By Jeff Jones with Marc Medoff in Hollywood
She had thousands of fans but few friends. She starred in dozens of sexually explicit films, yet jealously guarded her privacy. Linked romantically with several of rock's biggest names, she may have lost the love of her life because of her racy reputation. In public a pampered, moody star, in private quiet and shy, she seemed to be two people living in the same body-two people with one lonely, tormented soul.
When Shannon Wilsey, known worldwide as the adult-film superstar Savannah, put a pistol to her head last summer and pulled the trigger, she brought to a sudden, violent end a life that gave her wealth and fame but ultimately led to financial ruin, isolation, and despair, all before her 24th birthday. Our indepth investigation for Celebrity Skin reveals a deeply troubled figure who combined ambition and self-destruction, discipline and excess, person and persona, into a shaky dual identity that finally tore Shannon/Savannah apart.
As Savannah, perhaps the most celebrated pom star ever, the statuesque blonde beauty bared her body in numerous magazine layouts, in nationwide stripclub dance performances, and in over 80 erotic videos and films from 1990 to early 1994, when she retired from the adult industry. She also appeared, as Shannon Wilsey, in at least three B-grade, R-rated releases: Sorority House Massacre 2 (1990); Legal Tender (1991); and most notably, in a featured role in 1990's Invisible Maniac, in which she plays Vicky, a cheerleader murdered by a crazed high-school physics teacher while showering in a girls locker room. Ironically, considering her sexy image, one of her costars in Legal Tender was ultraconservative talkshow host Morton Downey Jr., with whom she cavorts topless in a bubble-bath scene.
Widely reported to love partying and nightclubbing, the actress allegedly had affairs with celebrities like keyboardist-singer Gregg Allman, guitarist Slash of Guns N' Roses, former Motley Crue singer Vince Neil, British post punk rocker Billy Idol, and actorcomedian Pauly Shore. (She also reportedly angered Guns N' Roses leader Axl Rose by commenting unfavorably on his sexual skills to a British tabloid; Rose has said they may never have met.) Most recently she had reportedly been dating Danny Boy, member of the IrishAmerican rap group House of Pain, in whose video of "On Point" she appears as a ringside spectator at a boxing match. (Through representatives, all but Idol and Danny Boy declined to discuss their alleged experiences with the actress. As of this writing, Danny Boy was in Europe on tour with House of Pain and unavailable for comment, and Idol was incapacitated, having just been admitted, according to televised reports, to St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, Califomia-the same facility where Shannon Wilsey died on July 11-for emergency treatment of a suspected drug overdose.)
In her public role as the sex siren Savannah, Shannon Wilsey created a character that put her on top of the erotic entertainment industry and gave her the visibility to win entrance to the tightly guarded circles of mainstream American celebrity. Following her death, however, most of her reputed former lovers appeared reluctant to discuss-or even acknowledge-any connection with the actress. Only one-Pauly Shore-remained a friend. (A very dear friend, apparently; Shore was reportedly at Shannon's bedside when she died.) As events were to show, being Savannah brought Shannon no more than fleeting fame, and later, rejection, self-hatred, and desolation. What, then, went so wrong in such a young life? Perhaps part of the answer may be found in the past.
Mike and Pamela Wilsey married as teenagers, and Shannon, their only child together, was born October 9, 1970, in Laguna Beach, California, a suburban seaside community south of Los Angeles between Newport Beach and San Clemente. Her parents say Shannon was a precocious child who showed early talents for dancing and drawing: "When she was two years old, or less than two," says Mike Wilsey, 43, a self-employed plumber in Ventura, California, "her mom and I, we'd get our stereo, [and] we'd play music. She'd just start dancing, you know, doing this cute little Indian dance. We'd just play [our] song over and over just to watch her dance." Pam, 41, who says art was her daughter's favorite school subject, remembers finding a sketch that Shannon did when she was three and remarking how skillful it was for a child that young. "She was extremely smart," Pam says with quiet pride.
