BRENDA BENET (born Brenda Ann Nelson) was an American actress, born on this date (d: 1982); She is best known for her roles on the soap operas The Young Marrieds and Days of Our Lives (1979–1982).
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.
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.