Dec 11, 2012

The 24 Months of Jon-Erik Hexum

In the early 1980s, we were holding out for a hero.  As the song goes,

He's gotta be sure, and it's gotta be soon,
And he's gotta be bigger than life.


We got Jon-Erik Hexum.  But he was a gift to the world for only 24 months.



Born in New Jersey to Norwegian parents, Jon-Erik hit the L.A. scene days after he graduated from Michigan State in 1980.  He had a number of failed auditions, mostly because casting agents didn't know what to do with him.  He couldn't be a New Sensitive Man: he was massive, with a swoon-inducing hairy chest, massive shoulders, and biceps like baseballs.  But his dark blue eyes, pretty face, and well-groomed hair disqualified him from roles as man-mountains who fight off enemy armies with their fists.

In the fall of 1982, they cast him in the science fiction series Voyagers!: he and his young ward (Meeno Peluce) traveled through time, making sure that historical events turned out right.

It was put on Sunday nights opposite 60 Minutes, which the oldsters liked, and just before Chips: obviously aimed at an audience of kids, especially gay boys, who couldn't forget the sight of Jon-Erik in a brown vest and a white shirt unbuttoned to his navel.




Voyagers! wrapped up after 20 episodes, and Jon-Erik spent the next year being courted as the Next Big Thing.

He starred with super-famous Joan Collins in a tv-movie, The Making of a Male Model (1983).

He played a Prince on an episode of Hotel (1984).

He co-starred with Gary Busey in the football drama The Bear (1984).

There were rumors of destructive behavior, fast cars, all-night clubbing, orgies, drugs.  Maybe they were just rumors.  Or maybe Jon-Erik was becoming too famous, too fast.



He was often seen dancing in gay clubs, so maybe he was gay in real life.  Or maybe he just liked the adoration of both male and female fans.

Later in 1984 he landed the starring role in Cover-Up, a tv series about a male model and a female photographer who go undercover in exotic locations to solve crimes. He filmed six episodes.

While filming the seventh, on October 12th, 1984, he was playing Russian roulette with a gun loaded with blanks. Or maybe he was just joking around.  Apparently he didn't know that at close range, blanks can kill.

Cover-Up tried to slog on without him, but after 22 episodes it was cancelled.

The world tried to slog on without him, too.