The Wilseys divorced acrimoniously when Shannon was only two, and she didn't see her father again for more than 10 years. "Me and her onginal mother had a lot of serious problems," Wilsey admits, explaining that for years he erroneously believed that Shannon was not his child. "I had a lot of remorse because I used that-being angry with her mother-and she suffered the consequences of my own selfishness. A man should love a child no matter what. I did, but reservedly," Wilsey sighs.
Although her second husband, Joe Longoria, accepted Shannon, raising her as his own, Pam believes the prolonged absence of her natural father hurt Shannon terribly. "I think that was confusing for her as she got older, knowing that there was someone out there that was her real, biological father, that didn't have anything to do with her," she recalls. "I'm sure that hurt her a lot."
Mike Wilsey regretfully agrees. "I wasn't here for her during most of her young years. I left her alone, and I think she grew up with a hole in her heart."
Despite the pain of her parents' split, Pamela Longoria says that Shannon grew up a happy girl who earned straight A's in school and loved to mother Joe Longoria's four children along with the additional three siblings Pam and Joe had together. "She loved to grow flowers. She loved playing dolls and dressing up, and [to] play house and play school. She always wanted to be the teacher. She always said that when she was grown up that she was gonna be an airline stewardess," Pamela Longoria remembers. Although the Longorias struggled to raise their eight children on Joe's salary as a grocery clerk, Pamela insists that Shannon's childhood was satisfactory, despite published reports to the contrary in the wake of her suicide.
"Everything I'm reading so far is just destroying me because there's so [many] lies being printed about her," Pamela said last summer. "In The Los Angeles Times, it [said] she had an unhappy childhood and that she was molested as a child, which is not true. I always told her I loved her no matter what she was doing for a living. We never shunned her or nothing because of what she was, I mean, what her occupation was. I mean, we loved her unconditionally. And she knew it."
By 1987, Shannon had developed into a self-willed young woman of striking beauty, with piercing blue eyes and a worldly, confident manner that belied her youth. By this time she had reestablished a relationship, albeit a difficult one, with the father from whom she had been separated for so long, moving from Texas to live with him and his second wife and family for a short time before a conflict between his authority and her forceful free spirit led her to move in with her great-grandparents, in Mission Viejo, where she attended high school and was a cheerleader. "She had a hardtime accepting orders from anybody, even when she was little. Very determined and strong-willed. When she set her mind to do something, you could prettv much consider it was gonna be done.
What Shannon wanted to do was to meet the rock and roll heroes she idolized, and become part of their glamorous, fast-paced lifestyle. "She loved music, she loved rock stars," says her father. "That's what she wanted to do-marry a rock star. I figured that was what would happen."
Shannon dropped out of high school and began haunting rock venues around southem Califomia, hoping to meet her favorite musi cians. It's not hard to imagine dressing-room a doors opening for such an attractive young woman, and one evening Shannon found herself admitted backstage at a Gregg Allman Band concert. The legendarv whiskey-voiced singer, then almost 25 years her senior, took a liking to the fresh-faced California girl, then 16 or 17. Within a short time, he had asked her to join him on tour, reportedly sending a limousine to pick her up at home.
"It was an intimate relationship, and she traveled [with Allman] on and off, for a couple years," confirms Kirk West, longtime road manager for the Allman Brothers Band. In 1987, West says, Shannon appeared in a Gregg Allman Band video, "Can't Keep Runnin"', as one of a group of cowgirls, and in 1989, in a bit part in a video of the Allman Brothers' classic, "Statesboro Blues."
By the time either of her parents heard of the underage Shannon's liaison with Gregg Allman, she was already on the road with him and would remain so for months at a time, although she occasionally visited her mother in Texas. She would not see her father again until just before she turned 18. Kirk West insists that no one in the Allman organization was aware that Shannon was a minor. "She told everybody she was 18," he says. "I mean, everybody knew she was young, but she told everybody she was 18."
At first, Pam Longoria says, she was proud that her daughter had acquired a famous boyfriend. But later she became enraged at what she says Shannon told her about Allman. Not only had he introduced the girl to heroin, Longoria charges, but he had also fathered a child with her, for which he allegedly refused to take responsibility. (Longoria says her daughter later miscarried.)
