Stella Stevens, a Golden Globe-winning actress and “Hollywood bombshell” of the 1960s, has died at the age of 84.
Variety and Deadline were among the first to disclose Stevens’ death on Friday, the former cited her son Andrew Stevens as the source, while the latter cited Andrew and a longtime friend of the actress, John O’Brien.
Both papers said that Stevens died on Friday in Los Angeles after a long fight with Alzheimer’s disease. Green Life Media founder Maria Calabrese, Stevens’ manager and friend, confirms the actress’s death to PEOPLE and says in a statement –
“It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with Stella, who was one of the most wonderful and gifted people I have ever worked with.”
“She was an amazing animal lover, horse wrangler, rock-and-roller, so ahead of her time and so much more than a s*x symbol — which her adoring fans admired, respected and understood.”
“What a tremendous body of work and loss. The O.G. of badass women.”
Stevens was born Estelle Eggleston in 1938. She made her big-screen debut in 1959 with small roles in several movies.
Her big breaks came with Too Late Blues (1961), Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Silencers (1966), in which she starred with Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martin, respectively.
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She went on to be in a lot of movies and TV shows, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975), as well as Bonanza, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, Night Court, and many others.
Stevens was in more than one issue of Playboy. In January 1960, she was the magazine’s “Playmate of the Month,” and she was in two more issues later that decade. According to Variety, she was also No. 27 on the list of the 100 s*xiest stars of the 20th century.
The actress has been quoted as once saying –
“It’s been my heart’s desire to direct since I started doing movies. I directed two films in the ’70s and ’80s (1979’s The American Heroine and 1989’s The Ranch). One was a feature-length documentary. But I’ve still not made my debut with a big film.”
Stevens, who won a Golden Globe for a new star of the year in 1960 added –
“So why has it taken me so long? Because it was hard as a ‘s*xpot,’ as I was labeled in the ’60s and ’70s, to have people take me seriously as a producer or director.”
“They would rather see me without my clothes on.”
“While I truly wish I could have done more for her towards the latter years of her career, I shared in her frustration, as she so wanted to make the leap from a triple-threat American icon to producer. Her wish, never realised, was to have three original Western scripts produced.”
But despite not hitting every career goal she had, Stevens once said –
“I did the best I could with the tools I had and the opportunities given me.”
“I was a divorced mom with a toddler by the time I was 17.”
“And Playboy did as much harm as it helped. But in spite of that rough start, I did okay.”
Variety and Deadline said that Stevens is survived by his son Andrew and three grandchildren. Her partner of 37 years, KISS guitarist Bob Kulick, who died in 2020 at age 70, died before her.