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

Vickers Yvette Vickers, an early Playboy playmate whose credits as a B-movie actress included such cult films as “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” and “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” was found dead last week at her Benedict Canyon home. Her body appears to have gone undiscovered for months, police said.

Vickers, 82, had not been seen for a long time. A neighbor discovered her body in an upstairs room of her Westwanda Drive home on April 27. Its mummified state suggests she could have been dead for close to a year, police said.

The official cause of death will by determined by the Los Angeles county coroner's office, but police said they saw no sign of foul play.

Vickers had lived in the 1920s-era stone and wood home for decades, and it served as the background for some of her famous modeling pictures. But over time it had become dilapidated, exposed in some places to the elements.

Susan Savage, an actress, went to check on Vickers after noticing old letters and cobwebs in her elderly neighbor's mailbox.

"The letters seemed untouched and were starting to yellow," Savage said. "I just had a bad feeling."

After pushing open a barricaded front gate and scaling a hillside, Savage peered through a broken window with another piece of glass taped over the hole. She decided to enter the house after seeing a shock of blond hair, which turned out to be a wig.

The inside of the home was in disrepair and it was hard to move through the rooms because boxes containing what appeared to be clothes, junk mail and letters formed barriers, Savage said. Eventually, she made her way upstairs and found a room with a small space heater still on.

She was looking at a cordless phone that appeared to have been knocked off its cradle when she first saw the body on the floor, she said. Savage had known Vickers but the remains were unrecognizable, she said.

She remembered her neighbor as an elegant women in a broad straw hat, dressed in white, with flowing blond hair and "a warm smile."

"She kept to herself, had friends and seemed like a very independent spirit," Savage said. "To the end she still got cards and letter from all over the world requesting photos and still wanting to be her friend."

Savage said the neighbors felt terrible.

"We've all been crying about this," she said. "Nobody should be left alone like that."

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Undated handout photo of Yvette Vickers.

 
Comments () | Archives (145)

Where were her relatives? No one even check on her. So sad she had to pass alone.

Well, missmulkey, the utility company will let you pay your bill automatically from your bank account. Nearly every place you could possibly *receive* money from will deposit it directly into your bank account. If you have a dependable retirement income, your bills could be paid automatically for decades.

Space heater was still on for a year, in most places after 3 months your power is cut if no one pays the bill?
Rest in Peace

I worked for a mortuary service in Tucson Arizona and it wasn't common but every once in a while we would pick up somebody who had been dead for a while before being discovered and it was so horrible. I can't even imagine, and i've seen some crazy things.

Anybody know the brand of that space heater? Sounds like a quality product.

wow! what a major difference 60 years make in a person life!

Well, she was a very private person.

Space heater was still on after a year? How were the electricity bills being paid? Something smells fishy about this story.

Jeff, condolences to you and your family on the loss of your cousin.

Who was paying the heating bill?

This world is heartless and cruel especially to the elderly Did she not have nieces, nephews, or even grandchildren to look after her? What a shame!

What brand of space heater was that? I've been needing one for my room, and this one sounds really reliable.

...and she lived 200 meters from the California version of West Point...

A couple of observations:

Everyone wants to blame somebody for this, and it's sad. Death is natural. People say the neighbors should have noticed something was wrong sooner. Maybe if you are a nosy neighbor you would. In this day and age, it is unrealistic to expect neighbors to know and be responsible for each other. I only know one of my neighbors. I see them once a month or so. Certainly, I see people around the other houses, and cars parked sometimes, but I couldn't tell you when the last time people were at any of the houses. I have a job and a life, that does not involve watching my neighbors. Fifty years ago, it was a different world with far less "distractions" so it was only natural to know everyone in the neighborhood. It's not common anymore.

The mailman is equally not a responsible party. The story said there were old letters in the mailbox, but did not say there were newer letters. The letters were old and yellowed. If the mailman didn't have a reason to open the mailbox in a year, he wouldn't have. If he didn't, he wouldn't have noticed the older mail, right? Also, I have a similar situation with my mail, in that I have a P.O. Box I receive all my mail at. Every once in a while, I will get some junkmail at my home address, but I don't check the mail there often, since nothing of importance goes there. I have gone out to it to send a letter off before, though, and had three-month old junkmail in the box. Granted, not everyone has the same circumstances, but it's hardly a unique situation to have a mailing address different than your home address, and not check the mail at the home address unless you are expecting something.

As far as utilities, any locale worth a damn will allow you to automatically pay your bills through a bank account. That means that as long as there is money in your bank account, your utilities will continue to stay on. I haven't even heard anything from my local electric company in about five years since I got service. I still have electricity. If I were to miss payments due to there not being anything in my account, I'm sure they'd try and contact me, and eventually shut it off. However, they are perfectly happy to take my money every month as long as it's there.

As far as the relatives go, a year is a bit excessive. However, I barely keep in contact with my extended family, save a phone call a year on their birthdays or Christmas. Every few years we do have a get-together or something with some parts of the family, but it's been over ten years since I've seen some of them. Certainly I do keep up with my brothers and sisters and my mom, but my grandmother and cousins and such I don't keep in touch with very often at all (With a few exceptions, ofcourse. But only a couple are on my facebook friends list.)

Finally, I want to point out that being "alone" and being "miserable" are not mutually inclusive. I enjoy being "alone" most of the time, and don't want to deal with neighbors or family coming over. If I died right now, the only people who would really notice me being gone right away would be my boss/co-workers. Some family members would notice it within a week or two, but most people who take months to realize they hadn't heard from me in a while (I doubt my neighbors would EVER notice I had died, since I don't really know them.)

Dunno, but if it's a GE, better leave it on, it might bring good things to life.

It is totally possible that this happen and no one have to feel guilty. It does sound like she may have had a hoarding issue, and like someone else said it is an illness. Hoarders like their stuff because it can't hurt, leave or disappoint you like people can. Besides even if she wasn't a hoarder it is quite possible people wouldn't notice not hearing from her or seeing her for a while, life gets in the way and you don't realize how long it's been since u spoke with someone- I didn't realize I hadn't spoken with my aunt in almost 6 months until she died and we all started talking about the last time we saw her. And the mailman may have not noticed the the pile up of mail depending on the type of mailbox she had. I have a neighbor who has a security box that looks like a miniture postoffice box. I am guessing it could go a good 8 months at least before it was full enough to be visible.
It caan all be explained away without bashing every person she could have come in contact with.

Anybody know what issue of Playboy she was in?

The neighbors were crying about her? Nobody bothered to check for a year?

She lived in a pretty damn nice area just north of Beverly Hills. West L.A. is many things, neighborly it is not. Google Street view Westwanda Drive. Not a neighborly looking street, eh? I just moved to North East L.A. and it is incredibly neighborly. People in that area where she lived really want their privacy... this is not a surprise at all to me if you know the area.

This just isn't right... she had no family? What about the utility companies? Meter Readers are trained to look for things like this... I know, I used to read electric meters. And what about the postal carrier? Neighbors?

This just goes to show... people today are detached! This would not have happened in the 50s... people cared about their neighbors and watched out for each other... this is a very sad story!

There seems to be a lot of people who imagine we all don't die "alone". I live alone and expect to die alone. So what? At least I won't have a lot pesky people bugging me to death (so to speak) while I compose my last thoughts. If you don't think you're going to die alone then I expect you'll be surprised at how few clustered around your death bed have failed to pack for the trip.

Very, very sad. It was not as though she was living in a sparsely populated area, where neighbors are far away. Time have changed, no matter how look at it. People have less and less and time for each other or their neighbors. Reminds of some the words from a song Joan Baez sang,

"Hello in There"

"Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Old people they just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello,"
Say, "Hello in there, hello."

