Ten Tragic Playboy Magazine Playmates
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Ten Tragic Playboy Magazine Playmates

Some Playboy magazine playmates' lives have ended in tragedy. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Dorothy Stratten, Sue Williams, Claudia Jennings, Star Stowe, Anna Nicole Smith, Carol Willis, Willy Rey and Tiffany Sloan head the tragic list.

Founded by Hugh Hefner, Playboy magazine made its debut in 1953. A staple of Playboy has been the centerfold, populated by many of the world's most beautiful women, some of whom went on to successful careers in motion pictures and television.

Here are ten Playboy Playmates whose lives ended in tragedy. Unfortunately, murders, suicides, drug overdoses and car crashes claimed their share. In memory...

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)

Born Norman Jeane Mortensen in Los Angeles, California, on June 1, 1926,  Marilyn Monroe appeared as Playboy's first Sweetheart of the Month (as it was called back then) in the premiere issue of December 1953. Monroe, who later rocketed to international movie stardom in such films as Niagara (1953), River of No Return (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959), died of a drug overdose at age 36 in Los Angeles, California, on August 5, 1962.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) late 1940s publicity still (Heritage Auction Galleries)

Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967)

Born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on April 19, 1933, Jayne Mansfield appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the February 1955 edition. One of Hollywood's sexiest blondes, Mansfield made her mark in such films as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), Too Hot to Handle (1960) and Promises! Promises! (1963). The 34-year-old Mansfield, along with her lawyer/boyfriend Sam Brody and driver Ronnie Harrison, died in a car crash near Slidell, Louisiana, on June 29, 1967, when their 1966 Buick Electra slammed into the rear of a slow-moving tractor trailer truck on U.S. Highway 90.

Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) 1950s publicity still (Heritage Auction Galleries)

Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980)

Born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on February 28, 1960, Dorothy Stratten appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the August 1979 issue. She later became Playboy's Playmate of the Year for 1980. The 20-year-old Stratten, who did some minor movie and television work in Hollywood – Skatetown U.S.A. (1979), Galaxina (1980), et al., – was raped and shotgunned to death by her estranged husband and manager Paul Snider in West Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 1980. Snider then committed suicide. Two movies were subsequently made on the Stratten tragedy: NBC-TV's Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981) with Jamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Weitz and Bob Fosse's Star 80 (1983) with Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts.

Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980) portrait (dorothystratten.com)

Sue Williams (1945-1969)

Born Karen Susan Hamilton in Glendale, California, on November 14, 1945, Sue Williams posed as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the April 1965 edition. The petite 23-year-old Williams, who appeared in a handful of American International Pictures beach films under her real name of Sue Hamilton – How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), et al. – committed suicide in Los Angeles, California, on September 2, 1969.

Sue Williams (1945-1969) portrait (findagrave.com)

Claudia Jennings (1949-1979)

Born Mary Eileen "Mimi" Chesterton in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 20, 1949, Claudia Jennings appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the November 1969 issue. She was later named Playboy's Playmate of the Year for 1970. The 29-year-old Jennings, who appeared in such B-movies as Unholy Rollers (1972), Truck Stop Women (1974) and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976), died in Malibu, California, on October 3, 1979, when she fell asleep at the wheel of her Volkswagen convertible.

Claudia Jennings (1949-1979) portrait (findagrave.com)

Star Stowe (1956-1997)

Born Ellen Louise Stowe in Little Rock, Arkansas, on March 19, 1956, Star Stowe posed as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the February 1977 edition. Stowe, a one-time girlfriend of Kiss rocker Gene Simmons, was later beset by alcoholism and drug abuse, working as a street prostitute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to support herself. The partially clothed, 40-year-old Stowe was found strangled to death in Coral Springs, Florida, on March 16, 1997.

