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Meet ‘Wiseguy’ Star Ken Wahl Who Is Married to ‘Barbi Twin’ Shane Barbi and Helps Veterans

Edduin Carvajal
Jun 30, 2021
09:30 A.M.
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Actor Ken Wahl was one of the most successful entertainers in the 90s until an accident cut his career short. Now, he lives a low-key life and only attracts attention for significant causes, including war veterans.

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Born in the mid-50s, Ken Wahl showed up on the entertainment industry scene in the late 70s and early 80s with roles in “The Wanderers,” “Running Scared,” and “Fort Apache the Bronx.”

It is important to point out that Wahl, a working-class high-school dropout, spent most of his time as a young adult around service stations fixing cars and taking other low-paying jobs.

Ken Wahl as "Wiseguy" character Vinnie Terranova in January 1988 | Photo: Getty Images

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LIVING THE DREAM

Money was scarce in his family, to say the least. Wahl once confessed he was never worried about the next meal, but “the one after that” was always in question.

Since he and his family had always lived from paycheck to paycheck, he wanted to do things differently to change their lives. Eventually, he started seeing Hollywood as a place that might have some jobs available for him.

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In 1979, Wahl auditioned for a walk-on role in “The Wanderers,” but director Philip Kaufman saw how talented he truly was and gave him the main part even though he had no previous acting experience.

Wahl’s career skyrocketed in 1987 when he booked the part of Vinnie Terranova, an undercover federal agent deeply infiltrated in criminal organizations in “Wiseguy.”

His three years working in “Wiseguy” were so successful that he was nominated for an Emmy and took home a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Drama.

Promotional photo of Ken Wahl shared on Celebrity Tribute's YouTube Channel in January 2021 | Photo: YouTube/Celebrity Tribute

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DOWNFALL OF HIS CAREER

However, the once-promising actor has not been seen on TV for years. Fans have wondered what happened to Ken Wahl and why he seemingly disappeared from Hollywood.

Things started to get complicated in 1992 when he suffered a broken neck and severe spinal column injury. Initially, he claimed it was the result of a motorcycle accident.

However, Wahl later revealed he actually fell down a flight of stairs at the home of Joan Child, comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s then-girlfriend and eventual wife.

Promotional photo of Ken Wahl shared on Celebrity Tribute's YouTube Channel in January 2021 | Photo: YouTube/Celebrity Tribute

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Since Child begged him not to tell the press where the accident occurred, he made up the motorcycle accident. His injury was severe enough to make him get two surgeries. Even after that, Wahl was left with chronic pain and almost unable to act again.

Wahl confessed to being “struck dumb” after learning the suicide rates amongst war veterans.

Promotional photo of Ken Wahl shared on Celebrity Tribute's YouTube Channel in January 2021 | Photo: YouTube/Celebrity Tribute

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In 1994, he landed parts in “The Favor” and “Search for Grace,” but he retired after the 1996’s film adaptation of “Wiseguy.” After that, he turned to self-medication and alcohol to deal with his pain.

Things got out of hand in 1997 when Wahl got involved in a fight with a bartender at the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel. He was sentenced to a live-in alcohol rehab program and pay about $800 in damages.

Portrait of Shane Barbi, Ken Wahl, and their pets circa 1997 | Photo: Getty Images

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KEN WAHL TODAY

At the moment, Ken Wahl and Shane Barbi, a former model and animal rights advocate, are married. They tied the knot in 1997 and have been together ever since.

While the retired actor likes to keep most details of his life away from the spotlight, he attracted some attention in 2013 after claiming he might run for Congress to help “demoralized” war veterans who feel like Americans don’t care about them.

Wahl confessed to being “struck dumb” after learning the suicide rates amongst war veterans. Although he never really ran for Congress, he’s been actively helping military troops.

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He once said that one of the most important things he’s been focusing on was the "Pets for Vets" program. Through it, he wants to connect military personnel dealing with PTSD and depression with animals.

Wahl admitted that animals were “a great comfort” during his own recovery process following his broken neck. So, they might be as helpful and comforting to “these poor souls” dealing with PTSD.

Ken Wahl is also working hard to pass the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act to provide war veterans with domestic rescue animals. What a fantastic initiative!

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

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