There are some Hollywood actors who find the limelight, then fade away because they are typecast or they lack the versatility to make the most of their acting opportunities. Jan Michael Vincent did not fit into either of those groups, leaving many of his fans dumbfounded about what ever happened to the once rising star of the television series Airwolf and movies like Baby Blue Marine.
The simple but unfortunate answer is that Vincent basically self-destructed in a very short period of time from a number of self-destructive behaviors, including drug and alcohol addiction. There have been other actors such as Charlie Sheen who have had their run-ins with addiction and the law, but still manage to remain relevant and on the radar of producers and directors. Vincent quickly became irrelevant to the key Hollywood players and his descent quickly accelerated.
After being paired up with major movie stars such as Charles Bronson and John Wayne early in his acting career, he would make the move to television in 1983, agreeing to a contract for the TV series Airwolf that would pay him $200k an episode. Airwolf would last 3 years. The fame and fortune would begin affecting his personal life, the first of the warning signs being arrested for growing marijuana in his home at age 34. It would become evident that it wasn’t the growing that was the problem, but the use. He would be arrested for a DUI near his home in Malibu, California that revealed a use of not only marijuana, but included alcohol and then accelerated to cocaine.
Compounding the problem was that Vincent let his addiction cross over into his professional life, showing up on the set for his high paid TV series high or drunk. Producers and directors tolerated his behavior based on the success of the TV show, but once it ended, so did Vincent’s acting career and life. Over the years his addictions would not only damage his health, but result in at least one known brush with death in a car accident that left him with a broken neck and damaged vocal cords. If there was any hope of returning to acting, it was erased after a 1993 accident.
His medical complications would continue, later contracting a blood infection in his right leg that resulted in its amputation. The effects of his alcohol and drug use would also take their toll on his golden boy good looks, with a face that was aged far beyond his years. The negative effects would impact his romantic life as well, after he was arrested for assaulting his finance, who placed a restraining order against him. He had other run-ins with the law and has finally settled down with his current wife who currently takes care of him.
Vincent admits he is lucky to be alive, but his life could have been so much more. He was a very talented actor and also was an avid surfer, once returning to what he calls a second and emotional home in Australia. He remembers his younger, more successful, days as a star and surfer in the land down under, but currently he says he is “laying low” in his Mississippi home. There aren’t very many people who fondly remember the former star, mainly because they see a talented life that pressed the self-destruct button. At age 73, he now sits quietly at home and does his best to manage his life with a walker and wheelchair with the devoted support of his wife.