Nicholas Colasanto

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Nicholas Colasanto
Nicholas Colasanto Coach Ernie Pantusso.jpg
Colasanto on the set of Cheers
Born(1924-01-19)January 19, 1924
DiedFebruary 12, 1985(1985-02-12) (aged 61)
Studio City, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Ann Cemetery, Cranston, Rhode Island
Alma mater Bryant University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationActor, director
Years active19591985
Military career
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States.svg  United States Navy
Rank Coxswain
Battles/wars World War II

Nicholas Colasanto (January 19, 1924 – February 12, 1985) was an American actor and television director, known for his role as "Coach" Ernie Pantusso in the American sitcom Cheers . He served in the United States Navy during World War II, and later attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the 1950s.

Coach Ernie Pantusso Fictional character from the show Cheers

Ernie Pantusso, commonly known as "Coach", is a fictional character on the American television show Cheers, portrayed by Nicholas Colasanto between 1982 and 1985. Coach was originally Sam Malone's baseball coach before the show's pilot episode. He later became a bartender of Cheers, while Sam became its owner and another bartender. He is not "worldly wise" but has some shred of wit. He also has a daughter named Lisa, who solely appeared in "Coach's Daughter" (1982), from his late wife Angela.

<i>Cheers</i> American TV sitcom, 1982–1993

Cheers is an American sitcom that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes for eleven seasons. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions in association with Paramount Network Television. The show was created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The show's main theme song, co-written and performed by Gary Portnoy, lent its refrain "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" as the show's catchphrase.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.


Early life

Colasanto attended Bryant University (now located in Smithfield, Rhode Island [1] ) and was a decorated veteran of World War II, during which he served as a coxswain in the United States Navy. [2] Around 1954 he was supposed to be an accountant for a company in Saudi Arabia, but he instead attended American Academy of Dramatic Arts. [3] He was of Italian descent. [4]

Bryant University university

Bryant University is a private university in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Until August 2004, it was known as Bryant College. Bryant has two colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business, and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the AACSB International.

Smithfield, Rhode Island Town in Rhode Island, United States

Smithfield is located in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States. It includes the historic villages of Esmond, Georgiaville, Mountaindale, Hanton City, Stillwater and Greenville. The population was 21,430 at the 2010 census. Smithfield is the home of Bryant University, a private four year college.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Career and alcoholism

Although Colasanto was best known for his role as Coach Ernie Pantusso on the sitcom Cheers, he also directed episodes of many television series, notably Hawaii Five-O , [5] Starsky & Hutch , [6] Bonanza , [7] Columbo , [8] and CHiPs . [9] Colasanto appeared in feature films, including The Counterfeit Killer (1968), [10] Fat City (1972), [8] and Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976). [8]

<i>Hawaii Five-O</i> (1968 TV series) American police procedural drama series (2010-2019)

Hawaii Five-O is an American police procedural drama series produced by CBS Productions and created by Leonard Freeman. Set in Hawaii, the show originally aired for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980, and continues in reruns. At the airing of its last episode it was the longest-running police drama in American television history.

<i>Starsky & Hutch</i> 1970s American cop thriller television series

Starsky & Hutch is an American action television series, which consisted of a 70-minute pilot movie and 92 episodes of 50 minutes each. The show was created by William Blinn, produced by Spelling-Goldberg Productions, and broadcast from April 1975 to May 1979 on the ABC network. It was distributed by Columbia Pictures Television in the United States and, originally, Metromedia Producers Corporation in Canada and some other parts of the world. Sony Pictures Television is now the worldwide distributor for the series. The series also inspired a theatrical film and a video game.

<i>Bonanza</i> 1959-1973 American western/cowboy television series

Bonanza is an NBC television western series that ran from 1959 to 1973. Lasting 14 seasons and 431 episodes, Bonanza is NBC's longest-running western, and ranks overall as the second-longest-running western series on U.S. network television, and within the top 10 longest-running, live-action American series. The show continues to air in syndication. The show is set in the 1860s and it centers on the wealthy Cartwright family that live in the vicinity of Virginia City, Nevada, bordering Lake Tahoe. The series initially starred Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon and later featured Guy Williams, David Canary, Mitch Vogel, and Tim Matheson. The show is known for presenting pressing moral dilemmas.

