Saturday, August 1, 2009

FLASHBACK: Brenda Benet Commits Suicide (1982)

Actress Brenda Benet kills self, star in soap

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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.


  1. I miss Brenda Benet, and her Lee character, a great deal. Thank you for mentioning her today.

    But I have a rare question regarding your editorial policies? Why did you paste in that epilogue from Wikipedia? I know it is true...I have actually heard it directly from one of Lee's best friends...but I'm curious about why you'd add in that "scandalous" piece? Not so much her sexuality, but her relationship drama at the end?

    I don't know why I'm unsettled by it...but it is the first time I have ever been unsettled by anything I have seen on your remarkable WLS!

  2. Mark, I think she had such a fascinating but tumultuous life more needed to be added. I couldn't find a single article that portrayed very many of the angles. And there are plenty more as well which I omitted. I hope someone reads this who isn't as familiar and researches her work and finds out more about her. That was really the point.

  3. Yeah. I wasn't actually a Days viewer, but the first time I saw her, I was drawn in. I started watching during that era FOR her.

  4. The entire chapter of Soap Opera Babylon is online but I didn't want to post that here. It had too many scandalous details.

    Whatever issues she had, Benet was a scene stealer and fans still remember her fondly all these years later.

    Bill and Susan Hayes mention her in their book as well but I don't have that one.

  5. Iremember this quite well, even though I was only 20 at the time. I had been a big fan of Brendas!! It just seemed so senseless at the time. I was a HUGE Days watcher back then! Fans of Gloria Loring, Lanna Saunders and of course Bill & Susan!! I remember reading that Lanna & her husband had a Memorial for Breda. Thought that was really nice of them. Her suicide moved me for quite a while back then . . .Not sure why, it just did.

  6. I was a HUGE fan of Brenda's, and wrote her a letter back in 81, in which I got a wonderfully hand-written reply back, as well as an autographed photo. I was stunned to hear of her suicide - and I was extremely affected by it at the time. I will always cherish the little piece of her that I have.

  7. Roger (and MarkH):
    There's also a chapter, or at least a few pages, on Brenda in the Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes book that was published a few years back.

    Susan isn't shy about admitting that they'd fought a great deal, so I think the "bitter feud" mentioned may have been with Susan.

    But she also mentions some reconciliation that happened, and of course what happened when Brenda took her life.

  8. oops Roger - just saw that you mentioned the book.

  9. I want all of Brenda's fans to know that she was a fun and extremely talented person. We both lived at the Hollywood Studio Club @ 1215 Lodi Place in Hollywood. We shared some wonderful times there. She remains in my prayers...God bless you, Brenda.
    Norma Sarkisian

    1. Was this an apartment building you speak of? and was it during the 1960s? Thanks!

  10. I loved Brenda Benet as Lee. I was so shocked when this happened. It has been such a loss. Fans and people will always wonder what might have been for her...if this tragedy hadnot occurred. It doesnot seem like 29 years have passed just thinking about it. Brenda is truly missed. I hope she has found peace.

  11. nda Benet affected me. I saw her on the soap Days one day, while my mother was watching her soaps. I thought she was beautiful and couldn't take my eyes off her when she was on screen. While living in europe II heard of Romey Schneider (the German actress) commiting suicide after her young son was impaled on a fence and died. Not that long after that I read of Brenda's suicide. It really affected me. Maybe because I have a son, who is now 31. BUt back then I put myself in both actresses place. I felt i understood how they could take their lives after loosing their (I believe0 only child, son. Bothe Romey and Brenda, beautiful, successful. Complicated. Brenda, I just find out was a aLeo, as I am. Wonder what Romey was?

  12. I can remember Brendas last performance on the soap.It was clear she was having some kind of breakdown. It was very distressing to watch, feeling helpless to see this person suffering, and then of course the news of her suicide followed soon after. My heart still does a turn when I think of het

  13. I was profounded saddened when I heard of Brenda's death and didn't understand why it was affecting me to the extent it did. Now I see I wasn't alone. There was something otherworldly about her, I think. She still lurks in the shadows of my mind and sneaks up on me at odd moments- it's really strange. I hope she found what she needed in those last moments.

  14. JulieK, She has the same effect on me. I've only recently found out she had died, and despite the length of time which has passed, it feels as though it's just happened.
    Hers was a rare and wonderful gift.

  15. Brenda Benet was very beautiful ... I loved her in "Walking Tall" and "Days"..I remember that I could always tell when they appeared onscreen together
    that Susan Seaforth Hayes did not care for Brenda.. Seaforth-Hayes could not act good enough to cover her dislike of her. Which was sad... I remember my instinct was that she was probably jealous of Brenda, or she thought her husband Bill Hayes was attracted to Brenda. I lost respect for Susan Seaforth-Hayes, I bet my instincts were right. I was kind of shocked and sad and that she felt inferior enough to be jealous.