October 18, 2007

October 18 | Jon-Erik Hexum

November 5, 1957 - October 18, 1984: Age 26

Jon-Erik Hexum was an actor and model. His good looks branded him as a "hunk", much to his dismay: he wanted a more interesting career than the one that a sex-symbol reputation tends to yield.

In 1984 he was filming a show called Cover Up, where he played a leading role as a fashion model who was really an undercover CIA agent. His co-star Jennifer O'Neill chewed him out on-set at one point because he was constantly fiddling with guns, playing with them as though they were toys. She would know: she had accidentally shot herself in the abdomen two years earlier while checking if a gun were loaded.

After finishing a scene in which he fired a revolver with blank rounds, there was a long delay. Bored by the delay, as a lark, he put the gun to his temple and said "Let's see if I get myself with this one." He didn't know that the blanks used on film sets are actually dangerous at close range. The paper wadding that seals the gunpowder into the shell is fired out of the barrel at a velocity that can injure at close range. The wadding struck him in the temple with enough force that a piece of his skull was shattered and propelled into his brain. After five hours of surgery and six days on a respirator, he was pronounced brain dead.

Source: Wikipedia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to meet Jon just before he died. It was on 6 October 1984, in New York City when he was a guest on the TV show FIVE AT FIVE at NBC in Rockefeller Center. At that time I was a photographer’s assistant, and went along to help carry heavy equipment. The foyer and lifts where absolutely crammed, so I decided to rather take the stairs up to the third floor. Big mistake!

Halfway up, a gent who was on his way down offered to help me, as he could see I was clearly struggling. Turns out the gent in question was none other than Jon Eric Hexum, who was rushing to take a telephone call prior to the show and clearly also thought the stairs would be quicker...

He said something like, "Here, let me help you get this thing outta the way before someone trips over you" as he had almost done. "Are you going up ?", he asked pointing at the door he had just come out of. I nodded like a zombie and he grabbed the one end of the bag. I was gob smacked! I just couldn't believe it! Jon Erik-Hexum was offering to help get me out the way! I was a fan, but this seemed almost surreal, like a dream or something! But worse was to come...

Hexum, you understand, had grabbed the bag and was going backwards and upwards while pulling it along, so theoretically he only had to push the door at the top open and go through. But, as luck would have it, the damn thing seemed to be jammed. He tried to push it with his back (I recall him grumbling that it wouldn't open), but after a few attempts it suddenly gave way and he and the bag stumbled into the crowded 3rd floor foyer - with myself still in tow!

And then it happened. As if in slow motion, he suddenly let go of his end of the bag - which promptly ended up on his left foot, weight and all! I just couldn't believe it! He grimaced, but said he was ok, and looked at me for a few seconds as if to say, "hey man, what's your story?".

I was mortified! I apologized to him and shook his hand as if that would have made thigs better. He simply said "I'll be fine, ta. See ya" and, smiling that million dollar grin, excused himself with "I must take a telephone call" while at the same time gesturing down the stairwell. He patted me on the shoulder and then promptly turned on his heels and went down the stairs again.

Needless to say, I was too embarrassed to move and just stood there for a few seconds trying to take in what had just happened. For the rest of that evening I kept thinking that he'd be limping on the set of 'Cover Up', thanks to me!

Days later, when I heard on the evening news on 18 October 1984 that Jon Erik-Hexum had died, I emmediatly thought of that charming, handsome man I had met on the stairwell that evening and who was kind enough to help me with that damn bag while others simply passed by.

Yes, even to this day I still remember his face (albeit grimacing) as clear as if it were yesterday, and I am still filled with sorrow when I think that someone with such promise is gone forever, taken by the most stupid of mistakes. A real tragedy, and a terrible waste indeed…

The well-known axiom “Only the beautiful die young” could easily have referred to Jon Eric Hexum.

By the way, I haven't the heart to get rid of that old duffel bag...