While acknowledging Gregg Allman's widely reported past drug problems, including heroin use, Kirk West is adamant that by 1987, the singer was off hard drugs. "I was on the road a good bit during 1987, '88, '89," West says. "Gregg was not doing heroin. I mean, I have sat in rooms with Gregg when people that had [heroin] came in; he'd send them away. I mean, you get in that kind of position, people want to be your 'friend,' want to turn you on, and I have sat there personally and watched him turn those people away. "
As to the charge that Allman fathered Shannon's child, West says, "None of us ever heard about that." He added that he had checked with members of the band and road crew on tour in the late 1980s, and none recalled any paternity claims by Shannon against Gregg Allman.
West and the Allman's chief manager, Bert Holman, both described Allman as too distraught about Shannon's suicide to answer questions about their relationship. However, Pam Longoria remains angry at Allman, saying that his breakup with Shannon in 1989 was a crushing disappointment that hardened her daughter. "She was a completely normal person until she got hooked up with Gregg Allman," Longoria Longoria says.
Following the end of the relationship with Allman, Shannon moved back to her father. father. Around that time both of her beloved great tgrandparents died, plunging her into grief. She coped by getting a sales job in a clothing store. She was so proud of herself that she tcould do the regular thing, and she settled lright in, and she did real well, " Mike Wilsey recalls. Shannon also decided to get her high school eqiuivalency certificate, doing so after only two weeks of intense studying with her father's help. But Shannon remained restless. In the company of Gregg Allman, she had tasted the fruits of fame, seen the adoring crowds, and undoubtedly taken note of the special, almost reverent way the famous are treated-their every demand instantly met, their behavior, no matter how outrageous, tolerated, even rewarded. V Two months before Shannon returned, Mike Wilsey had converted to born-again Christianity after what he says were years of alcohol and drug abuse that drove him to the ,, edge of suicide. He says his newfound religious faith saved his life, and at first, he remembers, Shannon accepted his invitations to attend services and lectures, including one on the supposed connection between Satanism and heavy-metal rock music, an argument that didn't sit well with the music loving girl. Although she would later claim that a porno producer "discovered" her standing on a street corner, Shannon gradually drifted - into the sex business along a rather conven| tional path, according to Marc Verlaine, editor of the Erotic X-Film Guide. First there was lingerie modeling, then nude dancing and modeling, then softcore bondage and fetish film work under her first stage name Silver Kane. Her first truly explicit film was an all- girl lesbian feature, No Boys: Allowed, for VCA in 1990
Shannon rose rapidly to pom stardom, undergoing surgical breast augmentation, a rite of passage for new starlets. She changed her stage name to Savannah, after her favorite film, 1982's Savannah Smiles, in which a little rich girl runs away from home and reforms criminals. Shannon hadn't run away, but she had already been on her own for years.
As her stature-and market clout grew, Shannon, as Savannah, developed into a tough, demanding star personality, earning a Marilyn Monroe-like reputation for tantrums and odd behavior that delayed filming for hours, even day, Sometimes she would refuse to perform at all, causing producers, directors-and resentful acting colleagues-enommous frustration. But because she was capable of delivering effective erotic perfommances that sold videos, her moods were endured.
"When I first met her my immediate impression was that she was a professional party doll," says Marc Verlaine. "She loved sex; she especially loved sex with rock stars more than anything else. She was in love with the scenes that rock stars and porn provided. In the rock world she was a supergroupie; in pom, she was a big fish in a small pond." "In a way though," Verlaine adds, "she was naive and full of self-doubt."
In April 1991, Savannah was signed to an exclusive contract by Vivid Video, a major erotic-film studio. She had arrived in the big time, earning thousands of dollars weekly doing sex scenes and dancing in strip clubs. At Vivid she was directed in a few scenes by Nancy Pera, who became her manager and close friend. Pera says that she recognized then that Savannah's eccentric moods constituted an acting out for attention by a girl who seemed desperate for love, in spite of her difficult behavior.
"She wanted to be somebody special, somebody big, somebody important," Pera, 46, remembers. "She thought people would respect her and love her. Even though she acted like a rebel, she wanted everyone to like her, to approve of her. And when they didn't, that's why she would act more wild."
