Jan-Michael Vincent Dead at 73

Saying Goodbye to Troubled Star Jan-Michael Vincent

Former ’80s television star, Jan-Michael Vincent, died due to cardiac arrest last month; his death has only recently come to light. Starring as Stringfellow ‘String’ Hawke in the television show Airwolf, Vincent rose to become one of the highest-paid actors on television; he was 73 at the time of his passing. 

Jan-Michael Vincent (L) and costar Joan Goodfellow in Buster and Billie (Columbia Pictures, 1974)
Jan-Michael Vincent (L) and costar Joan Goodfellow in Buster and Billie (Columbia Pictures, 1974)

Vincent began his career at the age of 21 in Robert Conrad’s The Bandits. His breakout role came starring alongside John Wayne and Rock Hudson in the classic 1969 spaghetti Western The Undefeated. It was from this point, according to Variety that: 

“Vincent’s film career took off in the 1970s, during which time he appeared opposite Robert Mitchum in Going Home (1971), played Charles Bronson’s hit-man protege in the iconic Michael Winner film The Mechanic (1972), and starred in the Gene Hackman Western Bite the Bullet (1975) about a marathon, 700-mile horse race.”

Demons That Destroy

The momentum led Vincent to the set of Airwolf where he played pilot ‘String’ Hawke for three seasons; it was here that his troubles began. According to Variety, “During his three-season stint on Airwolf, Vincent became one of the highest-paid actors in American television, earning a reported $200,000 per episode. Vincent started seeking help for drug and alcohol problems while he was still on the show.”

A Downward Spiral

Following a slew of domestic violence, drunk driving, and substance abuse charges, Vincent couldn’t find work as an actor. Aside from a few scattered appearances throughout the ’90s on television shows like Nash Bridges, and a minor role in Vince Gallo’s 1998 film Buffalo ’66; he was a complete non-factor. The actor continued his downward spiral until “In 2000, Vincent was forced to pay over $350,000 as part of a default judgment made against him. He physically assaulted a former girlfriend, causing her to miscarry their child. He was sentenced to 60 days in prison that same year for violating his probation for prior alcohol-related arrests by appearing drunk in public and assaulting his fiancée.”

Before his death, Vincent hadn’t worked on film or television since 2002.

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