Stories and impressions about Jon-Erik from the ones he worked with.
"Jon-Erik Hexum appreciated the attention he was receiving. He wasn't arrogant or conceited like other stars. He was extremely considerate and kind. He was genuinely sincere and never pretentious. He never took his success for granted - he was always appreciative of what he had."
Publicist Guy Thomas reports that Hexum once came into his office wearing a pair of vintage 1958, winged, rhinestone-studded specs, held together with a safety pin at one side. His own glasses were broken so he'd borrowed an old pair from his mother. He wore them totally straight-faced, and left without explanation or comment. Thomas grins, "My new assistant was appalled. She said, 'That's Jon-Erik Hexum?'" -Playgirl Magazine, November 1984
"What can I say?" mourned Guy Thomas, Hexum's personal publicist, after the accident. "He was just a kid who wanted to be a star." He was that and more: he was a person of fiber.
"He was not what you'd call a big star. He was, however, on his way to becoming one. Jon-Erik Hexum had all the right qualities - and then some. He was tall, exceptionally good looking, talented and engaging. Best of all, perhaps, he had a quality that was all too rare: humility. At 26 years old, Jon-Erik Hexum knew exactly who he was - he was secure enough with himself to treat others with an open and generous heart. He was that rare actor who came to interviews on time and alone: no pretenses, no entourage, no hangers on."
"When the rumor mills tried to "invent" a real life romance between Jon-Erik and Joan Collins, it was Jon-Erik who refuted those false rumors immediately. He had integrity."
"When he landed Cover-Up, in the late spring of 1984 - he knew the series could be a big step for him. He took his role as Mac Harper very seriously and tried his best to make the show work. It was working - more and more people were beginning to tune in and Jon-Erik seemed to be truly on his way to the success he so richly deserved."
"Jon-Erik's true humility and generosity has left a legacy - in the form of his organ donation, so that others may live life to the fullest. In death, as well as in life, Jon-Erik was giving and loving, and his life was just beginning."
"Jon-Erik Hexum and I were both very young at the time I met him and he was at the beginning of his career. He was extremely professional and concerned about doing his absolute best. I remember we met prior to filming to discuss the part and our relationship for the show because it was to be the one time his character really fell in love. I think we went out for a sandwich and played foosball of all things. He was very sweet and funny. Quite a likable guy.
Jon-Erik was always up and positive. He also had a realistic grasp of the industry and when I met him he was still living in a small apartment and driving an inexpensive car. I remember saying to him "You're the star of a TV series, why don't you get a condo and treat yourself to a better car?" He told me you never know what will happen in this business and of course he was right.
We kept in touch for a couple of years and then he moved on to other shows and more work. I believe if he had had the chance he would have been a great film actor and moved on to even bigger things. The camera LOVED him and he was so committed I know he would have continued to grow as an artist."
He called Hexum "a hundred and ten percenter." Attempting to describe the way he works with clients, LeMond leaps to his feet and bursts into a frenzied bout of ya-ya shaking. "You know," he says, "when you're an Ikette behind Tina Turner and you're up there shaking away and she's up there shaking away, well, as long as she's in front shaking just as hard or even harder, you can't bitch, you just keep right on shaking! That's how it is with Jon-Erik."
"There's no denying his looks. But everyone under 25 is gorgeous these days. Managers don't handle many people, so you go with people you believe will be stars. Jon-Erik has what I call star energy."
I had always envisioned the part (of Phineas Bogg) for someone older than Jon-Erik, someone in their mid-thirties. But Joel Thurm (head of casting for NBC) said, 'I want you to see this guy.' I said he was too young, but Joel replied, 'I don't care. I want you to see him." So Jon-Erik came in and auditioned for us, and he walked out of the room with the part. I decided I'd do whatever I had to do to change the script to accommodate Jon-Erik. The guy just projected a tremendous amount of charisma. The star power was pretty blinding. He was nervous, but he really just blew us away."
"He was rough; I think we even bought him his SAG card. He had just started acting, but he grew quickly. I think he got better and better as we went along, more and more relaxed in front of the camera. Occasionally, we had to go a few extra takes than we wanted in order to get his performance up to par, but he was always very cooperative and anxious to do the very best that he could. He was always gung ho, one of those people you just feel privileged to have known. He was always upbeat and supportive of everyone around him, never a jerk. He always exhibited the very best behavior you could expect for anyone in his situation."
"There was this great spark between us. We built our friendship early on. When we went in for our wardrobe fittings, Jon-Erik brought a football and said, 'Hey, why don't we just walk around the backlot throwing the football and get to know each other better.' I said, 'That sounds like a great idea.'
When you walk around the backlot of a studio, especially in the old days when studios were what they used to be, you'd be walking through time...you'd walk from New Your City into Cairo or some other wonderful part of the world.
My mom waited while we had this great afternoon of just walking through time together, which was so fitting because that is what we spent the next year doing, pretending we were in different worlds in different times and visiting different places in history."
Jon-Erik was still relatively new to Los Angeles and was far away from his home and family, and perhaps a little lonely. Peluce's family took him in, and they all became very close.
"He was essentially the kid from out of town. For most of the show he lived in his funny little apartment in Venice that he paid $350 a month for with his beat-up little car. Every morning, before work, he would go running on the beach, and then go work out after filming ended. He was really a superhero."
Peluce also remembers Jack as "A fun-loving individual who liked to show off, but with good-hearted mirth. He was always laughing, we were always laughing. In an era of hunks, he was such a genuine guy, warm-hearted, funny, outgoing, self-effacing, that you couldn't help but be won over by him. All the women who came on the show were instantly won over, and usually took him home.
"I was the old timer on the set (of Voyagers!) I was 12 years old and had been acting since I was 7. Jon was brand new to it.
First day on the set, he pulls me over to the side and said, 'How come you're on the other side of the camera?' I said, 'Jon, this is your close up.' He didn't know how any of it worked. He was a quick study. He approached everything with single mindedness."
"It was great to watch his career take off and off and off."
"Jon had just been up to the house and had dinner two nights before he died. I had a teenage daughter, and he gave her one of those set chairs with her name on it. It was her first crush at thirteen."
Looking into Hexum's blue eyes seem to have an effect on many people. Joel Thrum came away from his interview raving.
"His eyes had a clear, direct look. He has a presence I haven't seen in an actor since I first met John Travolta."
Famous Journalist/Newscaster Peter Jennings was dying to meet Zsa Zsa Gabor and her little chihuahua at the St. Andrews/NPR Celebrity Croquet Gala.
However she was too busy posing for a picture with Jon-Erik. She is quoted as saying, "Eat your heart out, Joan Collins!"
Now there's a catfight I'd pay good money to see! Zsa Zsa Gabor vs. Joan Collins. Celebrity Death match.
I am so there. Someone please pass the popcorn!
"I was shocked and ill for a week after Jon-Erik's death. Jon was one of the good guys. So many actors out here think they're hot stuff, and they're the first to be jealous. But not him. We were cut from the same mold. It was nice to meet another gentleman."
"I didn't know Jon-Erik's work before they flew me out for talks (for Cover Up.) We met for half an hour and I felt we could work well together. Afterwards, he drove me to the airport. You can tell a lot about people by the kind of cars they drive (Jack drove a '54 Chevy). He was definite about wanting us to get to know as much as we could about each other on that drive. He was very intense and in a big rush. He reminded me of my brother. I liked him.
"He was so anxious for me to see his work that he gave me some videotapes (Voyagers! and The Bear). His humor came through on those tapes. The series has a lot of banter, and I knew he'd be good at give and take. I refused series in the past. But the fact that Jon-Erik was in the show helped persuade me. With another leading man I might not have accepted."
For 8 years, I lived a door away from Meeno Peluce, all during the time of Voyagers! and beyond. I had the good fortune to see Jon-Erik twice. Once, he was actually taking the trash for Meeno’s family out to the street. I looked at him because he looked so vaguely familiar. He said, “Hi, how are you?” And I said, “I’m fine, thanks; how are you?: And I kept walking.
Then I stopped in my tracks and realized who I had just talked to! He had no shirt on; I’m sure you would’ve enjoyed seeing him that day!
Meeno was a wonderful neighbor, a kind, thoughtful kid. He always stopped to say hi. In fact, I had a Meeno Peluce fan club gathering in my house once, and Meeno came in to say hi to the club president and everyone, I often wonder what happened to him.
I have all the Voyagers! episodes of course, as any Jon/Meeno fan would, and in fact have all the scripts from the series. I have some dupes of the mags JEH was on the cover of. I videotaped JEH in fact at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films symposium, and took some shots of him and Meeno together that day. Wonderful memories.
It was an oppressively hot August day. Except for the occasional limp attempt at conversation, no one said a word, as if the heat of our breath might raise the room temperature even higher. We had already been sitting in the overdecorated living room for more than a half-hour; the clutter of knickknacks on every available surface began to seem calculated to make the guest feel claustrophobic and rob the room of oxygen.
I sat slumped on the couch, shifting around irritably, unable to find a position to avoid soaking my clothes in sweat. Jon-Erik Hexum's publicist, Guy Thomas, looked pensive; he nervously tapped his white-loafered foot on the floor. Looking fresh and coolly unperturbed in short cutoffs, tennis shoes and a light t-shirt, Jon-Erik stood in front of a piano in the corner and played a vague, improvised tune.
