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Jon-Erik Hexum

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Jon-Erik Hexum
BornNovember 5, 1957
DiedOctober 18, 1984(1984-10-18) (aged 26)
Cause of deathAccidental self-inflicted gunshot wound
Occupation(s)Actor, model
Years active1982–1984

Jon-Erik Hexum (/ˈhɛksəm/; November 5, 1957 – October 18, 1984) was an American actor and model, known for his lead roles in the TV series Voyagers! and Cover Up, and his supporting role as Pat Trammell in the biopic The Bear. He died by an accidental self-inflicted blank cartridge gunshot to the head on the set of Cover Up.[1] He was seen as the "next big thing" in Hollywood prior to his death, due to his looks, charisma, and ambition.[2][3][4]

Life and career


Hexum was born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1957, to Thorleif Andreas Hexum, a Norwegian immigrant, and Gretha Olivia (née Paulsen) Hexum, a Minnesota-born American of Norwegian parentage.[5] He and his elder brother Gunnar were raised in Tenafly by their mother after their parents divorced when Hexum was four.[6]

After graduating from Tenafly High School, Hexum went on to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to study biomedical engineering,[7] and soon transferred to Michigan State University in East Lansing. During that time, he worked as a radio disc jockey, played football for the Spartans in 1978, and acted in minor stage roles.[8]

A few days after graduation, he moved to New York in 1980 to pursue his acting career. While working as an apartment cleaner, he met Bob LeMond of LeMond/Zetter Management, John Travolta's manager. LeMond saw great potential in Hexum.[9] At LeMond's urging, Hexum relocated to Los Angeles in September 1981 to audition for a movie called Summer Lovers; he lost the part to Peter Gallagher.

However, Hexum did win the lead role in the 1982-1983 NBC TV series Voyagers! as Phineas Bogg, a former pirate turned time traveler.[10] Hexum was then cast opposite Joan Collins in the made-for-television movie Making of a Male Model, also starring Jeff Conaway and Roxie Roker.[9]

Hexum was a guest star in a 1984 episode of ABC's primetime drama Hotel, playing Prince Erik, a Prince Charming–type character. Later in 1984, Hexum was cast opposite Jennifer O'Neill in the CBS primetime series Cover Up, playing Mac Harper, an undercover CIA operative posing as a model. That same year Hexum played terminally ill quarterback Pat Trammell, a small role in the feature film The Bear, a tribute to University of Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, played by Gary Busey. The Bear would be Hexum's sole feature film performance, released just three weeks before his death. Prior to the accident he had started a relationship with actress E.G. Daily.[11]



On October 12, 1984, the cast and crew of Cover Up were filming the seventh episode of the series, "Golden Opportunity", on Stage 18 of the 20th Century Fox lot. One of the scenes filmed that day called for Hexum's character to load cartridges into a .44 Magnum handgun, so he was provided with a functional gun and blanks. When the scene did not play as the director wanted it to in the master shot, there was a delay in filming. Hexum became restless and impatient during the delay and began playing around to lighten the mood. He had unloaded all but one (blank) round, spun it, and—simulating Russian roulette—he put the revolver to his right temple and pulled the trigger, unaware of the danger.[12]

The explosive effect of the muzzle blast caused enough blunt force trauma to fracture a quarter-sized piece of his skull and propel this into his brain, causing massive hemorrhaging.[6][13]

Hexum was rushed to Beverly Hills Medical Center, where he underwent five hours of surgery to repair his wounds.[1][13] On October 18, aged 26, six days after the accident, Hexum was declared brain dead.

