Shannon Michelle Wilsey
October 9, 1970
|Died||July 11, 1994 (aged 23)|
Burbank, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Self-inflicted gunshot wound|
|Other names||Silver Cane, Silver Kane, Savanah, Silver|
|Height||5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)|
Shannon Michelle Wilsey (October 9, 1970 – July 11, 1994), better known by her stage name Savannah, was an American pornographic film actress who starred in over 100 videos during her career. One of the most prominent adult industry models of her time, she achieved notoriety within her short (1990–1994) career due to her onscreen presence and personal life. In January 2002, AVN ranked her at #19 on their list of the top 50 porn stars of all time.
Wilsey reportedly took her stage name from Savannah Smiles (1982), a movie she enjoyed. Following a car crash that broke her nose, she attempted suicide by firearm and died at the hospital after being removed from life support.
Wilsey was introduced to the adult film industry by actor and director Rex Cabo. She started out at first in photo spreads for Cheri, Hustler, Swank, and Penthouse, and then she signed an exclusive contract with Vivid Entertainment in 1991 and became one of the earliest Vivid Girls. Wilsey began using drugs and spending large amounts of money, and she reportedly had severe financial troubles despite her substantial income. She also garnered a reputation for arriving late to film shoots, being temperamental and acting like a diva, and sometimes getting drunk or abusing drugs on the said sets of the film/video shoots. These antics eventually led to Vivid severing its association with her in 1993. She ended her career by mainly freelancing for lower budget porn companies by capitalizing on her still big but clearly fading name in the industry. Wilsey also appeared in a variety of minor roles in B movies (mostly comedy, horror and/or sci-fi) in which she was credited with her real name. These roles included The Invisible Maniac (1990) and Camp Fear (1991). She also had a credit for her performance on a soundtrack in the video The Spectacle (1991). Even after her death, Wilsey continued to appear via archival footage. She appeared as Santana on Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater when the show aired Sorority House Massacre II (October 1994).
In a video interview for Vivid, Wilsey stated that the first time she saw "erotic material" was when she was "snooping through her parents' things" and found some magazines when she was 11 years old. She later stated that she used to watch porn videos with her boyfriend on his tour bus (presumably referring to Gregg Allman).
Wilsey became involved in a long-term relationship with fellow pornographic actress Jeanna Fine, with whom she later claimed to have fallen deeply in love. In a 1999 interview, following the airing of the E! True Hollywood Story about Wilsey's life and death, Fine commented: "We had an ongoing, on-again, off-again, volatile, loving relationship. At that time I was having a lot of problems myself. Between [male porn actor] Sikki Nixx and Savannah pushing and pulling, I pretty much at one point ran away from them both. I couldn't take it any longer. But I feel I left her behind when she needed me most. It's very sad."
Savannah also had relationships with singer Billy Idol, Mötley Crüe member Vince Neil, Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth, bassist Billy Sheehan who was in Roth's solo band, comedian Pauly Shore, guitarist Slash, and actor Mark Wahlberg, According to an interview with Adult Video News, Wilsey stated: "I love sex and I love sex with rockers more than anything else..."
Wilsey died by suicide in 1994 by shooting herself after a car accident. On the evening of July 11, Wilsey was involved in an auto accident with her Corvette in which she reportedly broke her nose and injured her face. Upset over the accident, she went home to Universal City, asked a friend to walk her dog, and then called her manager, Nancy Pera. It was Pera who later discovered Wilsey in the garage of Wilsey's home. Wilsey did not die immediately; she died hours later in the hospital, after her father decided to shut down her life support systems once it became obvious that she would not survive her injury. Wilsey's ex-boyfriend, comedian Pauly Shore, stated that he was with her when she died in St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank.
