Saturday, June 4, 2011


You know what's a doggone shame, is the recent death of actor Jeff Conaway.  We all know people who have tried to go into that line of work - acting - with sparse success.  It seems that to make it in show biz requires talent, the right look, a break here and there along the way and the desire to make it.  Take away one of those aspects, and the chances are good of working in another field while dreaming of what might have been.  And most of the time, it's that break that's missing, that being in the right place at the right time thing.  

Conaway had it all going on and still lost it all to substance abuse.  Late in his life, he explained that he had been victimized as a child by pornographers and sexual predators.  That might explain the need to turn to pharmaceutical remedies for psychological problems.   A shame, shame, shame.

If you saw him in "Grease" in the movies, you saw a seemingly confident, poised, handsome and talented performer doing his thing, singing and dancing and acting like Kenickie.  

Then he played the part of Bobby Wheeler, driving a "Taxi" and looking for his break as an actor.  His character there was both savvy and naive at once, and with movies and TV under his belt, Conaway looked set to go onto great heights in acting.

But he preferred getting high to most anything else, or so it seemed, and his decline was swift and sure.  By the time the 90's rolled around, he was down to playing bit parts on shows on cable channels that many of us either don't get, or we get them and we don't know we get them, or starring in and directing movies with names such as "Bikini Summer II." 

All the more sad, because we have talked before about the time Peggy and I walked into the now-flattened Golden Ring Mall and saw him just doing a great job emceeing a local cheerleading competition.  He was at the top then, thirty years ago, and he might have been the only person in the mall who knew his future was about as limited as that of the Mall itself.  GRM got a little old, a little timeworn and shabby, and when it became more well-known for crime than for Crabtree and Evelyn, more for guns than for Godiva, and more for holdups than for Hot Topic, it shut down, got bulldozed and is now replaced with a cookie-cutter Sam's Club and WalMart.

Jeff Conaway once had it all and chose to let it go, but in his passing lies a lesson for all those who lightly regard their gifts.  Which is just about all of us, myself being no exception.  

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