Brenda Ann Bixby (Nelson) (1945 - 1982)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: CA, USA
Death: Died in CA, USA
Managed by: David Leeds
Last Updated:
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About Brenda Ann Bixby (Nelson)

Brenda Benet (born Brenda Ann Nelson) was an American actress 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.

Benet attended UCLA for a time, and competed in the Miss USA pageant. (Several Internet pages cite Benet as a winner; however, the official Miss USA page does not list her, either under her birth name or her professional name.)

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 prime time television in the 1960s and 1970s, including I Dream of Jeannie, Mannix, My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, Love, American Style, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father. She also had a major feature role in the film Walking Tall (1973).

Benet's 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 Peterson became final, she married Bixby in 1971. The couple had a child, Christopher, in 1974, and then divorced in 1980. After the divorce and up until her death, Benet was in a relationship with pundit Tammy Bruce, who was 17-19 years old during that time period.

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. In the book Like Sands through the Hourglass, actress Susan Seaforth Hayes, who played Julie, recalled conflict between her and Benet that intensified as the storyline progressed.

However, Benet's most personal challenge occurred when her son Christopher died in 1981. While on a skiing vacation, he experienced a sudden illness and went into cardiac arrest after doctors attempted to insert a breathing tube. Benet was devastated by her son's death and sank into a severe depression. On April 7, 1982, Benet took her own life by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 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 Benet 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. The book Soap Opera Babylon said that Benet was actually involved with a male costar on Days of our Lives that ended right before she killed herself.

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Brenda Benet's Timeline

1945
August 14, 1945
CA, USA
1974
September 25, 1974
Age 29
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1982
April 7, 1982
Age 36
CA, USA
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