Actor Jan-Michael Vincent, the “Airwolf” television star whose sleek good looks belied a troubled personal life, has died. He was 73.
A death certificate shows that Vincent died of cardiac arrest on Feb. 10, 2019, in an Asheville, North Carolina, hospital. The certificate signed by a doctor says he died of natural causes and no autopsy was performed.
It wasn’t clear why it took several weeks for news of the death to surface before it was first reported Friday by TMZ. Messages left at phone listings for Vincent and his wife weren’t immediately returned Friday.
Several years ago, he opened up about his health tribulations.
Personal problems led to prison time and having his leg amputated.
“I’m an alcoholic. I’m me. I got my personality. I don’t behave like an alcoholic,” he said, according to The Enquirer.
The report noted that he’s had bad luck ever since “Airwolf” went off the air in 1986.
In 1996, he suffered several injuries in a major car accident including damage to his vocal cords and broken vertebrae.
About 12 years ago, he was involved in another car accident and got a leg infection as a result.
The infection progressive got worse, doctors were forced to amputate the lower half of the limb. Since then, he’s used a prosthetic leg.
“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,” he said. “They’re the real heroes.”
His wife, Anna, said at the time: “When the doctor said they had to amputate, I almost fainted, but I had to be brave for him.”
“He was delirious and hallucinating. They were giving him powerful pain meds and propofol—the stuff that killed Michael Jackson,” she said. “They said the infection was so bad that he might not survive. I remember one horrible night in the hospital. I had to help hold him down and keep the oxygen mask on him so he could breathe.”
He said of the surgery to remove his leg: “I know I was on life support and a ventilator. When I finally woke up it, (my leg) was gone.”
Born in 1945 in Denver, Colorado, Vincent starred in such films as 1972′s “The Mechanic” and 1978′s “Hooper,” in which he played a stuntman opposite Burt Reynolds. Off-screen, his handsomeness earned him a spot on a cosmetic surgeon’s “Ten Best Noses” list in the late 1970s.
He also starred in the 1983 television mini-series “Winds of War” as the love interest of a character played by Ali MacGraw, “piling up enormous ratings,” according to a contemporary Associated Press account. He earned a Golden Globe nomination.
In a 1984 AP interview, Vincent described his passion for being on the water. He said he spent three months after wrapping up “Winds of War” sailing the Caribbean. He also said he was a longtime surfer.
“I was a traveling surfer for years. … I’ve been all over the world surfing,” he said. “I’ll be 40 in July and I still like to surf.”
Perhaps his best-known role was in the television action-adventure series “Airwolf,” which lasted for several seasons after launching in 1984. Vincent played pilot Stringfellow Hawke, a rugged pilot who could pull off aerobatic crime-fighting maneuvers in an advanced helicopter—but also play the cello.
In the AP interview, he described trying to find the right way to loosen the character up.
“The character is stiff,” he says, “but as we’ve gone along we’ve been able to loosen him some. Now you’ll sometimes see him crack a smile and say something funny. Even Clint Eastwood is mellowing, although I’ll never be Burt Reynolds.”
However, his surfer-like demeanor was overshadowed at times by his troubled personal life. He pleaded guilty in 1997 to a drunken driving accident that left him with a broken neck and was sentenced to a rehab program. He was also charged in 1980s barroom brawls, receiving probation in one and an acquittal in another. In a separate case, he was acquitted in 1986 of hitting a woman.
He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 2000 in Orange County, California, after he admitted to violating his probation by appearing drunk in public and assaulting his then-girlfriend.
Epoch Times reporter Jack Phillips contributed to this report