To keep the actress happy, Pera would cater to her desires, stopping filming to buy a radio if Savannah wanted music, or sending an assistant out for an ashtray if none was on the set. Once, Pera, a light drinker, even agreed to do shooters of alcohol with Savannah so the actress wouldn't have to drink alone-and also to monitor her intake and keep it within safe levels.
" She was a scared and insecure little girl who needed unconditional love all of the time," says veteran pom actress Jeanna Fine, who also says that she and Savannah were lovers from 1990 to 1992.
"Savannah tested people," Fine explains. "She pushed people to the limits to see how they would react. Although she was very afraid of rejection, she would on purpose make other people dislike her, so she could avoid the possibility of someone rejecting her, so she would reject them first. "
The cracks in the star's psyche were clearly visible to anyone who looked closely. "Savannah was a person with a large ego, with such a large black hole of an ego that she sucked up everything and everyone around her," Fine sighs. "Shannon was a sweet, gentle, insecure little girl."
Given the right circumstances of trust and pnvacy, the sharp-tongued, cynical Savannah would fade and the matemal, warmhearted Shannon reemerge.
"I recall one time I was very, very sick and she told me to come over to her house and she would take care of me," Jeanna Fine tearfully reminisced. "I went over there and had like a fever of 104 degrees. She went and cooked me a bowl of chicken soup. Then she put me to bed and didn't get mad that I was sweating gallons all over her expensive sheets. She kept trying to comfort me, and brushed my hair and wiped my face. She kept cooing in my ear that she loved me and that it would be all over soon. Finally we both fell asleep, and in the moming I woke up and there she was sleeping, and I kissed her awake and she looked up at me and smiled, 'Hello honey, I love you."'
Most of the time, however, Savannah was the dominant half of the actress's divided self. It was Savannah who eamed the money, Savannah who made public appearances, Savannah who defiantly told her industry peers, at the ceremony where she had been named Best New Starlet of 1992 by the Adult Video News, that she was now too big to care what they thought of her.
Most importantly, it was the now-fabled Savannah that the rock stars wanted to meet-and sometimes, take home to bed. By transforming herself into Savannah, Shannon had tumed the tables-now the guitar heroes and long-haired singers sought an encounter with the X-rated video star. Billy Idol, who reportedly spotted the blonde star in the audience at one of his concerts and sent an assistant to fetch her backstage, allegedly liked to have sex with her several times a night. (She retumed the favor by giving Idol high marks for lovemaking skill in the same tabloid article where she knocked Axl Rose.) As her notoriety in porn grew, so did her access to her musical icons.
Veteran actor-director Ron Jeremy, who has appeared in hundreds of sex films as well as in The Chase with Charlie Sheen and The Dark Backward with Judd Nelson and Rob Lowe, and who also has many contacts in the rock world, says that Savannah's wide reputation as a supergroupie was well-eamed.
Says Jeremy: "I told another magazine, as a joke, [when] they asked which rock stars was she with, I said, well, let me put it this way: You ever hear of the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith? Those are the only ones she wasn't with. Everyone else, everyone else. Every major band, she was with the lead singer or someone else. Too many to mention."
Jeremy himself participated in a sexual foursome one afternoon in a Los Angeles hotel with Savannah, porn actress Debi Diamond, and Vince Neil, former singer for Motley Crue. "We [he and Savannah] didn't actually screw, but we played around. It was the only time I ever messed around with Savannah; it was kind of like a little thrill." (Through his representative Jeff Albright, Neil refused comment on this alleged episode.)
"Her off-camera antics with rock and roll stars ten times surpasses anything she ever did [in explicit sex films],'' Jeremy says. "On camera, she was known for being not too crazy in the sex scenes. Pretty relaxed. She wasn't a wild, crazy performer, like a Debi Diamond or something. But off camera, she was wild as rock and roll stars. So anyone who tries to blame porn [for her death] is crazy-she was much more of a wild sexual animal outside the [sexl business."
Savannah's most notorious-and most public-sexual adventure with a rock celebrity was reported in People in 1992. At New York City's Scrap Bar, she and guitarist Slash of Guns N' Roses enjoyed what the magazine ielicately temmed "full tilt whoopie" in front of a roomful of people. "My understanding is -;hat it was head [oral sex] in a bar, but she was under [Slash's] jacket," explains Bryn Bridenthal, Guns N' Roses' Geffen Records publicist.
