Jeff Conaway should be remembered for his roles in television shows like “Taxi” and “Babylon 5” as well as the film “Grease.” Instead, the actor, who died May 27 at the age of 60, will be most remembered for his drug addiction that some believe ultimately led to his death.
Conaway passed away a day after his family took him off life support. He had been in a coma since being found unconscious May 11. While initial reports said that Conaway suffered a pain killer overdose, some doctors familiar with his case said instead he was suffering from pneumonia and sepsis.
Conaway played Security Chief Zack Allen in “Babylon 5,” best known to genre fans. But he got his screen start at 21 in the 1971 film “Jennifer On My Mind” with Robert De Niro after spending time on Broadway since he was a toddler.
He would later appear as a character actor in shows like “Happy Days,” “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Barnaby Jones.” His big break, however, came in 1978 when he starred opposite John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in “Grease.” He played Kenickie, one of the Burger Palace Boys.
Conaway then went on to “Taxi” playing Bobby Wheeler. His last major role was “Babylon 5,” later appearing in a variety of television shows and movies that didn’t gain much traction with audiences.
Getting his role on “Babylon 5” actually came by happenstance, according to the Internet Movie Database. Conaway loved the series so much he visited the set, and ended up with a bit role. That bit part became a series regular role soon after.
Last week, when Conaway was still comatose, “Celebrity Rehab” host Drew Pinsky told his Twitter followers that he visited Conaway at the hospital and was “confident” that he would recover.
Pinsky also made it clear that Conaway’s issues were not because of an overdose.
But his manager, Phil Brock, disagreed. He told CNN last week that drugs were involved.
“He’s a really wonderful soul, a very kind and wonderful person,” Brock said.
Conaway is survived by three former wives, including Kerri Young and Rhona Newton-John, the sister of Olivia Newton-John, who appeared with Conaway in “Grease.” Conaway had a son with Newton-John, who survives as well as a grandchild.