A heartthrob from one of the more iconic shows of the 1980s has passed away: Jan-Michael Vincent, who suited up for the action-drama ‘Airwolf,’ has reportedly died after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Jan-Michael Vincent, 74, an actor best known for playing the daring helicopter pilot Stringfellow Hawke on the 1984 series Airwolf, has died according to TMZ. Jan-Michael, per a death certificate obtained by the publication, passed away on February 10 after suffering a cardiac arrest while as a patient at a North Carolina hospital. There was no autopsy performed, sources told TMZ, and he was later cremated. Though he has been gone for nearly a month, the news of his death will likely shock anyone who watched him on their TV screens during the 1980s. Here’s what you need to know about this late actor.
1. He’s best known for his work in Airwolf. “I didn’t go into acting out commitment or love of the profession,” he said in 1973, according to The Toledo Blade. “It was just a matter of taking advantage of an opportunity someone laid on me, a fun chance to goof around and get paid for it.” That opportunity came when a family friend introduced him to a motion picture agent, which landed him a part in Los Bandidos / The Bandits, in 1967. More than fifteen years later, he would land the role that would make him a star. Airwolf was a hit for CBS in 1984, and it made Jan-Michael a household name (and reportedly, made him the highest-paid actor at the time, as he was pulling in $200k per episode.)
2. He appeared in movies alongside Burt Reynolds and Kim Basinger. Airwolf only lasted a couple of seasons, “largely in part to the star’s cocaine abuse,” as TMZ puts it. Though he had roles before and after the series (his last role was in 2002’s White Boy) he will be forever associated with the helicopter adventure series. However, viewers will be able to see him in old episodes of such series as Dragnet, Lassie, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza. He also appeared in movies like Hopper (with Burt Reynolds), Hard Country (with Kim Basinger) and White Line Fever.
3. He lost a leg due to infection. “An infection in my leg got steadily worse,” he told The National ENQUIRER in 2014 when explaining why he was missing a leg. His right leg was amputated just below the knee in 2012 as a result of complications from peripheral artery disease. Despite the loss, he tried to remain positive. “I look at this now and think I have nothing to be upset about when I think about what our U.S. military go through. They’re the real heroes.”
4. He struggled with addiction in the past. In addition to Jan-Michael’s drug use, he admitted to being an alcoholic in a 2007 interview with The Insider. During that chat, he also admitted that he couldn’t recall being involved in a car accident, even though he suffered a series of injuries during a serious wreck in 1996, according to the Huffington Post. The accident left him with broken vertebrae in his neck and permanent damage to his vocal cords. Yet, he said in 2007 that he had no recollection of this at all.
He was married three times. Jan-Michael married Bonnie Poorman in 1968. They welcomed a daughter in 1972. They were divorced in 1977. Jan-Michael was two more times, to Joanne Robinson (1986-1997) and to Patricia Ann Vincent.
Our thoughts are with Jan-Michael Vincent’s family during their time of loss.