The blast that I received as a Breaking News tweet said "Celebrity Rehab Actor DEAD". That didn't make sense by itself as it implied that the person was only known for that show. "Celebrity Rehab" features folks that have been stars at some point so I figured I would know who it was. I sure did and it wasn't who I expected.
Actor Jeff Conaway died this morning. Cause of death was listed as pneumonia although it was his dependence on prescription painkillers that eventually did him in. He was 60-years-old.
If I were a betting man then I would have put money on the fact that the person they were talking about would have been Gary Busey. Or was he even on that show? He just seemed like a more likely candidate to suffer such a demise.
My first introduction to Conaway would have been by way of one of my favorite movies ever. Thanks to former Vault Pick "Grease". The movie made household names out of John Travolta and Olevia Newton John, but Conaway's part in it was nothing to sneeze at either. If they would have let Kenickie had a song or two then he would have had a chance to still be more relevant today too like Travolta is.
Fortunately, Conaway wasn't known only for that awesome role. He would go on to later star in the series "Taxi" as Bobby Wheeler. That was back when network tv shows still ruled the air waves and there was some pretty incredible programming. "Taxi" was definitely one of the better comedies of the day. As I look back now, I can't even remember if it was this show that I remember him from first or "Grease". Either way, Conaway was successfully able to play memorable parts on both the big and little screen. Several actors/actresses would love to have had that same accomplishment.
It sucks that Conaway was known in his later years for his appearance on a show like "Celebrity Rehab". Now there are probably some reality show junkies who only recognize him for that. Thankfully I don't watch that trash so I didn't have a clue. Not to mention that his previous resume trumps that mess anyway.
Rest in peace, Kenickie.