Guy and I occasionally looked at our wrist watches and dumbly announced the time, wondering out loud where Hexum's Cover Up co-star Jennifer O'Neill might be, since it was her living room we were sitting in. Twice a uniformed maid appeared, once to announce that hot coffee was available and another time to say that O'Neill had just called to explain that she was stuck in a traffic jam on the Pacific Coast Highway.
I didn't much feel like being there anyway, given that I wouldn't actually conduct an interview with the two co-stars. Instead, this would be a "celebrity dialog" - I was only to monitor the conversation and make sure the cassette tape was flipped over when the tape ran out.
I must admit that I didn't anticipate their discussion to be a stimulating one. It has been my experience that "hunks" like Jon-Erik are usually capable of two kinds of talk: either monosyllabic statements delivered with laid-back boredom or monosyllabic statements dished up with obligatory flirtatiousness - the latter of which usually makes me suspect that at any moment the actor will offer up a flexed bicep and suggest that I give it a squeeze. Jon-Erik had said little more than "hello" since my arrival at O'Neill's Beverly Hills home, so I had no cause to think him any different. At least, I figured, he was not wearing a body shirt unbuttoned down to his navel.
As the minutes ticked by, I began to glare at Thomas out of the corner of my eye, letting him know that if the weather had not been so enervating I would have departed and left him to babysit the tape recorder.
Just as my mood changed from impatient to tense, Jon-Erik began to wander around the room from end table to mantle to coffee table. With each stop he would gesture toward an object - a set of china pigs, some long-necked papier mache dogs, a gargantuan glass horsehead - as if to underscore its ridiculousness. At one point he pretended he was in a department store purchasing these animal artifacts. "Can you imagine going to buy one of these things?" he said, turning to me. "Excuse me, sir," Hexum intoned, "I'd like one glass horsehead please. Oh, and while you're at it, can you throw in a few of those china piggies?"
Hexum's clowning was clearly devised to deflect my growing anger. Later, when O'Neill finally arrived, he would use this same good-natured wit to sidestep his co-star's puzzling attempts to belittle him, displaying a quiet dignity in his refusal to let O'Neill's vitriol derail him. Before her arrival, though, I had already realized that I had been mistaken about Hexum. "If she doesn't come soon, we're going to have to go through the medicine cabinet," I joked. "Nope," replied Jon-Erik, flopping down on the couch. "I already did that."
I don't flatter myself by thinking that my afternoon with Hexum means that I knew and understood him, but he seemed an intelligent and thoughtful man whose ambition was to have his talent eventually transcend the marketability of his appearance.
It was almost 30 years ago when I photographed Jon-Erik Hexum for the Morning Exchange show (10/83) and the Live on 5 Show (11/83). I was shooting pictures for the teen magazines, and I do believe they published a few of them.
I remember just how strikingly handsome he was, but he was also very down-to-earth and gracious.
He met Bob Golic of the Cleveland Browns football team that day, and he seemed to really enjoy that.
The shots I got of him looking up at the TV monitor were great portraits because he alternated between being very intense at times, and laughing at other times.
He was watching clips of his himself on Cover-Up, and it was obvious that he cared very much about his work, he was analyzing his performance as he watched.
I remember him being very likable, a very real person. I didn't get to have a lot of interaction with him that day, but I was very impressed with him as an individual. And he was absolutely gorgeous.
"I think it was 1993 when I met Emma Samms. She was promoting the Starlight Foundation at a figurine business near my home. I told her I was a big fan of Jon-Erik Hexum's, and she melted when I mentioned his name. She told me he was a fantastic piano player, and loved children. She made sure to include the people standing nearby in the conversation by explaining who Jon-Erik was, and how the media claimed he'd been playing Russian Roulette. She knew that idea was ridiculous, as did I, and I said I could understand how the accident could have happened, with him thinking the gun would be safe. I told her that I was an artist, that Jon-Erik was an inspiration to me, and that I'd won many contests with the portraits I had painted of him. She tilted her head, and said he was very lucky to have a fan like me. She was moved that someone still remembered Jon-Erik Hexum."
Check out our dear friend Bill's Album of Jon-Erik inspired artwork! It's fantastic! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bill, and your amazing artwork!
"I met Jon-Erik once. He was a perfect gentleman and very talented. I'm sure he is missed by his many fans, friends and family."
When Ann wrote to me to share her memories of Jack, she took time out of her very busy schedule to send a hand written note on her personal stationary. Ann is such an inspiration to women everywhere, with the way she conquered breast cancer, but this gesture shows that she's a a real class act besides.
Ann, thank you so much for your letter, it touched my heart. You're amazing!