dennis cole mashup

CBS/Courtesy of the Everett Collection, Courtesy of the Everett Collection (2)

On November 15, 2009, Dennis Cole passed away of kidney failure at age 69.

Make no mistake about it: Dennis Cole was a fine actor, one who lit up any scene he was in. If he hadn’t been a charisma generator, he’d never have been tapped to take over the pivotal role of Young & Restless playboy Lance Prentiss after the exit of John McCook (later Bold & Beautiful patriarch Eric Forrester).

But if you remember the actor today, it’s as likely that you recall his history in the headlines as much as the talent that made him a primetime mainstay from the 1960s through the ’80s, in everything from Three’s Company to The Love Boat. (If you needed a handsome guy who could act, he got the call!) After he guest-starred on Charlie’s Angels in ’76, he married series star Jaclyn Smith after a 19-month relationship.

Today, that would be like he tied the knot with, gee, Scarlett Johannson. It didn’t last, but while it did, it was a huge deal.

More: Honoring the soap star felled by AIDS shortly after his co-star

Then, in 1991, Cole’s son with his first wife was killed during a robbery outside the home that he shared with Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman Henry Rollins. In the wake of the tragedy, Dennis became an activist who on the regular spoke out against violence on television.

Later in his career, Cole would play King Marchan in the first national tour of the musical Victor/Victoria. But again, a dark cloud followed him: He was injured in such a way that it was years before he recovered.

In 2008, Cole and his third wife divorced after opening their own real-estate company in Fort Lauderdale. But on this solemn occasion, let’s not look too long or too hard at the heartbreaks that seemed to dog Cole but remember what a bright light he was on screen.

On your way to the comments to share your favorite memories of Cole as Lance, stop off at the below photo gallery, which pays tribute to the soap stars we’ve lost in 2021.