Jon-Erik Hexum

November 5, 1957 – October 18, 1984

I feel it is a great fortune to have some passion in life and an urgency in direction; it makes our hole being so much fuller.


Jon-Erik Hexum
Jon-Erik Hexum


Someone once said, “If that boy has a single thought in his head, then there is no God.”

In college, Jon earned a bachelor of the arts degree in social science, and was active in wresting, diving and football.  He decided to become an actor and moved to New York, taking odd jobs.  One was cleaning Venetian blinds in the office of Robert Le Mond, John Travolta’s manager.  La Mond saw the potential, no doubt Travolta sniffed it out too, and helped launch his career.  He moved to Los Angeles.

On the morning of Friday, October 12th, 1984, Jon left his home in Burbank, to report to work.  Jon was making a show called Cover Up, being filmed at Twentieth Century Fox in Century City.  Here’s a photograph of his house.



He wasn’t earning the big bucks yet. Here’s another shot of the house.



He arrived on the Fox lot.



During the day, he was inevitably to film a scene lying in bed – probably shirtless, on Stage 18.  He was playing around with a .44 Magnum prop gun, as you do. At around 5:15 p.m. he put the pistol (according to witnesses, it was loaded with three empty cartridges and two blanks) up to his right temple. Just before he pulled the trigger he smiled, and said, “Let’s see if I got myself with this one.” He was apparently unaware that at close range, a blank can cause great damage. And damage it was. The explosion drove a quarter-sized piece of his skull far into his brain. Turns out that the blank was packed with paper inside, and it went straight into his temple and made a bone chip lodge in his brain.  Killed by paper.

A witness account: “John smiled and pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang and a bright flash, then black smoke. Jon screamed in agony, then looked kind of amazed as he slumped back onto the bed with blood streaming from a severe head wound. It was horrible.” Another witness said, “One of the assistants rushed over to Jon with a towel and wrapped it around his head, trying to sop the blood.”

Someone called an ambulance, but before it arrived, several of the crew carried Jon out to one of the studio station wagons, and drove him to the Beverly Hills Medical Center.



These days, the hospital had changed hands, and is now a Marriot Hotel.



According to the autopsy report, provided by Celebrity Collectables, it states, “The decendent (Hexum) is a male 26 years old, who shot himself in the head with a prop handgun at a movie studio.”  It goes on about many things… here are the highlights:

“The brain is soft, mushy, and liquefied, compatible with a respirator braing.  There is a maceration and hemorrhagic discoloration on the undersurface of the brain involving the right orbital lobe blah blah blah…”

Regarding the organs:

“Multiple donor sites are found on the anterior and posterior torso, right and left upper extremities, anterior and posterior thighs, and anterior and posterior lower extremities.  The left and right eyes have been removed from their sockets, organ harvesting (mm.) through the thorax and abdomen performed through a thoracoabdominal sternal splitting incision from the manubrium to the suprapubic (heh heh) region, the heart has been removed, as well as the left and right kidneys and a small portion of the spleen.”

His brain weighed 1,620 grams.  So he wasn’t clueless.  It sounds like he ended up like the OPERATION guy.  Take out wrenched ankle.  Remove funny bone.

Hexum’s family and friends, including his girlfriend Elizabeth Daily, gathered at the hospital. Daily played “Dottie,” in PeeWee’s Big Adventure, and Tommy’s voice in the Rugrats.  I saw her do a one woman show, and she addresses this event, in horrifically emotional detail.

Initially, a hospital spokesperson stated that his condition was “serious,” but after five hours of surgery, they pronounced his condition as “critical.”

Six days later on Thursday, October 18th, he was still in a coma, and they pronounced him brain dead. With his mother’s permission, Jon-Erik was flown to San Francisco, still on life support, and his heart was transplanted into the body of a dying 36-year-old Las Vegas escort service owner. This took place in the Pacific Medical Center. They also took his kidneys and corneas. The kidneys were sent to the Southern California Transplant Bank, in LA. The corneas went to a 66-year-old man with cataracts, or according to Nikki, they went to a little girl.  Don’t know which is true, but I thought you deserved to hear it.

Jon-Erik Hexum’s body was then flown back to LA on Saturday. He was 27 years old.



Jon-Erik Hexum's Death Certificate


He was cremated at Grandview Crematory, and there was a private funeral.



Instead of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to Handgun Control Inc., in Washington D.C. His death was ruled accidental. A new actor was brought in to take over. The End.  Not for the cemetery.  Not by a long shot.

Jon-Erik’s ashes were scattered over Malibu by his mother.

According to the information Nikki provided, John was always screwing around with guns on the set.  He would point them at people, and one time Jennifer O’Neill went off on him. We know how touchy she can be about guns, now don’t we?



Trivia – thanks to friend James:  “The actor that replaced Hexum was a guy named Anthony Hamilton, who later died of complications from AIDS. friend Ricky sent me this link, to Hamilton’s website, run by his ex.



