The Sad End of Brenda Benet

A brief memoriam to movie and tv actress Brenda Benet (Brenda Benet Nelson, 1945-1982).

Benet wasn’t even 20 when her dance skills and dark beauty got her a tidal wave of roles, usually in youth oriented product. Her first role (a walk-on) was in the movie A Global Affair (1964) with Bob Hope, followed by two episodes of Wendy and Me with George Burns and Connie Stevens, McHale’s Navy and the youth musicals Beach Ball and Harum Scarum with Elvis Presley, both 1965, and a regular role on soapThe Young Marrieds. In 1967 she married Paul Peterson of The Donna Reed Show. The union ended in 1970.

For years Benet guested on shows like The Green Hornet, I Dream of Jeannie, My Three Sons, Hogan’s Heroes, Love American Style, and finally the big turning pointing in her life, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, in which she ended up courting star Bill Bixby, marrying him that year (1971). She continued to appear in films like The Horror at 37,000 Feet and Walking Tall and tv shows like The Love Boat, Wonder Woman, Fantasy Island, Carter Country, Bixby’s shows The Magician and The Incredible Hulk, and the capstone of her career, the daytime soap The Days of Our Lives, beginning in 1979.

Then a cascade of tragedies. In 1980 she began an affair with 17 year old old Tammy Bruce (now a conservative talk radio host) and Bixby and she divorced. In 1981, hers and Bixby’s six year old boy died of epiglottitis (presumably caused by strep) while on a skiing trip while under her care. The guilt must have been immense. Then in 1982, Bruce left her as well. On top of all of this, she had a “bad girl” storyline on her soap, so even fans of the tv show hated her, wherever she went. Two weeks after Bruce left her, she put a gun in her mouth and ended it all.