When her alleged involvement with Slash ended, Savannah was demoralized, says Nancy Pera, who claims that Slash remained m regular contact even after his subsequent marriage to model Renee Suran. Bridenthal, however, characterizes Savannah/Shannon's belief that she and Slash had a serious relationship as "totally and completely her fantasy." Pera angrily differs: "Slash really hurt her, and I can tell you, even though his publicist is denying it, first off, I've seen them together, and then secondly, after he'd gotten married, he used to send her flowers- these gigantic bouquets of flowers that would just take her whole [kitchen] counter up. "
What irritates Pera the most is what she says was a double standard enforced against her client and friend by the musicians she looked up to: as the pomo actress Savannah, she was a favored sexual plaything given full backstage-and bedroom-access. But as Shannon, who so hungered for love, she was disposable.
"What saddens me is that [her sex-star status] was the very reason these people were attracted to her," Pera says. "They'd probably never [have] given her the time of day otherwise. And [it was also] the very reason they'd ostracize her."
As attributed by publicist Bridenthal, Slash's own reaction to the young woman's suicide seems cruelly insensitive: "I mean, the impact on him [of] her death was sort of, 'Huh. Savannah offed herself. That's too bad."'
"It's just another example of societal hypocrisy," comments Daniel Metcalf, a contributing editor of Rock City News, which covers the pop-music scene. "Even though rock stars are supposed to be bad boys who do what they want and don't care what people think, even they have limits to how bad they want to be perceived. Most rock stars want to enjoy the fruits of being in this industry-of which Savannah was certainly one for some of them-but don't want to acknowledge it. It's just hypocrisy pure and simple."
The outstanding exception to all this apparent denial is actor-comedian Pauly Shore, former MTV host and star of Son-in-Law and this summer's In The Anny Now, with whom Shannon reportedly had a special relationship, according to Nancy Pera.
"I think Pauly Shore was the most honest about it," Pera comments approvingly. "He really cared about her, and she felt that, because he never tried to hide it. He criticized her business, but not to the degree that he wouldn't acknowledge that he really was with her. He was one of the only guys to ever go public with her, to take her home to his mother and introduce her. Nobody ever did that. He did want to marry her; he told her to get out of the business and he'd marry her."
"I'll go on record as saying there [were] some feelings there," says Ron Jeremy, who says he introduced Shore to Shannon. "He was very, very good for her...He was hurt the most of all over [her death]. He was really, really upset."
Unfortunately, Pera says, family and peer pressure forced Shore to end his purported affair with the sex star, though they parted amicably and remained friends.
"She always loved him, and he always loved her," says Pam Longoria. "They had a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship and then they decided to just be friends. I think [his] mother [Comedy Store founder Mitzi Shore] had a problem with Shannon's occupation, but I know they were like best friends till the end. "
Shortly before Shannon's death last summer, however, Shore seemed to be trying to distance himself from his fommer relationship with the actress, telling Movieline: "Guys are attracted to girls that are in pom. It's like a sickness, you know?" He then displayed for a reporter a set of cut-out, stand-up photos taken of he and Savannah two to three years ago while they vacationed in Hawaii, saying, in part: "My whole thing back then was and is, that I really don't care what you do for a living, so long as you're cool. I'm less that way now, because I have more respect for myself than back then."
But when Savannah committed suicide, Shore did the honorable, even courageous thing, despite reportedly receiving heavy criticism from the entertainment industry. He organized a private memorial service for Shannon at which he, her father, and friends like Jeanna Fine and Pera offered spoken tributes to her life. Afterward, Shore invited the moumers to a reception at his house.
Shore himself declined to be interviewed for this article, saying through a spokeswoman that he was still recovering from the terrible shock of Shannon's sudden death.
In the final year of her life, Shannon began to deteriorate emotionally, according to her parents and Pera. She allegedly turned to heroin to ease the pain of her rejection by her former rock and roll friends, and to mask the increasing loneliness and isolation she was feeling. She also had mixed feelings about the adult-film career that had brought her wealth but aroused so much hostility from the straight world. Her depression increased as the months wore on, and she began seeing a counselor.
