LOS ANGELES -- Ray Sharkey, 40, the hard-living actor who starred as a crime boss in the television series "Wiseguy," died June 11 at a hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. He had AIDS.
He had been in Southern California until a week ago, when he returned home to New York.
Mr. Sharkey battled drug abuse problems through much of his career. His agent, Herb Nanas, said the actor was infected with AIDS through intravenous drug use.
Mr. Sharkey, who appeared frequently in films, won a Golden Globe award for his performance in the 1980 movie "The Idolmaker," playing a rock music promoter based on real-life producer Bob Marcucci.
But he was perhaps best known for his role as Atlantic City mob boss Sonny Steelgrave in the drama "Wiseguy," which appeared on CBS from 1987 to 1990. After Mr. Sharkey's character was killed off, his fans formed a Sonny Steelgrave Memorial Society.
Mr. Sharkey excelled at playing tough-guy roles on screen, and he was no pushover off screen either.
"I was in a lot of fights, taken to the hospital and stitched up a few times," he said of his childhood in Brooklyn's rough Red Hook district. "I've never been stabbed, but quite a few bottles have been broken over my head."
He was the son of a professional drummer who abandoned his family when Mr. Sharkey was 5. He said he decided to become an actor after seeing Jack Lemmon portray an alcoholic in the 1962 film "Days of Wine and Roses."
Throughout his career, he battled cocaine, heroin and alcohol abuse.
He was treated for chemical dependence in 1987, and in July 1992 he was arrested in Canada and charged with heroin possession. 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."
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." His final appearance was that of a gangster in this year's "Cop and a Half."
On television, he appeared in "Capone in Prison," "Neon Empire" and "27 Wagons Full of Cotton." His series credits included "Barney Miller," "The Jeffersons," "All in the Family," "Starsky and Hutch" and "Crime Story."