Yvette Vickers and the Dark Side of Fame

4 05 2011

Vickers from a 1950s Photo Shoot

Hollywood is legendary for red carpet events, epic parties, glitz and glamour, but it has always been the underbelly of this faux front that has in some ways interested me.  Hollywood, like the film industry itself in many ways, is very plastic and fake in so many ways; one day you are a star, the next you are forgotten.  The old phrase still rings true in so many ways, “You are only as good as your last picture.”

Why this type of post today?  Well, I recently read an article on the death of actress and former Playboy pin-up Yvette Vickers.  These are stories that you don’t hear as much about, the ones that show the sad, lonely side of fame.  Vickers, who was born on August 26, 1928, is probably best remembered for her lead role as Honey Parker in the Sci-Fi/Exploitation classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in 1958.  However, her career also included bit parts and other work in such classic films as Sunset Blvd., Hud and a host of guest roles in a variety of television programs.  In addition, she was Playboy’s Miss July in 1959, with photos by B-movie trailblazer Russ Meyer.

In her prime, Vickers was about as beautiful as they get: blue-eyed, blonde haired and very shapely.  As time went by, however, her roles became less and less and, by the mid-1960s, her career had squandered to only sporadic appearances.  According to IMDB, her final role was as “Neighbor” in a low budget horror film entitled Evil Spirits from 1990.

Largely forgotten by all but the most dedicated of science fiction and horror fans, Vickers body was found in her Benedict Canyon home last week.  Coroners were unable to pinpoint exactly how long she had been dead, as her body had mummified.; sources say it could have sat in her upstairs bedroom for as long as a year.

She had lived in the 1920s-era home in which she was found for decades, but over time, the home had fallen into a state of disrepair and even been exposed to the elements in some areas.  Noticing cobwebs and yellowed mail spilling out of the mailbox, neighbor Susan Savage decided to investigate further.  Savage looked in through the windows and could see blonde hair, which turned out to be a wig.  She entered the home which was purportedly filled with boxes of old mail, clothes and junk and maneuvered her way upstairs.

Copyright 1958 Woolner Brothers Pictures, Inc.

In a small room, cluttered as the rest of the house was, Savage found Vickers body next to a small space heater that was still running.  The body was unrecognizable and completely mummified.  According to Savage, she remembered her neighbor as a kind, older women with a warm smile who had friends.  Where were all these friends though to allow a death to go unnoticed for so long?  Everyone wants to make excuses, but in reality, poor Yvette Vickers was just a forgotten soul that few people outside of some fans across the nation remembered.

On a small scale, this is truly the bad side of fame, the part that forgets you after you are no longer in the spotlight.  On a large scale, this is the sad truth that likely much of our geriatric population without children go through, famous or not.  It hurts to see someone forgotten, someone no one seems to remember or care about anymore.

As for filmmaking as an industry, why don’t we take care of our own?  If you didn’t know already, the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital that had long been a service of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, is closing down.  No one new has been admitted for several years and after the passing of those currently occupying, the facility will close for good.  Many former staples of the industry have spent their last days in this facility and some would have had no where else to go but a demise such as Vickers had they not had this facility to rely on in their old age.

Maybe I’m biased because my father is older and always has been a senior citizen since I’ve been alive, but these people deserve to be cared for and treated properly.  If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have many of the things we take for granted today.


%d bloggers like this: