Stella Stevens, who starred alongside Elvis Presley in Girls! Girls! Girls! and Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, passed away at the age of 84 in Los Angeles on Friday, February 17. Her son, Andrew Stevens, revealed she had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, according to Variety.
Stella also gained fame in the disaster film The Poseidon Adventure, where she managed to stand out in a crowd of famous faces such as Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, and Shelley Winters. One of her more memorable, and cheeky performances, came as the villain in 1975’s Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. She ate up the role of the Dragon Lady, a drug-dealing gangster boss who has a harem of ladies at her beck and call.
Born on October 1, 1938, in Yazoo City, Michigan, Stella got her start with some local modeling before landing a Playboy centerfold in January 1960, according to Deadline. She later regretted the sexpot reputation, per the outlet, and reportedly said, “I did the best I could with the tools I had and the opportunities given me. I was a divorced mom with a toddler by the time I was 17. And Playboy did as much harm as it helped. But in spite of that rough start, I did OK.”
After she was given a screen test by 20th Century Fox, Stella soon found herself next to such stars as Elvis in 1962’s Girls! Girls! Girls!, Dean Martin in How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life, Bobby Darin in Too Late Blues, and Glenn Ford in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. She even won a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer for 1959’s Say One for Me, which starred Bing Crosby and Debbie Reynolds.
Later on in the 80s, Stella found a new legion of fans with her role on the short-lived, primetime soap opera Flamingo Road, as well as recurring parts on General Hospital. and Santa Barbara. She also sat in the director’s chair for 1979’s The American Heroine and 1989’s The Ranch.
Along with her son Andrew, Stella is survived by three grandchildren. RIP Stella.