Meanwhile, her father was desperately trying to reach her, hoping for a reconciliation after so many years of difficulty and misunderstanding.
"I went to her place, but she'd never be home," says Mike Wilsey, "and I'd send her lots of letters. And she'd caU once in a while. Last time I talked to her, [about eight months before her death], she told me that she'd been on heroin for about a year, that it was made readily available to her, and she [was] taking about 10 shots a day."
Shannon's finances were also in disarray. Always free with her money, she spent much of her six-figure annual income buying expensive designer clothing and other highticket items.
Nancy Pera provides the following partial list of some of Sharmon's purchases: $15,000 for a sporty, fully loaded Corvette; $7,000 to lease and furnish her house; $5,000 on a sculpture; $3,000 on a painting; and $3,000 for an aquarium stocked with fish costing an average $150 apiece. "She'd just plop it down, plop it down cash," Pera says. "That's how she lived, that was her lifestyle-it was a very expensive lifestyle, something that we couldn't comprehend. "
But Shannon's generosity could be equally extravagant. She usually picked up bar and restaurant tabs when she and friends went out, and sometimes she paid a hard-luck friend's rent. There were gifts of cash to her mother and siblings, and costly presents to family members at Christmas, on Mother's Day, and on their birthdays. And Ron Jeremy points out that Shannon gave thousands of dollars to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Despite frequently returning home from dance engagements flush with cash, Shannon seemingly spent it all, Pera says. She was so broke that during one East Coast club booking, she had to wire money to Pera to cover checks written on an empty account. Moreover, despite having already paid about $30,000 in taxes on her 1993 income, Pera says Shannon was being dunned for thousands more in additional taxes, penalties, and interest by the IRS.
It wasn't until they spoke by phone in May that Pam Longoria learned her daughter's finances were out of control. She advised Shannon to get immediate help to straighten out her money problems, possibly even consider declaring bankruptcy. But Shannon, independent as always, would have none of it. She had so much of her self-worth invested in her possessions, which her hard work had paid for. Yet her unbridled spending was driving her to ruin.
Pam Longoria felt her daughter's growing desperation over the long-distance line. "She said, 'Would I have to give back all my stuff?"' Longoria painfully recalls. "Because she dearly loved the stuff she bought. Growing up [as one of] eight kids, you don't really have everything you want of material things. "
Then Shannon made a remark that chilled her mother's heart. "She said something to the effect, when she was telling me all her problems, that 'I feel like blowing out my brains,' and I took it as a figure of speech," Longoria says. "I feel so guilty now because I didn't realize she meant that. I didn't think she'd do that, but just the fact that she had a gun in the house was worrying me."
The gun, a .40 caliber Beretta automatic pistol, belonged to a friend who lent it to Shannon, who said she needed it for protection against prowlers-but more importantly, against a mystenous stalker that she claimed had recently begun to harass her. The stalker, she told Pera and Longoria, had been spying on her house, and sending her letters that were sometimes adoring, and sometimes threatening. He (or she) had even broken into the house on one occasion, a terrified Shannon told them. Although both Pera and Longoria say they believe Shannon was in danger, LAPD Detective Mike Coffey, one of the officers that investigated her death, stated that police have no record of any stalker complaints from Shannon Wilsey.
By late May, Shannon had reached her breaking point. At a Memorial Day barbecue she attended with Pauly Shore, Pera says, Shannon broke down in tears, confessing that her life was falling apart. Around the same time, Pera says that a close friend of Shannon's suddenly turned on her, saying that she hated " Savannah, " that "Savannah" was a slut, and-worst of all-that Shannon should be ashamed for being Savannah. This latest rejection deeply depressed Shannon, according to Pera. It seemed that she would never be allowed to break away from her former professional identity.
