Beloved Hollywood starlet Stella Stevens dead at age 84

 February 18, 2023

Famed American actress and Hollywood starlet Stella Stevens, who appeared in dozens of films and TV shows over the decades, has died at the age of 84, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The news of her death on Friday was shared with the outlet by Stevens' son, actor-director-producer Andrew Stevens, who shared that "She had been in hospice for quite some time with Stage 7 Alzheimer’s."

From modeling to acting

Born in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1938 as Estelle Caro Eggleston, she grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where she married a classmate at age 15, had her son at age 16, and was divorced by age 17, after which she began working as a department store model and in theater while attending Memphis State University.

Stevens, the stage name she adapted from her married name of Stephens, caught the eye of a 20th Century Fox executive and was signed to a contract but was soon released by that studio.

In January 1960, she was featured as that month's Playboy Playmate and appeared nude in the magazine again twice more in 1965 and '68,and though that likely boosted her film and TV career, she later regretted it as it resulted in her being too often typecast as a blonde bombshell "sexpot."

An incredible career

According to Stevens' IMDb page, she was credited with appearing in 142 different films and TV shows from 1959 to 2010. She was also credited as the director of two films, "The Ranch" in 1989 and "The American Heroine" in 1979, which she also produced.

Variety reported that some of Stevens' best-known work was starring alongside Elvis Presley in 1962's "Girls! Girls! Girls!," alongside Jerry Lewis in 1963's "The Nutty Professor," and as the wife of Ernest Borgnine in 1972's star-studded epic oceanliner disaster flick "The Poseidon Adventure."

Her first film appearance came in 1959 alongside Bing Crosby in "Say One for Me," and though that appearance earned her a Golden Globes aware as a "most promising newcomer," 20th Century Fox dropped her shortly thereafter -- only for her to then be signed by Paramount Pictures.

Stevens also made guest appearances in upwards of 50 different TV series, including recurring roles on a few soap operas like "Flamingo Road" in the early 1980s, "Santa Barbara" in 1989-90, and "General Hospital" in the late 1990s.

Beloved as the "OG of strong Hollywood women"

Stevens' good friend and manager, Maria Calabrese, said in a statement to Deadline, "It was an honor and a privilege to work with Stella, who was one of the most wonderful and gifted people I have ever worked with."

"While I truly wish I could have done more for her toward the latter years of her career and shared in her frustration as she so wanted to make the leap from a triple threat American icon to producer -- her wish, never realized, was to have three original Western scripts produced," she continued.

Stevens "was an amazing animal lover, horse wrangler, rock and roller, so ahead of her time and so much more than a sex symbol -- which her adoring fans admired her for and understood. What a tremendous body of work and loss. She was the OG of strong Hollywood women," Calabrese added.

Preceded in death by a longtime romantic partner

Stevens appears to have never remarried after her early school-aged nuptials, though she did have a lengthy romantic partnership together with rock guitarist Bob Kulick from 1983 until his death in 2020, who according to THR worked with famed artists and groups like Diana Ross, KISS, Lou Reed, Meatloaf, and Motorhead, to name a few.

In addition to her son Andrew, Stevens is also survived by her three grandchildren, Amelia, Aubrey, and Samuel.

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