Jan-Michael Vincent, star of Airwolf, dies at 73

Jan-Michael Vincent's career floundered after Airwolf, in part because of problems with drugs and alcohol.
Jan-Michael Vincent's career floundered after Airwolf, in part because of problems with drugs and alcohol.

NORTH CAROLINA • Jan-Michael Vincent, who became nationally recognisable on the 1980s US television series Airwolf, but whose career later foundered in part because of problems with drugs and alcohol, died on Feb 10 at a hospital near his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 73.

The cause was cardiac arrest, according to a death certificate released by the Buncombe County Register of Deeds.

His death was not widely reported until last Friday.

Vincent, who had electric blue eyes and a taut surfer's physique, began acting in the late 1960s, appearing on television shows including Bonanza, Lassie and Gunsmoke.

He had lead roles in films such as The World's Greatest Athlete (1973) and Buster And Billie (1974).

His most recognisable part was that of pilot Stringfellow Hawke on Airwolf, a CBS show built around a cutting-edge combat helicopter that made its debut in 1984.

News reports said Vincent was one of the most highly paid actors working at the time, making around US$200,000 an episode.

However, scandal dogged him in the 1980s. He was known to abuse alcohol and cocaine and was also said to have been involved in bar fights; he narrowly avoided jail in 1986 by entering a month-long drug rehabilitation programme after breaking probation related to an earlier drink-driving conviction. CBS cancelled Airwolf that year.

Vincent's career declined after that, although he continued to appear in TV movies like Alienator (1990) and Deadly Heroes (1993).

His substance abuse worsened, and he broke his neck in 1996, after rear-ending his girlfriend's car, permanently damaging his vocal cords in the process.

In 2000, he told news anchor Bill Ritter of the ABC News programme 20/20 that he had been sober for a time, but that remaining so was a struggle. "I'm hanging on by my white knuckles," he said.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 10, 2019, with the headline 'Jan-Michael Vincent, star of Airwolf, dies at 73'. Print Edition | Subscribe