In Loving Memory of the Days of Our Lives Leading Lady Whose Life Ended in Unspeakable Tragedy 40 Years Ago: ‘I Often Felt We Could Have Done Something’
Reeling from the death of her son, Brenda Benet fatally shot herself on April 7, 1982.
We sometimes think of our soaps, “Oh, that’s too dark. That’s just too sad.” But daytime storylines, even at their most heart-wrenching, pale by comparison to the pain that Brenda Benet endured.
In 1982, the actress’ career was going strong. She was playing supervixen Lee Dumonde on Days of Our Lives. And though viewers loved to hate her — her conniving character was, after all, coming between megapopular Doug and Julie Williams — she was as integral a part of the show as the hourglass.
Behind the scenes, though, Benet was coping with unspeakable grief. A year after her 1981 divorce from Bill Bixby — aka David Banner on The Incredible Hulk — their 6-year-old son went into cardiac arrest on a skiing trip and died shortly thereafter of what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said was a throat infection.
Credit: Courtesy of the Everett Collection
It was just over a year later that Benet committed suicide at just 36 years old. “I often felt,” Bill Hayes (Doug) admitted to We Love Soaps in 2010, “that we could have done something or said something that would have prevented it.“
But, he and wife Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie) told the site, their co-star was an extremely private person. Only “the [show’s] costumer knew she had lost 20 pounds just prior in the past month,” Susan shared. “He knew she was drinking, and she was going downhill physically.
“He would see her naked,” she added, so “he could see the big changes she was going through. It felt awful.”
To this day, Benet’s death remains a shock. She had a vivacity that made — that still makes — it impossible to imagine her being gone. Sigh. If on this sad occasion you need a pick-me-up — we wouldn’t blame you — perhaps you can find it in the below photo gallery that takes you from Days of Our Lives’ earliest years all the way through today.