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Nicholas Colasanto, the actor and television director who achieved his greatest success as "Coach" on the TV series "Cheers" (1982) at the end of his career, was born January 19, 1924 in Providence, Rhode Island, one of seven children. He attended Providence's Central High School but did not graduate due to World War II, as he joined the Navy. After being discharged at the end of the war, Colasanto returned to Little Rhody and finished his high school education, then went on to Bryant College, earning money for tuition and board by working construction jobs. He worked as an accountant for an oil company after graduating from Bryant in 1949.
At the age of 28, he saw Henry Fonda perform on Broadway and was infected by the acting bug. He joined a theater company in Phoenix, Arizona before moving back to New York, where he performed in off-Broadway productions and appeared in TV commercials. He relocated to Hollywood in 1965 and began to appear on TV, were he also made his mark as a TV director. Eventually, he directed over 100 episodes of series TV in the 1960s and 70s, including episodes of "Bonanza" (1959), "Columbo" (1971), "S.W.A.T." (1975) and "Starsky and Hutch" (1975). His two most memorable film roles were the the boxing manager in John Huston's Fat City (1972) and the mob boss in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980).
Colasanto was primarily a dramatic actor but the producers of the TV comedy "Cheers" (1982) cast him as Ernie "Coach" Pantusso, the absent-minded and dumb but lovable bartender. The role made him famous and he earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series each of the three years that he appeared on the show.
Sadly, at the height of his fame, he died from a heart ailment at his home on February 15th, 1985. Much beloved by the cast, the picture of the Apache warrior Geronimo that Colasanto had kept in his dressing room as a good luck charm was hung on the wall of the primary set of "Cheers" (1982). The picture of was not only a tribute to "Nicky", as he was known to his friends and co-workers, but was a reminder that "Coach" was still around. On the final episode of "Cheers" (1982), eight years after his death, Nicky Colasanto was acknowledged when series star Ted Danson, in the final scene, straightens the Geronimo picture before walking off stage for the last time.
Served in the United States Navy from January 22, 1943 to July 3, 1945. Held the enlisted rate of Coxswain, under the service number 823 51 38.
Veteran of the Second World War who was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Button.
Spoke fluent Italian
Bryant College's Class of 1985 honored alumnus Nicholas Colasanto by dedicating a common room on the second floor of Bryant Center to him. Dubbed "Nick's Place", the room contains a television set and is decorated with sports posters and pennants. The room also has a small shrine commemorating Colasanto featuring a dedication plaque and a photo of him in a Bryant sweatshirt. There also are two framed artifacts, a Bryant College tie and an apron, both worn by Colasanto in his Coach role on "Cheers" (1982). The apron is signed by "Cheers" (1982) co-stars John Ratzenberger, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt and Ted Danson, and bears the inscription "In memory of our dear Nicky. We miss you pal".