That man appeared to be in horrific physical and psychological pain. I'm glad he's at peace now.
You know, I briefly drafted exactly the same post this morning, but I overwrote it with the SYTYCD post when I realized he wasn't dead. What I was going to say was that his career was built on two pieces that could be called seminal. The first (second by chronology) was Taxi, where his Bobby Wheeler was a convincing comic portrait of a dim Lothario too sure of his talent to understand the paucity of his prospects as an actor and weirdly out place, since he was a quintessential Hollywood himbo trying to make it in New York. That show was seminal because it pushed away the old workplace comedy (the Dick Van Dyke workplace) and ushered in the form that we now know as the modern workplace comedy. Taxi's cadences feel dated now, but the notion of wrapping traditional gags around a theatrical drama sensibility (the set, the small daily struggles) must have seemed exciting then. The second of his principal works, Grease, is, of course, has many admirers here. Conaway's Kenickie was a lot like his Wheeler, the alpha-cool with no future and no concern. When I say "seminal" here, I'm referring to him getting Rizzo pregnant. [Groan]It couldn't have been easy for Conaway, who easily could have been a breakout star, see so many of his coworkers go on to greater things. Stockard Channing was already Stockard Channing before Grease and Newton-John was a double-threat, but Conaway could have seen Travolta, DeVito, Kaufman, Danza, Hirsch, Henner, Lloyd, and Carol Kane move on in degrees varying from superstardom to steady work and wonder why he was the one whose career seemed like the punch line.
(apologies for editing errors)
It may have been extra-frustrating, since he had played Danny on Broadway, and on Broadway Kenickie had the lead on Greased Lightning, which instead became a standout Travolta performance.
We shouldn't discount his work through 5 seasons of Babylon 5 either.
I saw him at DragonCon around 1998 during the Babylon 5 days. I had had no idea of what had happened to him between Taxi and B5, and was pretty stunned by what he described. His talk/Q&A was very focused on how grateful he was to have gotten clean, found God, gotten to act again, etc. He was very humble and certainly seemed to have beaten his demons. Until this week I hadn't heard about him in around 8 years, and so I was saddened to hear that he had relapsed so badly.When I was in 8th grade we had a speaker (Bob Lurtsema, ex-Viking) come to my school for an anti-drug talk. His message was, "People ask me how I can be so anti-drug if I haven't tried them, after all, what if I liked them? What if I liked them?! That's exactly the problem. If I try drugs and like them I'll probably want to take them again. It's the people who like taking drugs that have their lives destroyed. If you try drugs and DON'T like them, you are lucky. If you don't try drugs at all, you are smart."Technically, not a quote, but I'm sure its damn close to what he said. That concept that there is no upside to trying drugs in the first place hit me like a revelation, and from that moment on (to be fair, reinforced by my Dad's simple, but effective, "You try drugs, I'll kill you") I was never even tempted. Whenever I see someone like this, someone who for years managed to get clean, only to fall back again, I am reminded how lucky I have been to have had such a clear message, "What if I like them?", make such an impact on me.
The title of this piece is exactly what I said to my fiance when he shared this news. But I said it in sad voice, which is rather strange. Also, Taxi rules.
We had David Toma come to my high school. It was like Scared Straight, except for drugs & alcohol. I'm not sure what his qualifications were, but I know our school's chapter of SADD, spent a lot of money getting him and it was supposedly a big coup. I wasn't interested in doing drugs anyway, but it was still an interesting and frightening lecture.
And in other news about creative people in long battles with addiction: RIP Gil Scott-Heron.[sigh]
God, I hated David Toma. That guy was a diva of the first order.