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Brenda Ann Nelson
August 14, 1945
|Died||April 7, 1982 (aged 36)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by gunshot|
(m. 1967; div. 1970)
(m. 1971; div. 1980)
|Partner(s)||Tammy Bruce (1980–1982; her death)|
Brenda Benet (born Brenda Ann Nelson; August 14, 1945 – April 7, 1982) was an American actress. She is best known for her roles on the soap operas The Young Marrieds (1965–1965) and Days of Our Lives (1979–1982).
Early life and career
Benet was born Brenda Ann Nelson in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California; later, her family moved to Southgate. She graduated from South Gate High School, attended Los Angeles City College, then studied at the University of California at Los Angeles, majoring in languages. She studied with San Francisco Ballet, was featured in several productions of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, was a musician who played piano, flute and violin, and was fluent in five languages.
Her first acting roles were in 1964, with appearances on Shindig! and The Young Marrieds. She eventually became an actress very much in demand for roles in episodic primetime television in the 1960s and 1970s, including I Dream of Jeannie; McHale's Navy; Daniel Boone; Mannix; My Three Sons; Hogan's Heroes; Love, American Style; Wonder Woman; The Love Boat; and The Courtship of Eddie's Father. She also had a major feature role in the film Walking Tall (1973).
Although many of the characters she portrayed seemed to be either sweet or seductive, she became perhaps best known for her role as scheming villainess Lee Dumonde on the daytime serial Days of Our Lives, a role she played from 1979 until her death in 1982.
Her first marriage was to The Donna Reed Show actor Paul Petersen in 1967. In 1969, Benet left Petersen for actor Bill Bixby. After her divorce from Petersen became final, she married Bixby in 1971. The couple had a child, Christopher Sean, in September 1974, and then divorced in 1980. After the divorce and until her death, Benet was in a relationship with future pundit Tammy Bruce.
Benet experienced a number of personal and professional challenges after her divorce from Bixby. Her role on Days of Our Lives made her extremely unpopular with fans; Benet's character was breaking up one of the show's popular couples, Doug and Julie, and fans were outraged. However, Benet's most personal challenge occurred when her six-year-old son Christopher died in March 1981. While they were on a weekend ski trip at Mammoth Lakes, Christopher suffered acute epiglottitis, going into a coma and cardiac arrest after doctors subsequently carried out a tracheotomy.
Benet was devastated by her son's death and sank into a severe depression. On April 7, 1982, she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at her home in Los Angeles.   She was 36. 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. Bruce had moved out two weeks prior to the suicide. On the day of Benet's suicide, Bruce thought that she would be meeting her for lunch. According to Bruce, Benet was locked inside the bathroom of her home when she arrived. Bruce sensed something was wrong and went to get help. After Bruce stepped outside, Benet shot herself.
|Harum Scarum||Emerald||Alternative title: Harum Holiday|
|1967||Track of Thunder||Shelly Newman|
|1973||Walking Tall||Luan Paxton||Listed in credits as Brenda Benét|
|1964||Wendy and Me||Shamir||1 episode|
|1965||McHale's Navy||Karema||1 episode|
|1965–1966||The Young Marrieds||Jill McComb #2||Unknown episodes|
|1966||The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.||Gizelle||1 episode|
|Daniel Boone||Princess Little Fawn||1 episode|
|1966–1970||My Three Sons||Elyse
|1967||The Iron Horse||Kitty Clayborne||1 episode|
|The Green Hornet||Girl||1 episode|
|I Dream of Jeannie||Eleanor||1 episode|
|1968–1969||It Takes a Thief||Nicole
|1968–1970||Hogan's Heroes||Janine Robinet
|1969||The High Chaparral||Anita de Santiago y Amistad||1 episode|
|To Rome With Love||Tina||1 episode|
|The F.B.I.||Stewardess||1 episode|
|Where the Heart Is||Sally Moore||Unknown episodes|
|1969–1972||Love, American Style||3 episodes|
|1970||Death Valley Days||Chela||1 episode|
|Paris 7000||1 episode|
|1971||The Most Deadly Game||Mindy||1 episode|
|The Courtship of Eddie's Father||Brenda||1 episode|
|"The Men From Shiloh" rebranded name of The Virginian||Susan Masters||1 episode|
|1971–1975||Mannix||Ellen Parrish (S4-Ep16)
|1972||Wednesday Night Out||Television movie|
|Search||Carol Lesko||1 episode|
|1973||The Horror at 37,000 Feet||Sally||Television movie|
|The Magician||Joanna Marsh/Osborne||1 episode|
|1977||The Love Boat||Maureen Mitchell||1 episode|
|1978||Wonder Woman||Morgana||1 episode|
|Fantasy Island||Ginny Winthrop||1 episode|
|1979||Carter Country||Natalya||1 episode|
|1979–1982||Days of Our Lives||Lee DuMonde Carmichael Williams||255 episodes|
|1980||The Incredible Hulk||Annie Caplan||1 episode|
|1982||Father Murphy||Rachel Hansen||1 episode, (final appearance)|
- Post-Gazette staff writers (April 9, 1982). "Actress Brenda Benet kills self, star in soap". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. reposted 2009-08-01 at "WeLoveSoaps.net". Retrieved May 1, 2018.
- "Actress Brenda Benet, who played the often hysterical Lee..." UPI. April 8, 1982. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
- "Brenda Benet, Actress, Called Suicide Victim". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 9, 1982. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
- Kubey, Robert William (2003). Creating Television: The First 50 Years. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 384–385. ISBN 0-8058-1077-3.
- UPI staff (March 3, 1981). "The 6-year-old son of 'Incredible Hulk' television series star". United Press International. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
- Lisanti, Tom; Wells, Carole (2003). Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-movie Starlets of the Xixties. McFarland. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-7864-1575-4.
- Bruce, Tammy (August 22, 2004). The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture and Values. Three Rivers Press. p. 2. ISBN 1-4000-5294-7.
- Bruce (2004). The Death of Right and Wrong. p. 3.