This is sad. This poor woman had so much money she could pay her utilities so far in advance, or maybe she had auto pay and the money was removed without her approval, I don't know. What is weird to me is her pretty picture. Is it real? It looks as though as it has been doctored. I love the pictures and movies from the 40's, 50's and 60's. This picture makes her breasts look like they were photo shopped in and her shoulder looks too tiny to be real. She had a beautiful face, this is a sad tragic story. Rest in peace Yvette Vickers.

Jeff & Suzette, please contact Andrew Blankstein directly @ the LA Times. I have been searching for Yvette's next of kin since I found her last Wed., and I'd like to talk to you both. I so sorry for your loss.

For those of you, who have raised questions about circumstances of Yvette's death, I will do my best to answer them. Why was the power still on? I had the same question. I've since learned that when you get to a certain age (Yvette was 82), the DWP doesn't automatically shut off the power even when you haven't paid your bill in months. The power has been on all this time including the space heater that I shut off; it's amazing it didn't burn the house down. For the record, the lights are STILL on...perhaps, leading those neighbors closest to her to believe that she was ok.

Re: the mail. Apparently, Yvette had gone on vacation back East sometime the previous April, and filed a stop mail/vacation notice with the post office. No one is certain when she returned, but she never contacted the post office to resume her mail. Hence, her mail box was NOT overflowing with mail as it should have been. If it had been, I've no doubt her immediate neighbors or any neighbor (like myself) who occasionally passed by her house would certainly have noticed this a lot sooner. Her mail box was only about half full. Apparently, a few pieces of mail did occasionally get through when our regular mail carrier had a day off. Our usual mail carrier wrote Yvette several notes and attempted to contact her several times. Even going as so far to knock repeated on Yvette's gate door & on the doors of other neighbors asking if anyone had seen her. One neighbor said Yvette regularly went to Las Vegas, which I assume must have assuaged our mail carrier's concerns.

I was not aware that of the vacation hold, but then, I wasn't close with her either. But still, the yellowing envelopes did begin to bother me. Also, when we had new phone books delivered several weeks back, I noticed that Yvette's were outside of her garage for sometime but then they disappeared. So I assumed that Yvette had taken them inside. However, last Wednesday, when I saw there were cobwebs forming on the inside of the mail box, I just knew something was wrong. So I knocked on her gate for long time; it was impossible to open. It was bolted twice, nailed shut, and then, braced at the base with a 2x4. Trust me, it was NOT easily accessible from the street. If it was, our mail carrier might have been able to make contact sooner. I ended up scaling her steeply graded hillside, stepping over high metal barricades and bloodying myself in the process, till I finally got onto her property. All the doors and windows were locked and reinforced from within. I knocked on every door/window, calling her name the whole time. I could see that the lights were on, but there was no response. I went down to the front door of the house, and saw the broken window pane which is how I ultimately got in. I think you'll all pretty clear what happened after that.

Even though Yvette kept to herself and was extremely reclusive, there were some neighbors who would buy groceries for her, bring her to neighborhood watch meetings, trim her hedges at the back of her house and even fix her sprinklers in the process. When Yvette left town, no one seemed to know that she was gone because it appears she didn't share information with any of her neighbors. I know this because they were several notes in her mail box asking for her to give them a call. Her absence did not go unnoticed.

This is a tragedy in any neighborhood. If there had been better communication on all sides, in the end, I feel certain Yvette wouldn't have been alone.

Suzette, Jeff and all of Yvette's family, please accept my heartfelt condolences. I just wish I would have found her sooner.

Yours Sincerely, Susan Savage

People who use the opportunity of a comment thread like this to proselytize are sick opportunists. You're the religious equivalent of ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Anyway, this story really touched me. I don't have any questions of blame; sometimes awful things happen. Others have easily answered the questions that have come up. I even agree that *she* wasn't necessarily bothered by dying alone, as many of us are. It is very sad that no one did or was able to discover her body until now.

To the gentleman who pointed out her appearance in Sunset Boulevard, thanks for helping me realize why she looked so familiar (as I haven't seen 50-Foot Woman). My sincere condolences to the family.

 
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