10:15AM BST 28 May 2011
Jeff Conaway, who has died aged 60, was a Hollywood actor best known for his role as Kenickie, leader of the T-birds, in the film Grease (1978), starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Something of heart-throb in the 1980s, Conaway regularly appeared on hit television shows, including four seasons playing the out-of-work actor Bobby Wheeler in Taxi, alongside Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman and Judd Hirsch.
Both Grease and Taxi were hugely successful, and Conaway was seldom out of work, appearing in most of the popular television shows of his time, including Murder She Wrote and The Love Boat. A fan of science fiction, in the 1990s he visited the set of the television series Babylon 5, and while there was offered a bit part which grew into a regular role as the recurring character Zack Allen. He was eventually given a full-time role in the series.
Jeffrey Charles William Michael Conaway was born in New York on October 5 1950 . Having an uncle who worked for Nasa, as a boy Jeff read books on jet propulsion. His ambition was to be an astronaut, but then an optician told him that he required glasses. “My dream died before it started — acting hadn’t been an option, but I was desperate for adventure,” he said in 2002.
Conaway made his showbusiness debut on Broadway at the age of 10 in All the Way Home (1961), alongside Lillian Gish, Aline MacMahon and Colleen Dewhurst. After a year at North Carolina School of the Arts, he returned to New York to study film and theatre while also playing in a rock band. In his final year at college, 1972, he replaced Timothy Meyers in the lead role of Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of the musical Grease.
After some early television appearances in shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Kojak and Happy Days, he appeared with Michael Caine in the Second World War thriller The Eagle Has Landed (1976). He was then offered the role of Kenickie in the film of Grease (1978), which became an international hit. Although he said he enjoyed working with John Travolta, Conaway thereafter felt typecast: “I couldn’t shake it off. I couldn’t go to the john without being sung a tune from Grease by fans.”
None the less, he joined the cast of Taxi, and in later years he appeared in films such as The Patriot (1986); Elvira: The Mistress of the Dark (1988); and in Ghost Writer (1989), as Tom Farrell. Two of his films — Sunset Strip (1993) and The Last Embrace (1997) — were widely regarded as flops, but he won praise for his performance in Shadow of Doubt (1998), alongside Melanie Griffith and Tom Berenger.
Conaway went on to direct music videos and plays in small theatres in Los Angeles. In 2006 he was in the reality television programme Celebrity Fit Club, but walked out after only three weeks. Two years later, on Celebrity Rehab with Dr David Drew Pinsky (better known as “Dr Drew”), he explored live on air his addiction to prescription opiates and his turbulent relationship with his on-off girlfriend, the singer Vikki Lizzi.
Despite his problems, Conaway continued to work, completing a series of low-budget films.
Jeff Conaway — who claimed to have attempted suicide on 21 occasions — was found unconscious on May 11, and is thought to have taken an overdose of prescription medication. He never regained consciousness and was taken off his life support machine on May 27.
After a brief first marriage, in 1980 he married the actress Rona Newton-John, sister of Olivia Newton-John. They divorced five years later, and in 1990 he married Keri Young; that union was also dissolved.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
how he lost his heart’s desire = JY = 17 = Health issues.