Jeff Conaway dies at 60; costars remember ‘Grease’ and ‘Taxi’ actor
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Jeff Conaway, the ‘Grease’ actor who played Kenickie and appeared on ‘Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,’ died Friday. He was 60.
The actor had been in a medically induced coma before doctors took him off life support Friday. The coma was a result of pneumonia and his unconscious arrival to Encino Medical Center May 10 because of ‘too many prescribed drugs,’ his sister Carla Shreve said.
‘Jeff was taken off life support [Thursday] afternoon,’ his manager, Phil Brock, told People. ‘His family chose to take him off of life support based on advice from physicians. They thought for several days that the situation was hopeless.’
Conaway died at 10:30 a.m. and his sisters, nieces and nephews were with him, he added.
Conaway did not die from an overdose, Dr. Drew Pinsky told TMZ.
‘This was aspiration with overwhelming pneumonia and sepsis,’ he said, a result of numerous years on prescription medications that wore out his body.
The Manhattan-born actor launched his career at age 10 by tagging along to an audition for the Broadway show ‘All the Way Home’ with his mother. He soon became a stage actor and went on to play Kenickie, a high school bad boy in the Broadway musical ‘Grease.’
He shot to fame in the movie adaptation of the show in 1978, costarring with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Conaway was a ‘wonderful and decent man and we will miss him,’ Travolta said in a statement Friday. ‘My heartfelt thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this very difficult time.’
After ‘Grease,’ Conaway went on to become Bobby Wheeler, a struggling actor-turned-cab driver on ‘Taxi.’
‘Taxi’ costar Marilu Henner described him as a ‘talented, handsome, loving’ friend.
‘Jeff was like a brother to me,’ she said in a statement.
‘Tony Danza and I visited Jeff in the hospital almost daily over the past two weeks. We saw how much love surrounded him, along with his sisters, Michelle and Carla, his wife, Kerri, his ex-wife, Rona, and his friend, Lance. Jeff looked the healthiest I’d seen him in a long time and I really thought that he was going to come out of this.’
After subsequent stints on soap operas and television shows, the actor appeared on VH1’s ‘Celebrity Fit Club,’ but left soon after to go to rehab in 2006.
He returned to the network for stints on ‘Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.’ His speech was so slurred that he required subtitles.
Conaway developed an addiction to cocaine and pain killers after having back surgery, according to a Times interview. When he tried to quit taking the drugs on ‘Celebrity Rehab,’ he threw tantrums, shouted and blacked out.
He is survived by his sister Carla, sister Michele Goffin, wife Kerri Young Conaway and stepson Emerson Hall.
Read the full Times obituary here.
-- Nardine Saad
twitter.com / NardineSaad
Upper photo: Jeff Conaway, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta and Stockard Channing in ‘Grease.’ Credit: Paramount Pictures / Getty Images
Lower photo: Jeff Conaway in 2008. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images