Jeff Conaway (Jeffrey Charles William Michael Conaway)

Jeff Conaway

Jeff Conaway was born in the New York City borough of Manhattan and raised in the Astoria, Flushing, and Forest Hills neighborhoods of the borough Queens. His father, Charles, was an actor, producer and publisher. His mother, Helen, an actress who went by the stage name Mary Ann Brooks, taught music at New York City’s Brook Conservatory. They divorced when he was three, and Conaway and his two older sisters lived with his mother. He also spent time living with his grandparents in South Carolina, which gave him enough of a Southern accent that when he accompanied his mother to a casting call for director Arthur Penn’s Broadway play All the Way Home, a story set in Knoxville, Tennessee, the 10-year-old Conaway landed a featured role as one of four boys. The 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning play was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and ran 333 performances and one preview from November 29, 1960, to September 16, 1961. Conaway remained for the entire run, then toured with the national company of the play Critic’s Choice. Jeff Conaway worked as a child model, and attended high school at the Quintano School for Young Professionals. After playing with the rock band “3 1/2” beginning at age 15, he attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and later transferred to New York University. While at NYU he appeared in television commercials and had the lead in a school production of The Threepenny Opera. He made his movie debut in the 1971 romantic drama Jennifer on My Mind, which also featured Robert De Niro as a cab driver and Barry Bostwick.

The following year Jeff Conaway appeared in the original cast of the Broadway musical Grease, as an understudy to several roles including that of the lead male character, Danny Zuko, and eventually succeeded role-originator Barry Bostwick. He played the role for 2 1/2 years while his friend John Travolta, with whom he shared a manager, later joined the show, playing the supporting role of Doody. The two would reunite in the 1978 motion picture musical Grease, in which Travolta played Zuko and Conaway his buddy Kenickie. After breaking into series television in 1975 with Happy Days, followed by guest spots in several other TV shows, and three more movies including Grease, Conaway was cast as vain and struggling, but goodhearted and handsome, aspiring actor Bobby Wheeler in the workplace comedy Taxi, which premiered in fall 1978. Jeff Conaway left Taxi after the third season. Part of the reason was his drug abuse after season one. Taxi writer Sam Simon recalled in 2008 that during production of Simon’s first script for that show, a missing Conaway was found in his dressing room too high on drugs to perform, and that his dialogue for that episode was divided between his co-stars Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd who delivered the jokes well enough so that Conaway’s absence had little negative impact on the actual episode. This caused the show’s producers to realize that he was expendable and contributed to Conaway’s eventual firing. Conaway was reported at the time to be dissatisfied with being typecast as a “blond bimbo” and the “butt of struggling-actor jokes”, along with finding the nature of the role repetitive. Jeff Conaway went on to star in the short-lived 1983 fantasy-spoof series Wizards and Warriors. He made guest appearances on such shows as Barnaby Jones, George & Leo and in four episodes of Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in films such as Jawbreaker, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Do You Wanna Know a Secret?. From 1989 to 1990, he was cast on The Bold and the Beautiful, in the role of “Mick Savage”. In 1993, he appeared onstage in Real Life Photographs. From 1994 to 1999, he played Sergeant Zack Allan, on Babylon 5.

On May 11, 2011, Jeff Conaway was found unconscious from what was initially described as an overdose of substances believed to be pain medication and was taken to Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center in Encino, California, where he was listed in critical condition. After initial reports, Drew Pinsky, who had treated Conaway for substance abuse, said the actor was suffering not from a drug overdose but rather from pneumonia with sepsis, for which he was placed into an induced coma. Though his pneumonia was not directly a result of drug usage, drug usage hampered Conaway’s ability to recognize how severely ill he was and to seek treatment for pneumonia until it was too late. On May 26, 2011, Conaway’s family took him off life support after doctors decided there was nothing they could do to revive him. Conaway died the following morning at the age of 60.[30] Conaway’s doctor attributed his death to his addiction, stating, “What happens is, like with most opiate addicts, eventually they take a little too much … and they aspirate, so what’s in their mouth gets into their lungs … That’s what happened with Jeff.” An autopsy performed on Jeff Conaway revealed that the actor died of various causes including pneumonia and encephalopathy attributable to drug overdoses.

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Born

  • October, 05, 1950
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Died

  • May, 27, 2011
  • USA
  • Encino, California

Cause of Death

  • pneumonia and encephalopathy

Other

  • Cremated

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