Heather Thomas became a sex symbol for starring as Jody Banks in 80s action series The Fall Guy, alongside Lee Majors and Douglas Barr. But in 1986, Thomas’ life was forever changed in a terrible accident.
In September 1986, Thomas was hit by a car, seriously injuring both her legs. Shortly after, Thomas left show business to focus on writing screenplays and raise her two stepdaughters, followed by her own daughter, born in 2000. Since then, Thomas has worked in political activism, giving her voice to women’s rights and environmental issues.
Born on September 8, 1957, in Greenwich, Connecticut, Heather Thomas rose to fame as the teen host of NBC’s celebrity show Talking with a Giant. She studied theatre at UCLA and took a range of TV roles before securing her big break in 1981’s The Fall Guy.
The role of Jody Banks, a a stunt performer who becomes a bounty hunter, made Thomas into a household name. She went on to star in the sex comedy Zapped! and sci-fi movie Cyclone.
In 1984, she entered a programme for drug rehabilitation, after suffering from addiction issues for four years. “The doctors said I should have been dead three years ago,” she would later tell the press. At this programme, she met psychotherapist Allan Rosenthal. The pair were married from August 1985 till September 1986.
One afternoon in the same month as her divorce, Thomas was visiting Westward Ho Market in Los Angeles with her close friend Ted Deerhurst. Deerhurst was a British-American viscount and surfer who had been pals with Thomas since they were teenagers. It would later emerge that Deerhurst was deeply in love with Thomas – something she never learned until after his death in 1997.
Thomas started to cross San Vicente Boulevard as Deerhurst stood nearby. She was struck by the front bumper of a car that was travelling under 20 miles per hour, but the damage was severe.
Both of her legs were broken in the collision. Thomas also suffered head and chest pains as a result of the injury, as well as cuts, scrapes and bruises.
A few days later, she went in for a six-hour surgery which involved plastic and orthopaedic procedures for her legs. She required a skin graft to cover up the damage. The press reported that her physician, Dr Steve Hoefflin, was “hopeful of a good prognosis”.
Deerhurst often visited her in hospital, where the pair joked about her many male admirers who also visited. She would later note that he “was always sad” around her, possibly due to his unrequited crush.
The car’s driver was found free of fault, while Thomas avoided a charge for jaywalking – for which California used to give some of the strictest penalties in the USA. Drew Barrymore and Shia LeBeouf have both run afoul of jaywalking laws.
Until 2023, you could receive a fine of up to $250 for jaywalking in California. It has now been decriminalised.
Thomas moved away from the showbiz industry after this accident. In a later negligence complaint filed against the driver, it was claimed that Thomas’ “rapidly rising career… was abruptly halted by the debilitating and disfiguring injuries she suffered.”
“Both of Thomas’ legs were seriously and permanently injured and she also suffered severe emotional injury,” it was noted. “Her injuries prevent her from ever again engaging in most sports and many other physical activities.”
But another, more sinister force also pushed Thomas out of the industry in the 80s. She experienced unwanted attention from a series of stalkers, taking out “about 45 restraining orders” to protect herself and her family.
In a 2009 interview with Reuters, she identified the stalkers, not her injuries, as the reason she left Hollywood. “I was getting so stalked,” she said. “I had one guy climb over the fence with a knife one time. I had these two little girls and they desperately needed raising so that was that.”
In 1992, another man barged into her home in Los Angeles, after sending her a screenplay that she said was “clearly the work of a disturbed person” and made “numerous references to sadomasochism and perverse behavior.”
Since 1992, Thomas has been married to the entertainment lawyer Harry Marcus ‘Skip’ Brittenham. He brought two daughters from a previous relationship into their new family, and in 2000, they had a daughter together, named India Rose. Thomas also kept a pet parrot.
She spent the 90s penning over 40 screenplays, although she struggled to secure a film deal. Her stories included horror tales and, she commented, “a lot of them always have some deep social agenda.” In 2008, she wrote a novel entitled Trophies.
Thomas has also been active in political circles. In the late 2000s, she ran a monthly event called the L.A. Cafe from her house, in which speakers covered a range of liberal topics. She has also worked as an activist for women’s rights and environmental issues.
She made a featured in the 2014 web series Girltrash and its prequel. In 2020, she appeared in a Fall Guy reunion during the global pandemic. But for the most part, Heather Thomas has left acting behind – though she has no regrets about her era as a sex symbol.
“When I was young I did what people told me to do but when I was older I didn’t compromise myself,” she has reflected. “I wanted power and freedom. This gave me a house and the notoriety to get into the door. There is nothing horrible in letting people see your body. I don’t think I betrayed myself. I don’t think being a feminist means you should be ashamed of your body.”