Wilsey's funeral, two days later, was attended by friends, family, and limited numbers of adult industry associates. Shore was the only one of her ex-boyfriends to attend the service. Of Wilsey, Shore said, "She was the nicest, most beautiful girl I ever met ... [her death] was a very dramatic thing for me." When asked why she killed herself, he said, "She became Savannah. She became her character, who was into drugs, and needed reassurance all the time. She forgot who Shannon was ... I knew she wanted out [of the porn business]." Wilsey's death was the third high-profile suicide in the adult industry. After her death, Bill Margold founded Protecting Adult Welfare (P.A.W.), a non-profit organization that provides counseling for adult performers in need. Her body was cremated and the ashes given to family & friends.
After her death, Wilsey was profiled in two documentaries:
- The Playboy Entertainment Group produced Playboy: The Story of X (1998), which featured archival footage of her.
- The E! True Hollywood Story: "Savannah" (October 31, 1999) is dedicated to Wilsey's early life, family, career, and unexpected death.
Songs that pay homage to Wilsey include:
- “Van Nuys” by The Fraoch Collective
- "Savannah Smiles" and "Shannon Wilsey on the Starry Stairs" by Okkervil River
- "Savannah" by Zao
- "Savannah: Flights of Ecstasy" by Sheavy
- OC Weekly (February 2014) featured Wilsey, remembering her as not only an Orange County resident, but as well as "Arguably the first superstar porn goddess of the 1990s".
|1990||The Invisible Maniac||Vicky||Credited as Shannon Wilsey|
|Sorority House Massacre II||Satana|
|1991||Camp Fear||Dorm Girl|
|Legal Tender||Mal's Gals|
|1999||E! True Hollywood Story||Herself (archive footage)||Episode: "Savannah"|
- John Johnson (July 16, 1994). "Suicide of Young Superstar Weighs on Porn Industry Tragedy: Pampered, wild Shannon Wilsey, known as Savannah, was the third actress to take her life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
- "Savannah". Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- "AVN's Top 50 Porn Stars of All Time". AmIAnnoying.com. January 2002. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
- "Savannah". Vivid Video. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- "Actor-Director Rex Cabo Dies in Suicide Jump". AVN. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- Stanton, Hal. "15 Suspicious Adult Film Star Deaths". truTV.com. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- "Savannah". Vivid Video. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- "The Life and Death of Savannah". E! True Hollywood Story, excerpt. Archived from the original on 2014-04-07. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- Sager, Mike (2003), Scary Monsters and Super Freaks: Stories of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll and Murder, Thunder's Mouth Press, p. 45, ISBN 1-56025-563-3
- "Jeanna Fine Comments on Savannah Documentary". Adult Video News. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- "Getting Mellow: The Evolution of Pauly Shore Acting: The death of his ex-girlfriend, a porn film actress, may be the turning point in the comedian's life. He wants to shed his party-boy persona", by James Grant, August 9, 1994, Los Angeles Times, Retrieved 2007-10-02
- Sager, Mike, Tattoos & Tequila
- "'I don't blame the industry for mistreating her. If anything, they spoiled her rotten.' Porn Star Puts an End to Her Life in the Fast Lane", by John Johnson, July 16, 1994, Los Angeles Times, Retrieved 2007-10-02
- Grant, James (August 9, 1994). "Getting Mellow: The Evolution of Pauly Shore Acting: The death of his ex-girlfriend, a porn film actress, may be the turning point in the comedian's life. He wants to shed his party-boy persona". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- Carlos Martinez (2006-11-16). "Stevi Secrets to Host P.A.W. Foundation Fundraiser". AVN. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Playboy: The Story of X (1998)". IMDb. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Peter Warren (2007-08-20). "Indie Rock Band Records Ode to Savannah". AVN. Retrieved 2013-09-19.
- Gustavo, Arellano; Ferguson, Brandon; Sakai, Shuji (February 14, 2013). "America's Porn Paradise! Jenna Haze, Aurora Snow, Dani Daniels and more of the 20 greatest adult film actors and actresses in OC history". Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "1992 AVN Award winners". Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-19.
- "Adult Video News Award Winners - 1995". RAME. 1996-01-08. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
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