Star Stowe (1956-1997) portrait (Wikipedia)

Anna Nicole Smith (1967-2007)

Born Vickie Lynn Hogan in Houston, Texas, on November 28, 1967, Anna Nicole Smith appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the May 1992 issue. She later won honors as Playboy's Playmate of the Year for 1993. The buxom, controversial Smith, whose movie credits included The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994) and Illegal Aliens (2007), set gossip tongues wagging in 1994 when she married 89-year-old Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. The 39-year-old Smith died of a prescription drug overdose in Hollywood, Florida, on February 8, 2007.

Anna Nicole Smith (1967-2007) at the 2005 MTV Australia Video Music Awards (Wikipedia)

Carol Willis (1951-1971)

Born in Bowie County, Texas on April 17, 1951, Carol Willis posed as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the July 1970 edition. The 20-year-old Willis, who was part Cherokee and had been working for a telephone answering service prior to her first modeling job for Playboy, died in an automobile accident in Laguna Beach, California, on November 24, 1971.

Carol Willis (1951-1971) portrait (findagrave.com)

Willy Rey (1949-1973)

Born Wilhelmina Rietveld in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on August 25, 1949, Willy Rey appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the February 1971 issue. The 23-year-old Rey, whose image adorned Playboy Enterprises' original stock certificates in their initial public offering of November 3, 1971, died of an overdose of sleeping pills in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on August 13, 1973.

Willy Rey (1949-1973) portrait (Wikipedia)

Tiffany Sloan (1973-2008)

Born Tiffany Marie Sloan in Orange County, California, on May 29, 1973, Tiffany Sloan appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in the October 1992 edition. The blond, buxom Sloan, whose lone television credit was a 1993 appearance on Married with Children, later worked as an exotic dancer at Club Paradise in Las Vegas. The 35-year-old Sloan committed suicide via a drug overdose in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 1, 2008.

Tiffany Sloan (1973-2008) portrait (Wikipedia)

Other Tragic Playboy Playmate Deaths

  • Eve Meyer (1928-1977), age 48, June 1955 Playmate, airplane crash
  • Paige Young (1944-1974) age 30, November 1968 Playmate, drug overdose
  • Tonya Crews (1938-1966), age 28, March 1961 Playmate, automobile accident
  • Elisa Bridges (1973-2002), age 28, December 1994 Playmate, drug overdose
  • Connie Kreski (1946-1995), age 48, January 1968 Playmate, Playmate of the Year for 1969, stroke
  • Linne Nanette Ahlstrand (1936-1967), age 30, July 1958 Playmate, cancer
  • Debbie Boostrom (1955-2008), age 53, August 1981 Playmate, suicide by gunshot

Connie Kreski (1946-1995) portrait (Playboy Enterprises)

Top Image  

  • Marilyn Monroe 1950 United Artists promotional still from Love Happy (Heritage Auction Galleries)

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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Comments (13)


great post!

Great work. Very original post. Some tragic stories here. Another who could be included was the great Bettie Page.

Ranked #49 in Celebrities

Very interesting

Bettie Page (1923-2008), Playboy's Playmate of the Month for January 1955, was not included. She lived a long life, succumbing to heart attack at age 85 on December 11, 2008. The oldest Playmate on my list is Debbie Boostrom at age 53. The one tragic death that really stands out of course is Dorothy Stratten. That's the one that Hugh Hefner and the Playboy family never fully recovered from after all these years.

Ranked #2 in Celebrities

An excellent tragic collection.

Olala so beautiful people. So sad thier lives ended in tragedy :(

Ranked #4 in Celebrities

That was an interesting article to read thanks for sharing it.

Sure, you're right, Bettie Page lived a long time, but her departure from modelling and later life were quite tragic, unfortunately.

Fascinating and poignant - but what beauty!

It's really too bad that these beautiful and talented women died so tragically, especially the women that committed suicide. Celebrity and pressures of having to constantly live within the public eye can be haunting and miserable for some. Interesting celebrity article, William. Well written and respectable photos. Great work!

It's tragic how many of these were drug overdoses... hollywood is not so good for your health I guess....


Yvette Vickers unusual death fits in ...Playmate of the Month July 1959 ...photos by Russ Meyer no less ...