This just in, July 2003, from Findadeath friend Christopher Richard:

E.G. Daily, his girlfriend at the time, also played Phoebe from “Friends” ex-musical partner, and she had a kicky little dance tune called “Mind Over Matter” in 1986.



UPDATE December 2004, from Findadeath friend Brian Pocrass:  You mentioned how on the Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure DVD, Tim Burton and Paul Ruebens mentioned how EG Daily was dating Jon-Erik Hexum at the time.  Actually what they said…which was quite interesting….was there is a scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure where Pee-Wee faints at the bicycle shop after finding out his bike has been stolen.  When he comes to…they had policeman and a gurney next to him.  And on the commentary, that is where they said that during the filming of this scene, EG Daly, who was on the set at the time, had to walk over to the side to sit down because seeing the gurney on the movie set was giving her flashbacks of the Jon Erik Hexum incident (which had happened not too long before the filming of Pee Wee).  Interesting.

Don’t play with guns.


Thank you to Lisa Burks.



10 thoughts on “Jon-Erik Hexum

  • November 29, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    Don’t remember much about the show Cover Up, but I remember I like it.
    I remember being shocked when Hexum died.
    He was coming into his own, and I think he had a bright future ahead of him.

    Rest In Peace

  • December 27, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    It don’t matter he was old enough to know don’t Screw around with guns especially he wasn’t a child good looks and that Bod what a Shame GD Shame

  • December 27, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    It don’t matter he was old enough to know don’t Screw around with guns especially he wasn’t a child good looks and that Bod what a Shame GD Shame

  • November 2, 2021 at 7:58 am

    I am like Niles I don’t think I will ever get over his death. You would think movie sets would have learned more about safety by now but a recent death on the movie set RUST with Alec Baldwin proves people are still careless. Tragically lives have been lost. God needed another angel to add to his choir in heaven.

  • August 13, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    Sad on all accounts. What I don’t get: this wasn’t his first experience with prop guns. Don’t know if he’d fired a 357 Magnum before, but he must have been aware of the Magnum’s lethal reputation. How could someone with any prop gun/blank cartridge experience not be aware of the power of a blank shot discharge? It just makes no sense to me. Am I missing something?

    Trivia: Jennifer O’Neill, his Cover Up co-star, was leasing a friends house at 222 Hillgard Avenue in Westwood at the time this happened. Also seem to recall Ms. O’Neill being involved in some kind of “accidential” self inflicted gunshot injury….

    • September 24, 2020 at 1:32 pm

      If I remember correctly, I recall reading something at the time that the prop gun was not supposed to be loaded until the last moments before the scene actually began filming. Someone accidentally left it loaded from prior scenes. I believe Jon Eric thought the gun was not loaded and therefore safe.

    • February 27, 2021 at 1:21 am

      Just thought of something. Lived close by 20th Century Fox & knew area. There were two hospitals very close to Fox. Closest was Century City Hospital on Olympic Blvd at the border of Beverly Hills. Other was an old hospital on the south east corner of Little Santa Monica Blvd at Beverly Glenn Blvd. With both less than 5 minutes from Fox why was Hexum taken all the way to 1177 S. Beverly Dr.? Specialist? Mentioned hospitals closed? Just curious..

  • July 4, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    I’ll be honest, I have never gotten over the death of JEH; and I think I speak for a lot of gay men who came of age during that time. Breathtakingly handsome, masculine, with perhaps a touch of trade, he will never be forgotten.

    • February 1, 2022 at 10:25 pm

      I know what you mean. I was 9. I remember him being my first crush that I knew I couldn’t speak of. I first found him on The Voyagers, when my mom would watch it and then Cover Up. I knew I was gay but couldn’t speak of it. It was the most conflicted feeling because i didn’t quite know what the term gay was but knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. All I know is I was so taken with him (as taken as a nine year old can be). I just had the biggest crush. When my mom who was the same age as him told me he died suddenly and was shot, I had this huge and profound sense of loss and sadness for quite a while after. I don’t know why, but when I hear the song “Time” by The Allan Parsons Project, I always think of him. Now, as an adult, I look back and believe God never has and never will create a more beautiful man. He was completely breathtaking.

      To Deathhag: perhaps you could consider a little more grace and heart when you write about him. He was intelligent, kind (as you can obviously tell by his interviews) and seemed to have a great deal of humility about himself. He played the piano beautifully, acted well, and took himself from NJ, to MSU football to acting in L.A on television shows. Nah…not stupid at all and clearly had quite a bit going on in his brain — he just made a simple and tragic mistake. Kindness goes a long way.

      We will never forget you, Jon-Erik

  • November 19, 2019 at 5:59 am

    Jons corneas went to two different people. One was an old man and the other went to a little girl. His skin was used to save a badly burned 3 year old boy. Jons death helped save a lot of people. Cover Ups theme song said “I need a Hero”. They found one in Jon Erik.

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