LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Jeff Conaway, who starred in the sitcom “Taxi,” played swaggering Kenickie in the movie musical “Grease” and publicly battled drug and alcohol addiction on “Celebrity Rehab,” died Friday.
The actor was taken off life support Thursday and died Friday morning at Encino Tarzana Medical Center, according to one of his managers, Kathryn Boole. He was taken there unconscious on May 11, and placed in a medically induced coma.
Conaway had been treating himself with pain pills and cold medicine while in weakened health, said Phil Brock, her business partner.
The celebrity entertainment Web site TMZ.com reports that Dr. Drew Pinsky – who treated Conaway back in 2008 on the VH1 series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” — says an overdose did not kill the 60-year-old actor.
“This was aspiration with overwhelming pneumonia and sepsis,” Drew tells TMZ.com.
Family members, including his sisters, nieces and nephews and his minister, were with him when he died, Boole said.
“It’s sad that people remember his struggle with drugs … he has touched so many people,” she said, calling Conaway a kind and intelligent man who was well-read and “always so interesting to talk to. We respected him as an artist and loved him as a friend.”
“He was trying so hard to get clean and sober,” Boole added. “If it hadn’t been for his back pain, I think he would have been able to do it.”
A native of New York, Conaway began his acting career on Broadway but burst onto the national scene in the late 1970s in the film musical “Grease,” along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
“Jeff Conaway was a wonderful and decent man, and we will miss him,” Travolta told E! News. “My heartfelt thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this very difficult time.”
He also became a television regular for playing Wheeler, a cab driver, on the hit sitcom “Taxi.”
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