Early in June, Mike Wilsey sent Shannon a gift that he hoped might help ease her troubles. It was a book called Tell Me The Secrets. "Although this book is for kids it has some good answers to life's secrets. I like the ones on victory, love & greatness," Wilsey wrote in an accompanying letter, adding, "Don't forget I love you just the way you are! "
Shannon's response is heart-wrenching. In a vitriolic two-page letter to her father, the actress poured out a lifetime of pent-up sorrow and rage, writing, in part: "You do not care about me and you never have. If you're "there for me" where were you 23 years ago? Where were you when I bounced from "relative" to "relative" because NO ONE WANTED ME? Where were you when I was 17, going out with Gregg a 42 year old man? (Looking for the father I never had)... You are so fake and I will NEVER FORGIVE YOU. YOU THINK "God" has-but if there is a goc he sees the torture & pain I have been through since I was bom and couldn't possi bly forgive you! You will die knowing that YOUR 1ST BORN CHILD HOPES YOU ROT IN HELL WITH ALL THE PAIN I HAVE-INSIDE OF YOU! "
Tragically, Mike Wilsey never got the chance to answer his daughter. After Shannon's suicide, he found the letter among her effects, folded neatly and placed, along with torn-up pieces of another of his letters, inside an envelope that she had addressed and stamped, but never mailed.
The last act of Shannon's agonized life would soon be played out Just after 2 a.m on the morning of Monday, July 11, she was driving home after a night of partying, possi bly in celebration of her successful appear ance in House of Pain's rap-music video of "On Point." She had performed so well thal reportedly more video acting work was being planned for her. It seemed at last that Shannon had found a way to put her sex-star days behind her.
Jason Swing, a friend of House of Pain and their occasional housesitter, was her companion on this last trip. He says Shannon was speeding; he asked her to slow down, but she refused. (A coroner's report says she had been drinking.)
Suddenly, Shannon lost control of her prized white Corvette. It swerved off the road, glancing off a tree and knocking down part of a fence half a block from Shannon's house. The impact threw her face against the wheel, and Swing's leg against the dashboard. Although neither of the two was seri ously injured, the car was a total wreck. Still. Shannon managed to drive it the short dis tance home and into her garage.
By now, Swing says, Shannon was hysterical, racing into the house to frantically place a phone call to ask Nancy Pera to take her to a hospital for treatment. Swing attests that although Shannon had a bruise to the bridge of her nose and was bleeding from one nostril, her beautiful face was not, contrary to initial press reports, disfigured.
Turning from the phone, Shannon asked Swing to walk her dog Daisy and inspect the damage to the fence. He was gone only a few minutes.
When Swing returned with the dog, Shannon was missing. Worried, he searched for her throughout the house, calling her name. Then he opened the door from the house to the attached garage.
Shannon lay sprawled on the concrete floor next to the wrecked car, the borrowed .40 caliber Beretta between her legs, blood pooling from an apparently selfinflicted wound to her right temple. She was still alive, but barely breathing. Panicked and sickened, Swing dialed 911 to summon emergency aid.
Nancy Pera arrived shortly thereafter to find paramedics tending to the critically injured actress. As they removed her from the garage on a wheeled stretcher to an ambulance, Pera followed, grabbing Shannon's bare foot and screaming for her to stay alive.
Despite heroic trauma care, Shannon Wilsey died nine hours later, at 11:20 a.m., in St. Joseph's Hospital, Burbank, with Pera, her father, and Pauly Shore reportedly at her bedside. Her body was cremated at Forest Lawn Park-final resting place of so many stars- and her parents were planning to scatter her ashes at Laguna Beach, where she had been conceived. But the story does not end there.
Within days one producer had approached Nancy Pera with a proposal for a movie based on her relationship with Shannon. Two syndicated tabloid-TV programs and two national magazines were planning stories. Daisy, Shannon's eight-month-old rottweiler, was taken in by Pera and later adopted by Mike Wilsey. And Shannon's Savannah wardrobe was being catalogued for auction. Her house stood empty, her furniture and worldly goods removed by her father, who left only this plaintive note, written on the back of a manila envelope, and addressed to her spirit:
Dear Shannon: I'm sorry for not being there-I'm here now and I will always be there. See you in heaven! I love you and now I hope you know.
Already, some in Hollywood were beginning to call Savannah a legend. But poor, lonely, life-weary Shannon Wilsey, only 23, was gone forever.