LOS ANGELES — Jeff Conaway, who starred in the TV comedy"Taxi," played swaggering Kenickie in the movie musical "Grease" and publicly battled drug and alcohol addiction on the reality show "Celebrity Rehab," died Friday. He was 60.
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.
"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.
Family members, including his sisters, nieces and nephews, and his minister, were with him when he died, Boole said.
He was taken to the hospital unconscious on May 11 and placed in a medically induced coma while being treated for pneumonia and sepsis, which is blood poisoning caused by a bacterial infection.
Conaway had failed to seek medical aid, instead trying to treat himself with pain pills and cold medicine, said Phil Brock, Boole's business partner.
"He's a gentle soul with a good heart ... but he's never been able to exorcise his demons," Brock said after Conaway was hospitalized.
Conaway is the second person who appeared in the VH1 reality series "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" who later died. In March, former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr, who was on the show in 2009, was found dead in Salt Lake City. The month before, police there had arrested him on suspicion of possession of medications without a required prescription.
Messages seeking comment from Pinsky, a physician and radio and TV personality, were not immediately returned Friday.
Conaway had acknowledged his addictive tendencies in a 1985 interview with The Associated Press, when he described turning his back on the dream of a pop music career. He'd played guitar in a 1960s band called 3 1/2 that was the opening act for groups including Herman's Hermits, The Young Rascals and The Anim
"I thought, 'If I stay in this business, I'll be dead in a year.' There were drugs all over the place and people were doing them. I had started to do them. I realized that I'd die," Conaway told the AP.