his book. "Since he was no longer on the show, Eddie also had to go. In our world, you don't wind up sleeping with the fishes; you die a violent yet comedic death."

Thomas claimed his exit had nothing to do with his comments about Perlman.

Jay Thomas at the Hollywood Walk of Fame 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2010
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

In an oral history of Cheers published by GQ in 2012, Thomas, Perlman, and writer Ken Levine spoke about Thomas being written out of the show.

"I'm doing Cheers, having the greatest time of my life, and one day I get a phone call from Jimmy [Burrows]," Thomas said. "I knew they were deciding [about] whether to add me or Bebe [Neuwirth] to the cast full-time, and I thought he was calling with good news. He said, like in a movie, 'Are you sitting down?' And he goes, 'Look, we're not going to have you back on the show. And it has nothing to do with Rhea.'"

Thomas explained of what he said on the radio show, "[Listeners] would go, 'What's it like to kiss Carla?' Not Rhea—they were talking about Carla. And my joke what that I got combat's pay to kiss her." The actor, who went on to have a recurring role on Murphy Brown, added, "Look, I made jokes about kissing Murphy Brown [too]. But if that's what cost me my job, my wife will probably say, 'Hey [expletive], I told you so.'"

Perlman has said that she wasn't offended.

Rhea Perlman at the premiere of "Dumbo" in 2019
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

In the same oral history, Levine claimed that Perlman was upset about Thomas' radio show comment.

"Rhea came up to my office and she was furious—I'd never seen her like this. She said, 'I want him off the show,'" Levine claimed. But, Perlman remembers the situation differently.

"That's not true. I loved Jay Thomas as Eddie LeBec," she said. "But there was a point where they [thought] maybe we would live together, and I didn't like the idea of Carla being with somebody because that would make you feel like [you're] not part of the people in the bar."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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