Updated: March 05, 2021
IN MEMORY OF ACTOR JAN-MICHAEL VINCENT
Jan-Michael Vincent (July 15, 1944 – February 10, 2019) was an American actor. He was known for his roles as helicopter pilot Stringfellow Hawke on the television series Airwolf (1984–1986) and as the protagonist, Matt Johnson, of the 1978 film Big Wednesday. He also starred as Byron Henry in The Winds of War.
Vincent was born in Denver, Colorado to Doris Jane (née Pace) and Lloyd Whiteley Vincent. He attended elementary and high school in Hanford, California where he graduated in 1963. Vincent went to Ventura College for three years. He has said, "I would have completed college, but the registration clerk literally shut the window in his face for the lunch hour" and Vincent instead took his $200 and went to Mexico to party. Vincent finished a tour of duty in the California Army National Guard by 1967.
Vincent had his first acting job in 1967 in The Bandits, starring and co-directed by Robert Conrad. Also in 1967, he was in the made-for-TV-movie The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Chinese Junk. In the late 1960s, Vincent was signed to Universal Studios and appeared in several television series. He made an appearance on the Dragnet 1968 episode "The Grenade" as a muscular high school student who suffered an acid attack by a mentally unstable classmate (played by Mickey Sholdar). Vincent also appeared in the Danger Island segments of Hanna-Barbera's The Banana Splits series as Link (1968–69). His first starring role was in the fall of 1969 in the prime-time soap opera The Survivors, alongside Lana Turner and George Hamilton; the series was canceled mid-season.
Vincent also was in several movies in the late 1960s, Twentieth Century Fox movie The Undefeated (as Bubba Wilkes) starring John Wayne, Rock Hudson, and Antonio Aguilar. His name appeared as Michael Vincent in the credits of the movie. Vincent guest-starred in three episodes of Lassie with actor Tony Dow and two episodes of Bonanza.
In 1970, Vincent garnered critical praise for his role in the made-for-TV film Tribes (also known as The Soldier Who Declared Peace in Europe and the UK), co-starring Darren McGavin, about a tough Marine boot-camp drill instructor dealing with a hippie draftee (Vincent) who will not follow the rules. He gave a complex performance opposite Robert Mitchum in Going Home ('71). That same year, he appeared in the Gunsmoke episode "The Legend". In 1972, he co-starred with Charles Bronson in the crime film The Mechanic and a made-for-TV love story Sandcastles. In 1973 he starred in the Disney comedy The World's Greatest Athlete with Tim Conway and John Amos. He played Richie, an alcoholic teen in a 1973 episode of Marcus Welby, M.D., "Catch a Ring That Isn't There".
Vincent also starred in the 1974 romance Buster and Billie as the antihero Buster Lane, where he startled audiences with his full-frontal nudity. In 1975's Bite the Bullet, he played opposite Gene Hackman, James Coburn, and Candice Bergen. He also starred in the trucker movie White Line Fever (1975); in 1976's Baby Blue Marine, a war film directed by John D. Hancock, which also starred Glynnis O'Connor; and in 1976's Shadow of the Hawk co-starring Marilyn Hassett. Vincent also starred in Damnation Alley, based on Roger Zelazny's science fiction novel, in 1977. Two more notable 1978 appearances were the surfing film Big Wednesday with William Katt and Gary Busey, and Hooper with Burt Reynolds, in which Vincent played a young stuntman.
In 1980, Vincent starred in the gang-themed drama Defiance, which received a limited release. In that film, he and Danny Aiello co-star as Manhattan residents who fight back against the gang members who terrorize their neighborhood. He also appeared in The Return, a science-fiction film that was released directly to television and video. In 1981, he co-starred with Kim Basinger in Hard Country. Vincent starred in the 1983 action film Last Plane Out.
After the completion of his role in the 1983 television miniseries Winds of War, Vincent was cast as Stringfellow Hawke for the action–espionage series Airwolf, in which he co-starred with Ernest Borgnine and is the role for which he is best known and remembered. It was noted at the time that Vincent's salary for his work on Airwolf was $200,000 per episode, the highest of any actor in American television. While filming Airwolf, Vincent admitted to drug and alcohol problems for which he acknowledged seeking help. After Airwolf ended, he found roles in smaller budget and lower exposure film projects.
Vincent worked with Traci Lords in the 1991 suspense film Raw Nerve. He also co-starred with Clint Howard in the 1996 black comedy/horror film Ice Cream Man, which had very limited theatrical release but did eventually reach cult status via home video as an unintentional comedy. In 1994, he played in a South African produced movie called Ipi Tombi produced and directed by Tommie Meyer based on a musical by Bertha Egnos. While in the hospital in 1996, Vincent was committed to a role in Red Line with Chad McQueen as Keller. He appeared in the film with a swollen face and scars, and still wearing his hospital ID bracelet. In 1997, he had a small guest role on Nash Bridges, playing the title character's long-lost brother, and in 1998 he had a cameo in the independent film Buffalo '66. His last role was in the independent film White Boy, also titled Menace (for the U.S. video version), released in March 2003.
Vincent was referenced in the animated sitcom Rick and Morty in the season 2 episoded titled Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate where the family watches a fake commercial for an action adventure sci-fi movie called "Jan Quadrant Vincent 16," starring a fictionalized version of Jan-Michael Vincent.
Vincent married Bonnie Poorman in 1968 and they had a daughter, Amber Vincent, in 1972. Their divorce was finalized on January 2, 1977. His second wife, Joanne Robinson, left him and had a restraining order entered against him in 1998, alleging that he had abused her since their marriage in 1986.
Vincent battled alcoholism and intravenous drug use for much of his life. In 1977, 1978 and 1979 he was arrested for possession of cocaine and in 1984 and 1985 he was arrested after two bar brawls. He also received a felony assault charge in 1986, of which he was acquitted, after his attorney argued that the woman tripped and fell on a telephone cord in his home. He then was arrested for drunk driving but avoided jail by entering rehab in 1988. In 2000 a $374,000 default judgment was made against him after his former girlfriend alleged he had physically assaulted her after their breakup and caused her to miscarry their child.
During the 1990s, he was involved in three severe automobile collisions, which he barely survived. In an accident in August 1996 Vincent broke three vertebrae in his neck. He sustained a permanent injury to his vocal cords from an emergency medical procedure, leaving him with a permanently raspy voice. The first near fatal accident occurred in February 1992 and the third happened in September 1997.
Vincent was charged with drunk driving again after his 1996 accident and once again sentenced to rehab and placed on probation. In an interview on the TV program The Insider on September 18, 2007, when asked about his 1996 car accident, he answered, "Y'know, I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't remember being in an accident." In 2000, Vincent violated probation for his prior alcohol-related arrests by appearing drunk in public three times and assaulting his fiancée. As a result, he was sentenced to 60 days in the Orange County Jail. Vincent was involved in another automobile accident in 2008.
In an interview on October 24, 2014, with National Enquirer, Vincent revealed that his right leg was amputated just below the knee in 2012 after he contracted a leg infection as a result of complications from peripheral artery disease. After that he walked with a prosthetic limb, although he was sometimes forced to use a wheelchair. He also revealed he had a tax debt in excess of $70,000.
Vincent died on February 10, 2019, aged 74, in Asheville, North Carolina due to cardiac arrest while hospitalized at Mission Hospital Memorial Campus. Bradycardia, a decreased heart rate, was listed as an underlying cause of death. His death was not publicly announced until March 8, when TMZ broke the news, and showed a slightly redacted copy of his death certificate. He is survived by his third wife, Patricia Ann Christ, and his daughter from a previous marriage.