With his mother's permission, his body was flown to San Francisco on life support, where his heart was transplanted into a 36-year-old Las Vegas man at California Pacific Medical Center.[14] Hexum's kidneys and corneas were also donated: One cornea went to a 66-year-old man, the other to a young girl. One of the kidney recipients was a critically ill five-year-old boy, and the other was a 43-year-old grandmother of three who had waited eight years for a kidney. Skin that was donated was used to treat a 3+12-year-old boy with third-degree burns.[15]

Hexum's body was then flown back to Los Angeles. He was cremated at Grandview Crematory in Glendale, California, and a private funeral was held. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean, near Malibu, California, by his mother. He left an estate estimated to be worth $255,000.[10] The death was ruled accidental.[16] His mother later received an out-of-court settlement from 20th Century Fox Television and Glen A. Larson Productions, the production company behind Cover Up.[6]

The episode on which Hexum had been working was broadcast on November 3, 1984, two weeks after his death. Cover Up continued production without Hexum's character. Three weeks later, in the episode "Writer's Block", aired on November 24, Antony Hamilton was introduced as agent Jack Striker, posing as a new member of the modeling team.[17] Hexum's character Mac is noticeably absent, said to be on another mission. At the end of the episode, Henry Towler (Richard Anderson) breaks the news that Mac has been killed on the other assignment and would not be coming back.[18] As the tears flow, the camera pulls back, and a memoriam written by Glen Larson appears on-screen:

When a star dies, its light continues to shine across the universe for millenniums. John Eric [sic] Hexum died in October of this year ... but the lives he touched will continue to be brightened by his light ... forever ... and ever.


Year Title Role Notes
1982–1983 Voyagers! Phineas Bogg 20 episodes
1983 Voyager from the Unknown Phineas Bogg Edit of episodes 1 and 15 of the TV Series Voyagers!
1983 Making of a Male Model Tyler Burnett Television movie
1984 Hotel Prince Erik Episode: "Tomorrows"
1984 The Bear Pat Trammell
1984 Cover Up Mac Harper 8 episodes

See also



  1. ^ a b "Actor remains in critical condition". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. October 14, 1984. p. 9A.
  2. ^ Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Pub. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-7407-5118-9.
  3. ^ Snauffer, Douglas (2008). The Show Must Go On: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7864-3295-0. OCLC 173241129.
  4. ^ Morris, Eric (2014). My Hollywood Stories. Los Angeles, CA: Ermor Enterprises. p. 93. ISBN 978-0983629948.
  5. ^ "Thorleif Hexum". My Heritage. 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Jon-Erik Hexum's Fatal Joke". Entertainment Weekly. October 14, 1994. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  7. ^ Plummer, William (October 29, 1984). "A Bright, Brief Star: A Tragic On-Set Accident Ends the Sweet, Promising Career of Jon-Erik Hexum, a Nice Guy on His Way to Finishing First". People. Accessed October 9, 2018.
  8. ^ Parish, James Robert (2001). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols. McGraw Hill. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-8092-2227-8.
  9. ^ a b Wallace, David (October 11, 1983). "On and Off Camera, Joan Collins Helps in the Making of Male Model Jon-Erik Hexum". People. Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Russell, Sue (November 1984). "Jon-Erik Hexum: Exploring Hunk Hexum, the Sexiest Shape on America's Small Screens". Playgirl. Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2010.
  11. ^ The Million Dollar Voice Of Nickelodeon | From Broke To $30,000 Per Hour, retrieved August 15, 2023
  12. ^ Donnelley, Paul (June 1, 2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (2nd ed.). Omnibus Press. pp. 333–334. ISBN 978-0-7119-9512-3. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  13. ^ a b "Actor Wounds Himself On Set of TV Series". The New York Times. October 14, 1984.
  14. ^ "Las Vegas Escort Operator Is Given Heart of TV Actor". The New York Times. October 23, 1984. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  15. ^ Weber, Phyllis (October 24, 1984). "Letter to Gretha Hexum". Northern California Transplant Bank. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  16. ^ "Wounding of Actor on Coast Is Laid to Russian Roulette". The New York Times. October 18, 1984. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  17. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (June 24, 2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-3074-8320-1. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  18. ^ Meisler, Andy (November 8, 1992). "TELEVISION; When a Series Loses One of Its Own". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2008.