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05/03/2011

Yvette Vickers: The B-movie actress really was 82. Here's how we figured it out.

May 3, 2011 | 11:42 am

VickersWhen I first started writing about Yvette Vickers, who died a sad death alone in her Benedict Canyon home, I thought she was 74, based on at least five references that agreed on the year she was born: 1936.

My colleague Andrew Blankstein, who spoke with police and neighbors about the unusual circumstances of her death, posted a blog item that gave her age as 82. His sources: Police and a neighbor, he told me, “who said she talked to the husband, who said 82.”

Except there wasn’t a husband when Vickers, a B-movie actress, died some time in the last year.

Actresses, more than anyone I write about, “prevaricate” about their age. Running down the real birth year can be elusive, but I’ve successfully turned to passenger logs from long-ago ship voyages and the 1930 census to nail down a date.

In Vickers’ case, Times librarian Kent Coloma came through, the second time around. Earlier in the day he said voter registration records listed 1939 as her birth year. That didn’t agree with any research, but it was a clue that Vickers may have treated her age as an elastic number.

Coloma took another crack at it, and, through the “Historical Person Locator,” a vast database of public records, came back with “8/1928,” which means she was 82. That date was given added credence when Vickers’ first husband, Don Prell, returned my call and said with certainty that she was born in 1928.

But Prell couldn’t clear up another fuzzy figure -- the precise number of times Vickers had been married and divorced. “At least twice,” he said.

RELATED:

Yvette Vickers dies at 82; former actress and Playboy playmate

Body of former Playboy playmate Yvette Vickers found in her Benedict Canyon home

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Yvette Vickers, who was best known for appearing in the B-movies "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" and "Attack of the Giant Leeches," was found dead April 27. Credit: Los Angeles Times file

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