Jeff Conaway Dead at 60, Drug Overdose

Actor Jeff Conaway, best known for his role of Bobby Wheeler on "Taxi," is dead after a drug overdose.

Actor Jeff Conaway, best known for his role of Bobby Wheeler on “Taxi,” is dead after a drug overdose.

New York Daily News (“Jeff Conaway dies at 60: ‘Grease,’ ‘Taxi’ star taken off life support after accidental drug overdose“):

New York-born actor Jeff Conaway, famous for his roles in “Grease” and TV’s “Taxi,” died early Friday after an accidental pill overdose and two weeks in a coma. He was 60 years old.

The actor, who battled cocaine and prescription drug addiction for years, was taken off life support and passed away within minutes at 10:30 a.m., his sister said. “They did everything they possibly could, everything humanly possible,” sister Carla Shreve, 66, told the News “We kept him as comfortable as possible. He’s in the Lord’s hands now.”

She said Conaway was found unconscious and taken to a hospital in Encino, Calif., on May 10. “He was unconscious for a long time, and he had pneumonia so bad,” she said. “We had hope last week, but that hope was just gone this week. His blood wasn’t getting any oxygen.”

Born in New York, Conaway was just 10 when he landed a role in the Broadway show “All The Way Home” opposite Lillian Gish. “He was so, so proud that he got the part. My mom taught him a southern accent,” Shreve recalled.

He later snagged the lead role of Danny Zuko in the Broadway blockbuster “Grease” during his senior year at NYU’s Film and Theater program. He lost it to John Travolta when it moved to the silver screen in 1978. Instead he was cast as fellow T-Bird Kenickie.

His fame grew with the hit TV sitcom “Taxi,” in which he played struggling actor and hack Bobby Wheeler from 1978 to 1982 and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

He later admitted to a substance abuse problem and appeared on the first season of VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” in 2008. His vicious detox scared the other cast members.

What a waste.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Popular Culture, Quick Takes
James Joyner
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Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Apparently he was about as far gone into addiction as it is possible to get. There can be few better examples of the fact that addiction is a disease. Poor man.

  2. sam says:

    “His fame grew with the hit TV sitcom “Taxi,” in which he played struggling actor ”

    Poor guy. Jesus, acting is a hard business. I can remember the Taxi episode when his character left to pursue his acting dreams. Jeff never did anything after Taxi its equal.

  3. SciFi fans will remember that Conaway had a career renaissance of sorts in the 90s playing the character Zach Zack Allen on Babylon 5.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Doug: Indeed he did–and I’d actually forgotten about that.

  5. matt says:

    I was trying to figure out why the dude was vaguely familiar then I read Doug’s comment and it all made sense.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Sad news, he was good both on Taxi & in Grease. Substance abuse claims another victim.

  7. john personna says:

    Using the sweaty picture is kind of low.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @jp: It’s the NYDN photo. But it strikes me as a perfectly good photo—most of what I’ve seen otherwise is very dated.

  9. Sadly, other than publicity still from the Babylon 5 days, that’s pretty much what Jeff Conaway looked like the last few years

  10. john personna says:

    You’re right, sadly many photos are far worse.