Robert Pastorelli (1954-2004)
updated 03/22/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/22/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST
The laughter wouldn't last. On March 8 Pastorelli's assistant discovered the actor, 49, dead of a possible drug overdose in his Hollywood home. (An autopsy is pending.) "I find it almost impossible to believe," says singer Chuck E. Weiss, a friend. "Bobby had been clean and sober for almost 16 years." Pastorelli's life had, however, been marked by a profound sadness. In March 1999 his girlfriend, Charemon Jonovich, accidentally shot herself in the couple's home. Still, friends thought he'd put the worst behind him, finding steady work in films (including the just-wrapped Get Shorty sequel, Be Cool) and taking joy in raising Gianna, 6, his daughter with Jonovich. Through it all, he credited his passion for living to having survived a near-fatal car accident at age 19. "I'm not afraid to die," he told the Chicago-Sun Times. "If you're afraid of death, you can never be free." Now friends wonder if those words were prophetic. "The tragedy this guy had in his life," says Regalbuto, "and then to vanish like this. It's so stunning."