Jon-Erik's career spanned only 2 years, yet he made quite an impression on many people in that short time. What
made him stand out so much? His personification of the hero myth so eloquently described by Joseph Campbell, perhaps.
Says Campbell: "When a person becomes a model for other people's lives, he has moved into the sphere of being mythologized...I
remember, when I was a boy, Douglas Fairbanks was the model for me. Adolphe Menjou was the model for my brother.
Of course those men were playing the roles of mythic figures. They were educators toward life." (The Power of Myth)
Unlike many other performers, however, Jon-Erik represented this process not so much in his roles, but
in the person he was off screen, a role model for "good ambition" and relentless determination to achieve personal excellence,
an example to inspire us along our own life paths.
Here is a brief look at some of his better known work:
The Bear (1984), Directed by Richard Sarafian
Unfortunately, most of Jon-Erik's work in this film fell on the cutting room floor before it was released. He'd
taken the part of terminally ill Quarterback Pat Trammell in this tribute to coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant on the strength
of a dramatic death scene, which was omitted from the final cut. He nonetheless manages to shine in what little we see
of him, and holds his own with veteran actor Gary Busey, who played the title role. Until recently, this pic had
all but disappeared from Earth, but one of our members was able to track it down and provide a copy for the club archives.
It represented Jon-Erik's sole performance in a feature film, and was released just three short weeks before his death.
Which role do you think reflected Jon-Erik's true personality the most? Many people who know him said that Phineas Bogg,
his character on Voyagers!, most closely resembled his real self. Says one friend, "When he was playing
Phineas, that was Jon-Erik, playful, bumbling....a good-natured con artist!"
Cover Up (1984) CBS-TV
How's this for a premise? Jon-Erik is a CIA ex-Green Beret spy posing as a male model, working for a fellow operative
(Jennifer O'Neill) who poses as his photographer and modeling agent. Sounds like they took his TV movie, Making
of a Male Model, and turned it into the A-Team. Jennifer probably looked better in a holster than Joan.
Jon-Erik probably thought it would be an opportunity to move beyond the hunk image, but unfortunately most of the stories
in this Glen Larson series were borrowed from old Simon & Simon and Magnum PI scripts. Though
it promised to deliver exotic locales and a snazzy MTV style, most of the exotic lands looked suspiciously like Southern
California. This was the show Jon-Erik was working on when he had his fatal accident. He was replaced a few weeks
later by former acting class buddy, Tony Hamilton, but the series couldn't tread water without Jon-Erik and was canceled in
Making of a Male Model (1983) NBC-TV
This sweeps-week favorite featured Jon-Erik as Nevada ranch-hand, Tyler Burnett, who, while one day playing around in
his crop duster has a near collision with Joan Collins' hair as she happens to be driving through town. As Manhattan
super agent Kay Dillon, she doesn't have patience for such behavior. When she angrily confronts him about his reckless
plane-steering, she realizes she's happened upon the latest "it" boy, so she ships him off in short order to Gotham, where
she grooms and molds him into a professional model.
Complete with a cheesy seventies-sounding soundtrack and an over-the-top performance by Jeff Conaway as Tyler's gay,
over-the-hill model-cum-bitter-alcoholic roommate, who shows us what happens when male models turn 40. They get
very jaded and a bit hystrionic. Conaway's character finally overdoses, leaving a teary Tyler to comment, "They
didn't give you much time on the yellow brick road, did they my friend?"
Though the film is thoroughly campy and cliche-ridden, there is something at a deeper level that speaks about the meaning
of success, and Jon-Erik is able to find that conflict and to rise above the material. It's not particularly deep, but
then it's not meant to be.
Hotel (1983) ABC-TV
Hotel was a landlubber's Love Boat, a popular 80's show that featured different romantic couples who
meet, have an unfortunate misunderstanding which somehow threatens their relationship, and then manage to patch things up
by the end of the show. Jon-Erik guest-starred in a 1983 episode as a valiant Prince Charming in this adaptation
of the old Cinderella story. Emma Samms plays his romantic interest, a role she performed so convincingly that she continued
it for a while in real life.
Voyagers! (1982-83) NBC-TV
This series catapaulted Jon-Erik from cleaning offices to TV stardom. As lovable and somewhat clumsy history-fixer Phineas
Bogg, he ends up on the New York City window ledge of 12-year-old Jeffrey Jones (Meeno Peluce), after his time-traveling device
-- the omni -- gets stuck in automatic mode, sending him to 1982. With an exasperated cry of "Bat's Breath!",
Bogg breaks through Jeffrey's bedroom window, just as Jeffrey's dog latches on to his guidebook. In the confusion,
Jeff and Bogg fall out the window, and promptly disappear into the space-time continuum. Bogg is lost without
the guidebook, and his history ain't so good, so Jeffrey sticks around to provide technical information and the two busy themselves
making sure it all goes the way it's supposed to. Some of the episodes were superb, and some weren't so superb, but
it was a great way to spend a Sunday night if you didn't feel like listening to Andy Rooney drone away on 60 Minutes.
Despite the show's popularity among young viewers, Andy managed to woo away the Nielsen ratings, and Voyagers!
was soon....history. But it didn't go without a fight: angry fans wrote in, and the show was extended for a few
more weeks. Unfortunately, though, it left us with only 20 episodes. Nonetheless, NBC knew they were on to a good
idea and revamped the series a few years later, sans mop-topped boy in rugby shirt, and called it Quantum Leap.
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