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Published:July 28th, 2009 17:31 EST

Jan-Michael Vincent's 65th Birthday

By Garrett Godwin

July 15 marked the 65th birthday of Jan-Michael Vincent, one of the hottest actors of film and television.

In the 1970s, he worked with several big names in Hollywood such as Charles Bronson in The Mechanic (1972), George Peppard in Damnation Alley (1977), and Burt Reynolds in Hooper (1978), as he went on to become an heartthrob with classic films such as 1978`s Big Wednesday.

Jan Michael Vincent

In the 1980s, he reached his peak on television, starting with the 1983 miniseries The Winds of War.  But it was Stringfellow Hawke of Airwolf that made Jan-Michael Vincent into a leading romantic and action hero.  The CBS series (1984-86) followed Vincent`s character flying "The Lady" on missions concerning national security on behalf of The FIRM as a freelance spy in exchange for information on the whereabouts of his brother St. John, an American MIA.

Hawke is the predecessor of JAG`s Harmon Rabb, Jr.: idealistic and honorable, holding on the belief that their loved ones are still alive, and hopes to be reunite with them one day.

Airwolf continues to be popular today thanks to syndication, episodes found on, and all three seasons available on DVD. 

However, at his prime and in recent years, Vincent had multiple problems with the law with charges of domestic violence, and his decades-long addictions to alcohol and drugs, which affected production of Airwolf, which at the time was one of the most expensive shows on television with Vincent as one of the highest-paid actors of that time.  After Airwolf, Vincent was demoted to B-list status in low-budget and straight-to-video projects; his last project was the 2002 indie film White Boy.

In 1996, he was in an auto accident that broke three vertebrae in his neck, leaving him with a raspy voice due to damage of his vocal cords after an emergency medical procedure. 

The twice-divorced Vincent has a daughter, Amber, from his first marriage, and is currently living in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Though he hasn`t been onscreen in long time, you can get your Jan-Michael fix thanks to fan-made videos shown on YouTube.

Jan-Michael Vincent had the potential to become a superstar with the looks and talent to back it up.  Today, he`d be in the ranks with Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney.  Sadly, Jan-Michael Vincent is another Hollywood tragedy: an actor with promise in the beginning shone brightly and burned in the middle. 

Let`s hope he`ll be another Hollywood survivor back on the comeback trail in the end.