EMBATTLED ACTOR

Jeff Conaway

, who portrayed Kenickie in the

John Travolta

-

Olivia Newton John

classic "Grease," died yesterday. Conaway had been hospitalized since he was discovered unconscious at his Encino, Calif., home on May 11. He was 60.

Born in New York City, Conaway made his Broadway debut at 10 in "All the Way Home." But his big break came with "Grease," first on Broadway (where he played lead Danny Zuko, the part played by Travolta in the film) and then in the film as bad-boy Kenickie.

Conaway's fame continued as the underemployed thespian Bobby Wheeler on "Taxi," but he left the sitcom after the fourth season because of creative differences. "He was a big, loose, flaky guy," James L. Brooks, executive producer of "Taxi," said in an oral history of the series. "I think nobody quite recognized how great he was in ['Taxi'] because he was a flaky guy at times."

Conaway had a long history of substance abuse - alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs. "He's a gentle soul with a good heart ... but he's never been able to exorcise his demons," his manager, Phil Brock, told the Associated Press. Although he landed parts in "Babylon 5" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" in the '90s, more recently he was better known for his exploits on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and "Celebrity Fit Club." He was bounced from the "Fit Club" so he could enter a drug-rehab facility.

Travolta released a statement saying that Conaway was a "wonderful and decent man and we will miss him."

Tattbits

* Philly girl and "Ugly Betty" star Ana Ortiz

is expecting her second child with husband Noah Lebenzon.

She knows it's a boy but hasn't settled on a name. "It has to be Spanish, but something nonspeakers can pronounce without mauling," the six-months-pregnant Ortiz told Latina magazine. "Suggestions? I'm open." What about giving your dad some namesake love, Ana? Ortiz's pops is former City Councilman Angel Ortiz.

The actress just signed on

for a five-episode arc on HBO's gigolo comedy "Hung," as a woman with anger-management issues.

* At least one legal battle is

behind Lindsay Lohan. The tabloid target settled a lawsuit filed by the mother of LiLo's former assistant Tracie Ross. Lohan chased Ross down the Pacific Coast Highway in July 2007, traumatizing the girl and causing her to lose a job.

"Lindsay is very pleased to put this unfortunate event behind her," her attorney, Ed McPherson, said in a statement.

* "Mad Men" star (and Lady Tattle's big crush) Jon

Hamm will step behind the camera to direct the fifth-season premiere of AMC's critically acclaimed drama. "Mad Men" starts shooting in August, but no official premiere date has been set - just sometime in 2012. (Sigh.)

Hamm is following in the directing footsteps of his co-star John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling. "I watched Slattery do it, and he handled it with such grace and ability and ease," Hamm told TVLine. "I figured if he can do it, s---, I can do it, too."

In other premiere news for AMC fanatics, "Breaking Bad" is back on July 17 at 10 p.m. Now that you've been warned, you have enough time to catch up on this stellar drama. Get to your Netflix queue, stat!

* Looks as if Phil Spector will have to sport

jailhouse stripes a bit longer. A California 2nd District Court of Appeals panel yesterday threw out the legendary rock producer's appeal of his murder conviction, saying there was overwhelming evidence that the man who fiddled the knobs for acts as varied as the Ronettes and the Ramones was guilty of shooting actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

* Smokey-voiced

songstress Amy Winehouse will enter a London rehab in preparation for her European tour, according to her rep. No word yet on whether she went quietly or said, "No, no, no."

Daily News wire services contributed to this report.