Jeff Cahill, 44, actor had role in ‘Blues Brothers’
Jeff Cahill was an actor who landed a role as an orphan in the Blues Brothers movie. He went on to perform in TV dramas like NYPD Blue, Deadwood, Mad About You and ER. He booked musicians and bands at On the Rox club in L.A. and sold paintings and custom-painted shoes.
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:27AM
Jeff Cahill’s film career started with a “Mission from God.”
Jake and Elwood Blues, a k a “The Blues Brothers,” put the band back together to save Cahill and the other child actors who played the ragamuffin residents of St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud orphanage.
John Landis’ 1980 film became a cult classic that showed off Chicago in all its rusty, dented, bluesy glory.
A lot of child actors don’t make the transition to adult roles, but after moving to Los Angeles in his 20s, Mr. Cahill was cast in popular TV shows including “Prison Break,” “Southland,” “Deadwood,” “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “Without a Trace” and “Mad About You.”
He worked as a well-liked talent booker and promoter at On the Rox, a private, after-hours boite above the Roxy nightclub, a Sunset Strip landmark. He also painted canvases and shoes. His artwork was in the collections of celebrities including Michelle Branch, Reese Witherspoon, Tony Shalhoub and Madonna, said his mother, Josephine, and his sister, Gina Monaco.
Mr. Cahill’s paintings, primitive and colorful, sometimes contained affirmations and quirky sayings, including “No Fake Smiles No Hidden Agendas;” “Don’t Trust Anyone Who Doesn’t Like the Beatles,” and “Dior Not War.”
His paint-splashed Converse and slip-on sneakers, dubbed Cahillz, were sold at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.
Roxy nightclub owner Nic Adler said Mr. Cahill instilled confidence in fledgling musicians, talking them up — and calming them down — as they waited to appear onstage.
“When you’re a new band and you’re walking into a place like the Roxy, there’s probably not a more comforting phrase than, ‘You can do it. This is your stage. This is your night,’ ’’ said Adler, the son of actress Britt Ekland and record producer Lou Adler, a 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
“Jeff gave so many musicians the chance to get onstage at On the Rox, and he was so encouraging,” said Curt Clendenin, a fellow “orphan” from the “Blues Brothers” who performed at the club last October with his music project, IAmAnOrphan. Mr. Cahill joined him in singing “Rawhide,” a tune featured in the movie. “He was giving everybody this encouragement, making them feel like they were superstars.”
Mr. Cahill “gave everybody a chance,” and that extended to the so-called “little people” up and down the Strip, Nic Adler said. It wasn’t unusual for him to hand $30 to a homeless person, his mother said.
When he walked along Sunset Blvd., wearing his red Vans, a porkpie hat, and pink or blue watches, people called out “Hey, Jeff!” Adler said. “He knew the door guys, he knew the valet guys, but he also knew some of the biggest stars. He could be in any setting and be comfortable.”
“My brother was just the best; kind, funny,” said Gina Monaco.
Mr. Cahill, 44, was found dead Jan. 18 at his West Hollywood apartment after a bout of abdominal bleeding. He had been feeling ill for a couple of weeks, and told his family he thought he had a bad case of the flu. The night before he died, he went to the emergency room, but the wait was long, and he left the ER and went home, according to his mother and sister. His family is awaiting tests to determine the cause of his death.
He grew up in Northbrook, where he attended Westmoor School, Northbrook Junior High and Glenbrook North High School.
As a boy, he landed modeling gigs, including the Sears catalog and Carson’s ads. He appeared in a Pillsbury commercial with actor George “Cheers” Wendt, and with Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose in a spot for Rose’s energy bar.
Sometimes, when he emerged from an audition, his mother couldn’t tell if he’d won a role. But as they walked toward their car, he’d tell her, “Mom, I got it — but I didn’t want to hurt the other kids’ feelings.”
He was about 8 when he was cast as one of the Blues Brothers orphans. He especially liked being in scenes with jazz legend Cab Calloway, who was kind to the child actors.
After high school, Mr. Cahill tried Colorado Mesa University, but decided to move out West to act, his sister said. He studied drama with Roy London. His classmates included Sharon Stone and a couple of Baldwin brothers, his family said.
Memorials were held in California and Northbrook. At the Northbrook service, friends came who’d known him all the way back to second grade.