Taxi Actors You May Not Know Passed Away
“Taxi” enlivened TV screens with its charismatic cast and smooth, jazzy theme song. For six years, viewers got to know and love the various drivers who worked for the Sunshine Cab Company. The characters often pined for more fulfilling careers than carting around New Yorkers but encountered obstacles pursuing their dream jobs. The Emmy-winning sitcom ran on ABC from 1978 until its cancellation in 1982. NBC gave “Taxi” a second chance by airing its 5th and final season, which ended on June 15, 1983, per IMDb.
After the garage closed for good, many actors from “Taxi” continued gaining fame. Christopher Lloyd, who acted as the spacey genius Reverend Jim Ignatowski, portrayed another brilliant eccentric and one of fiction’s most beloved time travelers — Emmett “Doc” Brown. Danny DeVito has gone from cracking up the baby boomer generation as cantankerous dispatcher Louie De Palma to turning “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” into a hit as the outrageous Frank Reynolds.
Along with Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman played one of the most hilarious and popular parts on “Taxi” as Latka Gravas. A pioneer of anti-humor, Kaufman entertained and puzzled audiences with his intentionally awkward lip-syncing of the “Mighty Mouse Theme Song” and bizarre appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman.” On May 16, 1984, the one-of-a-kind performer would no longer express his comedic brilliance to the world, as he died of lung cancer at 35 years old. While Kaufman’s death has been widely discussed for decades, here are some actors from “Taxi” you may not have known passed away.
J. Alan Thomas appeared in acclaimed comedies in the '70s and '80s
In 70 episodes of “Taxi,” J. Alan Thomas played Jeff Bennett, the reticent assistant of Louie De Palma. While he was mainly a background performer with only a few lines, Thomas transitioned into a more significant supporting role in the Season 5 episode “Crime and Punishment.” He acted on the cabbie-centric comedy beginning with its second episode and remained a cast member until the series finale.
In 1984, Thomas moved from the dispatch cage to the bar by playing a different Jeff in the iconic sitcom “Cheers.” He reunited with his fellow “Taxi” dispatcher Danny DeVito in the darkly comic 1987 film “Throw Momma from the Train.” IMDb indicates that Thomas’ final on-screen appearance was in his “Taxi” co-star Andy Kaufman’s biopic “Man on the Moon,” which features Jim Carrey as the attention-grabbing anti-comedian. On April 15, 2007, he died at the age of 56 in Los Angeles, California, according to the website Find a Grave.
Jeff Conaway struggled with addiction in the years following Taxi
Jeff Conaway was off to a promising start as a young actor in the 1970s. After landing guest gigs on hit sitcoms like “Happy Days” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” he got his big break in 1978 when he played his two most memorable parts — Bobby Wheeler in “Taxi” and Kenickie in the movie musical “Grease.” In four seasons of “Taxi,” Conaway portrayed the hopeful thespian who often struggled for success on both stage and screen. He exited “Taxi” at the end of its 3rd season but would emerge one last time in the 12th episode of the 4th season, titled “Bobby Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”
Conaway continued acting in numerous, but less recognizable roles. In the years after “Taxi,” the former “Grease” star made the news more for his substance use than for his achievements in the entertainment industry. Per People, Conaway started taking prescription drugs in the 1980s and had difficulties maintaining his health. He sought help in the 2000s on the reality shows “Celebrity Fit Club” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” On May 27, 2011, Conaway died at 60 from an infection. A coroner determined that his death was accidental, according to an article from The Hollywood Reporter.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Jack Gilford's acting career spanned half a century
Jack Gilford spent a little over 50 years acting in everything from Broadway plays to TV comedies. He also received acclaim for his performances in feature films like “Catch-22” and “Save the Tiger,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1974.
On “Taxi,” Gilford played Joe Reiger, the dad of Judd Hirsch’s character, Alex Reiger. The patriarch and his son had a strained relationship, which was displayed throughout two episodes. Gilford debuted on “Taxi” in the Season 2 episode “Honor Thy Father” and would appear a final time in the 6th episode of the 4th season.
The veteran entertainer continued guest-starring in sitcoms like “Mama’s Family,” “Night Court,” and “Head of the Class” throughout the 1980s. According to IMDb, his last television performance was in the 1989 detective series “B.L. Stryker.” As reported by The New York Times, Gilford died of stomach cancer on June 4, 1990, at the age of 81.
Marcia Wallace went from sitcom star to voice acting icon
Marcia Wallace made a noteworthy name for herself by starring in 140 episodes of “The Bob Newhart Show.” She played sardonic secretary Carol Kester until the critically commended comedy concluded on April 1, 1978. On “Taxi,” Wallace appeared as herself on the 5th season premiere “Love Un-American Style.” She goes on a blind date with Reverend Jim — a huge fan of “The Bob Newhart Show.”
While Wallace was a renowned TV star in the ’70s and ’80s, she became beloved by viewers from younger generations as a voice actress. Beginning in 1990, she performed on the influential and long-running animated series “The Simpsons” as Edna Krabappel — a chain-smoking, jaded teacher who is still loving and dedicated at heart. Wallace voiced the exasperated educator for over 20 years and won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for the 1992 episode “Bart The Lover.”
She lent her vocal talents to “The Simpsons” until the Season 25 episode “The Man Who Grew Too Much,” per IMDb. On October 25, 2013, the talented 70-year-old performer died of pneumonia. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Al Jean, executive producer of “The Simpsons,” confirmed that Edna Krabappel would be retired out of respect for Wallace.