Jan-Michael Vincent, a golden boy of Hollywood action films in the 1970s who starred on the mid-1980s TV adventure series “Airwolf” and saw his career crater amid drug and alcohol addiction, died Feb. 10 in Asheville, N.C.
The death was confirmed by the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, which provided a death certificate listing the cause as cardiac arrest. He was 74, by most accounts, but the certificate listed him as 73.
With a surfer’s physique and virile charisma, Mr. Vincent entered films in the late 1960s and became a mainstay of action dramas. He was the hitman apprentice to Charles Bronson in “The Mechanic” (1972) and a handsome young stuntman in “Hooper” (1978) with Burt Reynolds as an aging one.
- Adam Bernstein
(But not THE Adam Bernstein)
‘Airwolf’ is an American television series that ran from 1984 until 1987. The program centers on a high-tech military helicopter, code named Airwolf, and its crew as they undertake various exotic missions, many involving espionage, with a Cold War theme.
The show was created by Donald P. Bellisario and was produced over four seasons. The first three seasons main cast consisted of Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord, and from the second season onwards Jean Bruce Scott was added as a regular. The show originally aired on CBS and after the original series was cancelled, a fourth season, with an entirely new cast and on a much smaller budget, was filmed in Canada for the USA Network.
Jan-Michael Vincent played Stringfellow Hawke, 34 years old, who had been a Captain in the U.S. Army but now was a freelance agent with the CIA.
From the website “Spy Guys And Gals”:
A highly skilled helicopter pilot who earned a considerable number of medals and commendations for his actions and bravery during the Vietnam War, Hawke was content to leave the excitement and the danger behind when the war ended, even though that also meant losing the ability to search for his older brother and best friend, Saint John Hawke, who was also a pilot in that conflict but was listed MIA.
As the two-book series, or rather the television series from which the novelizations were drawn, commences, Hawke is nearing his mid-30's and is content to live in his rustic cabin high in the mountains of California though near enough literally as the eagle flies to Hollywood to be a pilot for his mentor and old friend, Dominic. This perpetually upbeat owner of Dominic Air, which ferries anyone needing a helicopter but specializing in television and movie work, helped raise the two Hawke brothers after their parents died in a boating accident.
Hawke has few interests outside his mountain retreat. He enjoys the solitude of living with just nature and his aging hound-dog. He plays the cello for relaxation and has a near-priceless Stradivarius on which to do it. And he has a fortune in rare artwork purchased by his grandfather many years before to please his grandmother. Hawke's hermitage is largely the result of a belief that those he loves will soon be taken from him, starting with his parents and then a few years later with his brother's disappearance. (The fact that his adopted father and friend, Dominic, has not died after all the years they have been together has obviously escaped him.)
When he was in Vietnam, he and his brother were seconded to work with a division of the CIA called the F.I.R.M., headed by Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, codename Archangel. After the war and before he went to work for Dominic, Hawke had been a test-pilot for the company working for the F.I.R.M. to create the revolutionary helicopter named Airwolf.
The premise behind the television series, and thus the books, is that the creator of Airwolf, Doctor Moffet, had stolen the only prototype and fled with it to Libya where he was using it to grow rich blowing up targets that the dictator, Qaddaffi, wanted gone. This included an American destroyer off the North African coast. To get it back Archangel goes to the best pilot he knows for the job, Hawke. For his part, Hawke has no interest in getting back into any fray but finally agrees if Archangel will help find his lost brother.
After considerable trouble and the death of a fellow agent at the hands of Moffet, Hawke and Dominic manage to get their hands on Airwolf. When Archangel's promised information on Saint John proves less than informative, however, Stringfellow Hawke decides to keep the incredible aircraft. He hides it away in a desert mountain cave and brings it out only when a special mission interests him or he is further coerced by Archangel or others.
For more on Vincent’s character, click here.
Here are the three TV credits for which Stringfellow Hawke is today being inducted into the Television Crossover Hall of Fame:
From the IMDb:
A scientist who has created a super helicopter has defected to Libya and taken the machine with him. A secretive government agency hires an ex-Vietnam War pilot to go to Libya, steal the chopper and bring it back.
From the IMDb:
As part of a deal with an intelligence agency to look for his missing brother, a renegade pilot goes on missions with an advanced battle helicopter.
When Stringfellow Hawke is critically injured and Dominic is killed, Dominic's niece Jo, major Mike Rivers and Jason Locke from the Company use Airwolf to rescue St. John. After St. John visits Stringfellow in the hospital, Jason Locke comes later and finds the hospital room empty. It is never revealed whether Stringfellow has recovered from his injuries, or what became of him.
The suggestion could also have been that he died right then, but I don’t accept that. I’d like to think that Hawke was able to escape from the hospital and went into hiding. His injuries were so severe however that the toll taken on Jan-Michael Vincent from his addiction-riddled life in the Real World – including the raspy voice and amputated leg - could all be attributed to Hawke’s injuries in Toobworld.
I think Toobworld Central should follow its own general rule and consider the character to have died around the same time as the actor who played the role. Jan-Michael Vincent apparently died on February 10th, but it wasn’t reported until a few weeks ago, on March 8th. I’ll give Stringfellow Hawke a pass and say that he died on the day the news about Vincent was announced. So he got to live a few weeks longer than his portrayer.
However, he was not as old as Jan-Michael Vincent. In the fifth episode of the series, in 1984, it was revealed that Hawke was 34 years old, which would mean he was born in 1950. But Vincent was born in 1944, making the actor six years older than the character.
With the pilot movie, the 55 episodes of his own series, and a guest appearance in one episode of the sequel, Vincent has fulfilled the requirements to gain entrance into the Television Crossover Hall of Fame. But we have one last “appearance” by Stringfellow Hawke to be considered for his tally.
- The Gold Napoleon (1971)
... Helicopter pilot (uncredited)
From the IMDb:
An attempt to assassinate an art student at the Côte d'Azur airport lead Brett and Danny to a syndicate smuggling gold in the form of counterfeit coins.
This would be a prequel to all of the ‘Airwolf’ projects… if that really is him, that is. Stringfellow Hawke, I mean. I have my doubts it’s Jan-Michael Vincent.
The IMDb has been a great resource for televisiologists like Yours Viewly. (It was even better when you could search the database by the name of a character.) But since it can be edited by anybody who’s a member, there are some people who like to play jokes with the system (although I think for the most part, any misinformation I’ve seen has been due to mistakes.)
There was that time right after the first season of ‘Lost’ when an actress and a new character were suddenly in the cast credits. There was much speculation about her but as it turned out, it was all for naught. She never showed up in the series, not the actress, not the character.
The helicopter pilot in that episode of ‘The Persuaders!’ was too far away to be satisfactorily identified as being Jan-Michael Vincent. And what was he doing over there in Europe at that time. He was working on episodes of shows like ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Men At Law’ during the same period.
But because the chopper pilot can’t be verified as being Jan-Michael Vincent, that doesn’t mean it’s not Stringfellow Hawke. If this is a recastaway, we don’t even have any splainin to do. Who’s to say it’s not Jan-Michael Vincent?
The bigger question would be why was Stringfellow Hawke there? Was it where he was shipped with his unit for training during the Cold War? Maybe when he got his three-day passes, he might have used his skills to take free-lance jobs like this one.
But you know what? We’ve got his three official, separate, appearances in Earth Prime-Time. If you don’t want to accept this fourth possibility as being Hawke, then ignore it. Me, I’m going to accept it, whether he’s played by Vincent or not. After all, Toobworld is my sandbox. You can do what you like with yours.
Welcome to the Hall, Stringfellow. I’m sorry it was under these conditions….