Jeff Conaway slipped away and never woke up.
The 60-year-old star of Grease and Taxi, who publicly struggled with drugs and alcohol over the last decade, died Friday at a Los Angeles-area hospital. He had been in a coma for more than two weeks after being found unconscious in his home.
Family members, including Conaway’s sister, decided Thursday to have doctors remove the feeding tube and ventilator that had been essentially keeping the actor alive—over the objections of his longtime girlfriend, Vikki Lizzi, who went to court to try to block the move. But in the end, he was removed from life support early Friday.
After Conaway was discovered unresponsive on May 11, manager Phil Brock first said that an overdose of painkillers was a likely culprit, but that theory was disputed by Celebrity Rehab‘s Dr. Drew Pinsky, who said that there was no sign of an intentional overdose.
“There is no evidence showing Jeff died from an overdose. This was aspiration with overwhelming pneumonia and sepsis. Jeff is another example of a pharmaceutical death from the overutilization of prescription drugs,” Pinsky, who visited Conaway late last week at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, told E! News Friday.
“Please continue to pray for his friends and family. They appreciate your support.”
Conaway’s death has rattled his pals.
“Yet again another beautiful soul is wasted due to the growing problem of pharmaceutical addiction,” Corey Feldman told E! News. “I have lost way too many friends because of irresponsible practices where doctors are overmedicating obvious addicts. It’s horriffic and disgusting! My heart goes out to Jeff’s family, he was a wonderful human.”
Former Munsters star Butch Patrick, who partied with Conaway back in the day, simply said, “I am devastated.”
While Conaway sought treatment for his various addictions back in the 1980s, he had relapsed by the 2000s. He appeared on Celebrity Fit Club in 2006, but left the show to go to rehab early in the season.
In 2008, he took his demons to Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, where he became known for his trainwreck tendencies.
“I’ve tried to commit suicide 21 times,” he told Howard Stern in an interview that year. “I’m terrible at it! I get depressed over how come I can’t kill myself,” he laughed, when Howard and Robin Quivers joked that he was obviously terrible at it.
“Mostly it’s been with pills,” he admitted when asked how he had attempted suicide in the past. “I’ve taken enough pills to knock an elephant out…God wants me on this planet for some reason or another.”
In January 2010, Lizzi (whose real name is Victoria Spinoza), told E! News that Conaway had been increasingly despondent in the days before a drug-induced fall at his home left him with a broken hip that required surgery and a stay in a convelescent home.
“He knows the meds are killing him. He can’t get off them,” Lizzi said.
E! News last spoke to Conaway while he was recuperating in March 2010, and he sounded more optimistic.
“I have made a tremendous amount of progress,” he said. “I wasn’t about to give up. I didn’t come this far to give up. God didn’t bring me this far to drop me.”
Though Lizzi and Conaway were in contact in the days before his collapse, their relationship had been rocky for some time. They filed dueling restraining orders against each other in March, with Spinoza claiming that her ex was “mentally unstable and dangerous” and Conaway claiming that she was stealing his medication and sneaking into their house to drug him at night.
Lizzi was the one who discovered Conaway unconscious and called 911, having driven to his house to take him to a doctor’s appointment.
Earlier this week, a judge granted a temporary restraining order, filed by Conaway’s sister, that barred Lizzi from visiting Conaway in the hospital. Lizzi was unsuccessful in her bid to overturn the order and didn’t have a chance to see Conaway before he passed.
“Vikki is distraught right now. She can’t even breathe. She wasn’t able to see,” mutual friend Aubry Fisher told E! News.
Conaway was married to Rona Newton-John, Olivia‘s sister, in the early ’80s. He is survived by their son, Emerson, a professional racecar driver.
May he finally rest in peace.
by Natalie Finn