An in-demand actor and director, he had been diagnosed in the mid-1970s with heart disease, which was exacerbated by his alcoholism. [11] After twenty years of alcoholism, he became an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous from March 31, 1976, [3] and became sober in the same year. [12] He began having trouble securing directing jobs by the end of the 1970s due to his declining health. His last major film role was a mob boss, Tommy Como in Raging Bull (1980). [13]

Alcoholism Broad term for problems with alcohol

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in mental or physical health problems. The disorder was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions are present: a person drinks large amounts of alcohol over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex, among other things. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body, but it particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, irregular heartbeat, an impaired immune response, liver cirrhosis and increased cancer risk, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Women are generally more sensitive than men to the harmful physical and mental effects of alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous mutual aid movement

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. Their stated purpose is to enable “members to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, and apolitical. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. The AA program is set forth in the Twelve Steps and discussed at AA group meetings.

<i>Raging Bull</i> 1980 film by Martin Scorsese

Raging Bull is a 1980 American biographical sports drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler and adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin from Jake LaMotta's memoir Raging Bull: My Story. It stars Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, an Italian American middleweight boxer whose self-destructive and obsessive rage, sexual jealousy, and animalistic appetite destroyed his relationship with his wife and family. Also featured in the film are Joe Pesci as Joey, LaMotta's well-intentioned brother and manager who tries to help Jake battle his inner demons, and Cathy Moriarty as his wife. The film features supporting roles from Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, and Frank Vincent.

Colasanto was prepared to retire when the role of Coach Ernie Pantusso was offered to him on Cheers. Coach would become Colasanto's best known role. [11]

Suffering from heart disease, his health worsened by the third season of Cheers. Castmates noticed his weight loss, though the actor chose to keep the severity of his illness a secret. [14] Shortly after the Christmas holiday in 1984, he was admitted to a local hospital due to water in his lungs. [14] Co-star Ted Danson later commented that the veteran actor had difficulty remembering his lines during production of the season. [14]

<i>Cheers</i> (season 3) season of television series

The third season of Cheers, an American television sitcom, originally aired on NBC in the United States between September 27, 1984, and May 9, 1985. The show was created by director James Burrows and writers Glen and Les Charles under production team Charles Burrows Charles Productions in association with Paramount Television. The third season is available on DVD in a four-disc set.

Ted Danson American comedian and actor

Edward Bridge Danson III is an American actor and producer who played the lead character Sam Malone on the NBC sitcom Cheers, Jack Holden in the films Three Men and a Baby and Three Men and a Little Lady, and Dr. John Becker on the CBS sitcom Becker. He also starred in the CBS dramas CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Cyber as D.B. Russell. Additionally, he played a recurring role on Larry David's HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, starred alongside Glenn Close in legal drama Damages, and was a regular on the HBO comedy series Bored to Death. In 2015 he starred as Hank Larsson in the second season of FX's black comedy-crime drama anthology Fargo. Since 2016, he has played the afterlife "architect" Michael in the NBC sitcom The Good Place.

When Colasanto was released in the week of January 28 – February 3, 1985, from the hospital after a two-week stay, [15] his doctor recommended that he not return to work. [4] Although he appeared in the cold opening of the third-season finale episode, "Rescue Me" (1985), [4] his last full episode was "Cheerio Cheers" (1985), filmed in late November 1984. [16]


Colasanto died of a heart attack at his home on February 12, 1985, at the age of 61. [8] [17]

On February 16, 1985, more than three hundred people attended his funeral, including John Ratzenberger, the only cast member of Cheers to do so. NBC would not allow the entire cast to take a break from filming to fly to Providence, Rhode Island where the funeral was held. Ratzenberger, a New England native, was sent as a representative for the cast. The cast and crew held a memorial for Colasanto on the set in Los Angeles. [18] Colasanto is buried in Saint Ann's Cemetery in Cranston, Rhode Island. [19]

On April 19, 1985, Colasanto was awarded posthumously the Best Supporting Actor by Viewers for Quality Television, a (now defunct) non-profit organization that determined what was considered high-quality on television. [20]

Colasanto's character was written out of the show as also having died. The fourth-season premiere episode, "Birth, Death, Love and Rice" (1985), deals with Coach's death as well as introducing Colasanto's successor, Woody Harrelson, as Woody Boyd. [21] Colasanto hung a picture of Geronimo in his dressing room. After his death, it was placed on the wall in the bar (part of the Cheers production set) in memory of him. Near the end of the final episode of Cheers, bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson) walks over to the picture and straightens it. [22]

Selected filmography




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Further reading