Ray Sharkey, starred in movies, 'Wiseguy' on TV

June 13, 1993

LOS ANGELES -- Ray Sharkey, the hard-living actor wh starred as a crime boss in the TV series "Wiseguy," died of AIDS complications, his manager said yesterday. He was 40.

Mr. Sharkey died Friday in a Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital, said Herb Nanas. He had been in Southern California until a week ago when he returned home to New York.

"Doctors said he was supposed to pass away six to eight months ago. He put up the most extraordinary battle," Mr. Nanas said.

Mr. Sharkey battled drug abuse problems through much of his career. Mr. Nanas said last year that the actor was infected with the AIDS virus through intravenous drug use.

Mr. Sharkey, who appeared frequently in movies, won a Golden Globe award for his performance in the 1980 movie "The Idolmaker."

But he was perhaps best known for his role as Atlantic City, N.J., mob boss Sonny Steelgrave in the drama "Wiseguy," which appeared on CBS from 1987 to 1990.

The son of a professional drummer who abandoned the family when he was 5, Mr. Sharkey said he decided to become an actor after seeing Jack Lemmon in the 1962 movie "Days of Wine and Roses."

Throughout his career, he battled cocaine, heroin and alcohol abuse.

He was treated for chemical dependency in 1987, and in July 1992 he was arrested in Canada for heroin possession. The arrest cost him a part in "The Hat Squad" TV series.

He once said of his drug use, "I went at it full blown. It was fun for a while. Then it got crazy, and by 1985 it was sickening."

But despite his troubles he appeared frequently in movies and on television.

His feature film credits included "Trackdown" "Stunts," "Paradise Alley," "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Heartbeat," "Willie and Phil," "Love and Money," "Some Kind of Hero," "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills," "Wired" and last year's "Zebrahead."

On television, he appeared in "Capone in Prison," "Neon Empire," "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" and the series "Barney Miller," "The Jeffersons," "All in the Family," "Starsky and Hutch" and "Crime Story."

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