April 9, 1982
Brenda Benet, a hated seductress in the DAYS OF OUR LIVES soap opera, but a "warm and caring" person in real life, has killed herself, after the deal of her son and the end of her marriage, authorities say.
The 36-year-old- actress, who reportedly tried to commit suicide shortly after her 6-year-old son, Christopher, died in March 1981 of a throat infection, was found Wednesday in her West Lost Angeles home after police broke down a bathroom door.
Police Sgt. Glen Varner said she had shot herself in the head with a .38-caliber revolver. An autopsy was pending.
Varner said Miss Benet's personal secretary, Tammy Bruce, summoned police when she found the Mandeville Canyon home empty and the guest bathroom locked.
Miss Bruce, 19, said through Miss Benet's publicist, David Kramer, that the actress had tried to commit suicide with pills shortly after her son died. Varner said someone apparently had lent Miss Benet the gun about a year ago.
The boy was Miss Benet's son by actor Bill Bixby, star of THE INCREDIBLE HULK TV series. She and Bixby were divorced last year after 10 years of marriage.
DAYS OF OUR LIVES executive producer Al Rabin said Miss Benet, who began work on the soap opera in July 1979, had seemed "about the same" since her son's death.
"She was a wonderful, warm and caring person. She cared so much about other people... She seemed to be handling her own problem very well," Rabin said.
He said a few episodes of DAYS already completed would be changed to delete her appearances, and then a final decision would be made on how to drop her character from the show.
She was brought to DAYS, playing seductress Lee Carmichael, "to stir up some trouble in Doug and Julie's marriage," said NBC's Baker.
"Brenda was voted the second most hated person in television," she said.
The actress was born Brenda Benet Nelson on Aug. 14, 1945, in Hollywood. She graduated from South Gate High School, attended Los Angeles City College and later studied at UCLA, majoring in languages.
Singer Vicki Carr, a close friend, had persuaded her to audition for a show. Miss Benet got the job, and from there was spotted and cast in the soap opera THE YOUNG MARRIEDS, where she appeared for a year.
Other credits include episodes from the series DANIEL BOONE, HOGAN'S HEROES, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, Bixby's THE INCREDIBLE HULK and MCHALE'S NAVY. She also appeared in four featured films.
In 1967, she married actor Paul Petersen, who played Jeff Stone on the DONNA REED SHOW. They divorced and she married Bixby in 1971.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In her book "The Death of Right and Wrong," talk radio host Tammy Bruce writes of her personal involvement with Bixby and Benet. Benet and Bruce were romantically involved for a time, and Benet killed herself in a home she had previously shared with Bruce. The book "Soap Opera Babylon" said that while on DAYS Benet "fought bitterly with one castmate and had an adulterous affair with another. The book also notes that Lanna Saunders, who played Marie Horton, and her "husband, actor Larry Pressman, held a memorial service at their home for the actress' friends and colleagues. A note from Lee to Renee revealing she was her mother was the last DAYS communication anyone in Salem had from the character.