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Tarpon Springs man remembers best friend actor Jeff Conaway

2:20 AM, May 29, 2011   |    comments
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TARPON SPRINGS, FLORIDA -- You may know him as John Travolta's wingman in the musical Grease - delivering the line, "A hickey from Kinickie is like a Hallmark card" - from the sitcom Taxi, or more recently from VH-1's Celebrity Rehab.

But to Ian Stevens of Tarpon Springs, Jeff Conaway was like a brother. "He was one of my best friends and it was a shock to me," Stevens said, holding back tears.

Stevens and Conaway became close while working together in Hollywood. Stevens' living room has several framed pictures of the two, along with other friends. Conaway is even the godfather to Stevens' son, named Jeffrey in his friend's honor.

"I'm glad I have that to keep with me the rest of my life," Stevens said.

Conaway, 60, died Friday after weeks of suffering from pneumonia. He battled drug and alcohol addiction for years, which friends say tore apart his immune system.

Stevens told 10 News he recently tried to get Conaway to move to Tarpon Springs and escape the Hollywood lifestyle. "I offered that to Jeff and he was thinking about it," he said, "and then the last couple of weeks he took a turn for the worse."

Stevens says, in one sense, Conaway leaves his mark on the Bay area. He says on Christmas he brings his kids to All Children's Hospital in St. Pete to hand out toys to kids, something he was inspired to do by Conaway.

"He prompted me to start working and doing volunteer work down at the homeless shelters," Stevens said.

Conaway also appeared in the Bold and the Beautiful, Who's the Boss?, and Happy Days.

But friends say he embraced the fact that he would always be most recognized for his roles in Grease and Taxi.

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