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James Stacy’s Life Changed Forever in 1973 after an Accident Left Him with Irreparable Damage

Laura Beatham
Nov 17, 2021
02:00 A.M.

James Stacy was a TV actor in the 50s to 70s, but a tragic accident saw him be typecast as an amputee and shortened his once very promising career.

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70s TV actor James Stacy was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident that caused him to lose his arm and his then-girlfriend, Claire Cox

Before the accident, Stacy was most known for his role in "Lancer." He played Johnny Madrid Lancer, one of two brothers who returned to their father's ranch to defend it from a gang of marauders.

James Stacy's portrait for the film "Winter-A-Go-Go," in 1965. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy's portrait for the film "Winter-A-Go-Go," in 1965. | Photo: Getty Images

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Stacy had a few roles before he landed his role in "Lancer," which included a few TV appearances in shows such as "The Donna Reed Show," "Gunsmoke," "Cheyenne," "Have Gun — Will Travel," and "Perry Mason."

Two years after "Lancer" wrapped, in 1973, Stacy was involved in a motorcycle accident while driving up Benedict Canyon Road in Hollywood with a car that was driving down.

Claire Cox was on the motorcycle too and lost her life. In comparison, Stacy lost his left arm and most of his left leg from collusion. He once recalled the moment and said:

"I was awake, I remember that. There was nobody around and a dog barking. I was lying there saying to myself, ‘Oh (expletive), did I get out of that one?’ "

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James Stacy as Barry Conrad in an episode of "Perry Mason," in 1966. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy as Barry Conrad in an episode of "Perry Mason," in 1966. | Photo: Getty Images

The accident also led to a landmark California legal case as Stacy won a lawsuit against the Beverly Hills bar that served alcohol to the car driver that collided with his motorcycle.

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His was the first case to receive a verdict under the 1971 state Supreme Court ruling that any establishment could be sued for damages if an accident was caused by a patron they served.

Stacy received a $1.9 million settlement, while Cox's estate was awarded $400,000. A few months later, the driver, 35-year-old Carter B. Gordon of Woodland Hills, was sentenced to one to five years in prison for manslaughter and drunk driving charges.

James Stacy pictured in the movie "Saving Grace," in 1985. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy pictured in the movie "Saving Grace," in 1985. | Photo: Getty Images

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Although Stacy got justice for the accident, his career seemed to worsen as many production companies could not cast him in film and TV because of his missing limbs.

He did receive a few roles after the accident. His return to acting was marked by his role in "Posse," a part that the film's star, Kirk Douglas, had ordered for him.

Stacy's next role would earn him an Emmy nomination, an NBC TV movie called "Just a Little inconvenience," in which Stacy played a wounded Vietnam War Veteran.

James Stacy pictured for an episode of "Marcus Welby, MD," in 1972. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy pictured for an episode of "Marcus Welby, MD," in 1972. | Photo: Getty Images

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The movie came four years after his life-altering accident and saw him star alongside actress Barbara Hershey, whose character falls in love with Stacy.

However, the Emmy nominated performance would not be without its hitches. Shortly after the movie was released, Stacy told the Washington Post that he was almost fired from the set.

He got into a fight with his co-star, and he also wanted to add a few changes to the director's script, but the director, Theodore J. Flicker, was unwilling to make changes.

James Stacey and Connie Stevens at the Annual Share Boomtown Party at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacey and Connie Stevens at the Annual Share Boomtown Party at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. | Photo: Getty Images

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Stacy was sure he would be fired from the production, as filming had stopped, and he was ready to pack his things and leave the set. Fortunately, his co-star, Lee Majors, stepped in and saved the day. Stacy shared with the outlet:

"He [Majors] left and one hour later he called and said, "All right, you're doing the picture, we start shooting again Monday, be a good boy." "

The film led Stacy into several other roles, including a segment in "Cagney & Lacey," where he also played a Vietnam War veteran. Later in 1980, he produced and acted in "My Kidnapper, My Love."

James Stacy in the ABC tv movie "Ordeal" in 1973. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy in the ABC tv movie "Ordeal" in 1973. | Photo: Getty Images

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Sam Wanamaker directed the film. Stacy played a disabled newsstand operator whose small-time criminal brother persuaded him to kidnap a girl for ransom.

One of Stacy's last performances was in a five-part series called "Wiseguy" in the 90s. The show featured Stacy playing a man who lost his leg and arm during a mine accident.

The mine owner also owns the town, so Stacy's character is awarded the town's newspaper through a settlement, and he becomes an editor. The role was different from Stacy's other roles, as he once said:

"I get offered more Vietnam veterans than any other roles. But I’ve done that. So I was really pleased to get this part."

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James Stacy in "Saving Grace" in 1985. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy in "Saving Grace" in 1985. | Photo: Getty Images

After his performance in the TV show, Stacy's acting career ended after being accused and convicted of molesting an 11-year-old girl from his neighborhood after inviting her to his home to swim.

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The day before his sentencing, Stacy fled to Hawaii. A month later, authorities found him after he tried to commit suicide. He was later sentenced to six years in the Ventura County Jail.

During Stacy's sentencing, the actor shared an apology in the courtroom and said, "I do want to make a formal apology for what happened that horrible day at my house."

James Stacy and Connie Stevens in 1964. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy and Connie Stevens in 1964. | Photo: Getty Images

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After his time in jail, Stacy lived a quiet life with his fiancée, Antigoni Tsamparlis. In 2016, on September 6, he passed away at 79 from an anaphylactic shock after receiving antibiotics.

He was survived by his daughter, Heather, whom he shared with his ex-wife, Kim Darby. The two married in 1968 when she was only 20 years old. However, they divorced a year later, in 1969.

The former couple met on the set of "Gunsmoke" and later welcomed their daughter. In an interview with The Pittsburgh Press in 1969, Darby shared that Stacy was a good father to Heather.

James Stacy and his daughter Heather at the 38th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, 1986. | Photo: Getty Images

James Stacy and his daughter Heather at the 38th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, 1986. | Photo: Getty Images

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Before Darby, he was married to actress Connie Stevens from 1963 to 1966. He did not get a chance to marry Tsamparlis, who would have been his third wife.

Besides his daughter, he left behind his sister, Carolyn Elias, and his brother, Louie. Although he is gone, he lives on through his TV and movie roles.

Stacy's life was filled with tragedy and controversy. However, his determination to stay in Hollywood despite his accident showcases his motivation and passion for the industry.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "help" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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