Celebrity News February 17, 2023
Stella Stevens, 'Nutty Professor' Girl-Next-Door and 'Poseidon Adventure' Vamp, Dies at 84
Stella Stevens, the blonde stunner who appeared in the original "Nutty Professor" and left a lasting impression as a former sex worker with a heart made of something a bit less precious than gold in "The Poseidon Adventure," died Friday in L.A. after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
She was 84.
Stevens' actor-producer son Andrew Stevens, 67, confirmed her death to Variety. He told THR, "She had been in hospice for quite some time with Stage 7 Alzheimer's."
Born Estelle Eggleston on October 1, 1938, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, she grew up in Memphis and married Noble Stephens as a teenager, giving birth to Andrew in 1955.
Divorced by 1957, she was acting in a Memphis State University production of "Bus Stop" when she was discovered, leading to a long career in Hollywood after movie star Dick Powell personally directed her screen test.
Changing her name from Stella Stephens to Stella Stevens, she debuted in the Bing Crosby musical "Say One for Me" in 1959.
She went on to play Appassionata Von Climax in the film adaptation of "Li'l Abner" (1959) and won a Golden Globe as a newcomer of the year in 1960.
Enhancing her status as a sex symbol, she posed for Playboy magazine throughout the '60s, and provided cheesecake in the Elvis Presley film "Girls! Girls! Girls!" (1962). She later confirmed she was not a fan of either of those career moves.
After a rare chance to showcase her dramatic abilities in John Cassavetes' "Too Late Blues" (1961), Stevens scored back-to-back hits with the Jerry Lewis classic "The Nutty Professor" and director Vincente Minnelli's acclaimed "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1963), locking her into light comedic roles for a long stretch.
Other noteworthy films of this era include the Dean Martin spy spoof "The Silencers" (1966), "Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows" (1968), "How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life" (1968), and Sam Peckinpah's "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" (1970), the latter of which included a nude scene.
Like Raquel Welch, who also died this week, Stevens courted controversy via an interracial love scene with Jim Brown, in 1972's "Slaughter."
But her greatest success came with the role of Linda Rogo, a reformed streetwalker in the star-studded disaster epic "The Poseidon Adventure," the biggest hit at the box office in 1972. Stevens' character was clad in a slinky evening dress until the ship rolling over necessitated the ditching of her gown. "Like hell she will!" her character's ex-cop husband (Ernest Borgnine) rages. "She's got nothin' under it!" In one of the highly quotable film's most enduring lines, Stevens wisecracks, "Just panties. What else do I need?" before opting to spend the rest of the rag-tag group of survivors' journey toward escape in a men's shirt and a smile.
In spite of her presence in a smash hit, Stevens worked mostly in lesser films and on TV for the rest of her career. Highlights on TV include guest spots on the first episode of "Wonder Woman" (1975) and two excursions on "The Love Boat" (1977 & 1983), a stint as a series regular on the short-lived nighttime soap "Flamingo Road" (1981-1982), and an appearance in the TV film "In Cold Blood" (1996). She worked on the soaps "Santa Barbara" and "General Hospital."
She directed and produced the films "The American Heroine" (1979) and "The Ranch" (1989), and took to the stage in a touring production of "The Female Odd Couple" with Sandy Dennis in the '80s.
Stevens also co-wrote the glitzy novel "Razzle Dazzle" in 1999.
Working until 2010, when she ended her acting career with the film "Megaconda," Stevens retired with longtime love Bob Kulick. She was with him from 1983 until his death in 2020, four years after she moved into assisted living to deal with her Alzheimer's.
Legendary actress Stella Stevens, my brother's longtime partner, passed away this morning from a long illness. She is finally reunited with Bob today. She starred in many movies I love. It was very special for my family and I to know her personally. RIP Stella, 1938-2023. pic.twitter.com/xO5gPSXIJf— Bruce Kulick (@brucekulick) February 17, 2023 @brucekulick
She is survived by her son and three grandkids.