THE ‘WHO KNEW?’ DEPARTMENT
Death stalked Valerie Perrine throughout her life — but she continues to beat it every time.
When she was 25 the future movie star was a topless dancer in a show at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. She met a guy, Jay Sebring, a hairstylist to movie stars. He invited her to a dinner party in L.A. at a house in Benedict Canyon. She agreed to go and found an understudy to replace her that night in the show, but the understudy suddenly became ill and Valerie had to perform.
She skipped the party — and she is alive today to tell the story.
Just after midnight on August 9, 1969, three armed psychos of the Manson Family burst into the house on Cielo Drive that was rented by actress Sharon Tate and her husband director Roman Polanski and slaughtered all the occupants — Sharon, screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski and his lover Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folgers coffee fortune, Steven Parent, an 18-year-old student who was visiting the property caretaker — and Valerie Perrine’s new boyfriend Jay Sebring.
Sharon Tate was eight months pregnant and the baby could not be saved. Roman Polanski was away filming in Europe at the time.
Valerie went on to become a star, acting in 60 movies and TV shows, including a famous turn as the girlfriend of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in the 1978 Superman. She has acted with Christopher Reeve, Jeff Bridges, Jack Nicholson, Elliott Gould, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.
When she was 32, she played Lenny Bruce’s stripper wife Honey Bruce in Bob Fosse’s film Lenny. a performance that won her awards at Cannes, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and a best actress Oscar nomination.
In 1975 she boarded a small plane to attend the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain to honor Bob Fosse for his movie Lenny.
The plane crashed on takeoff from the airport in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.
Valerie Perrine walked away with minor cuts and bruises.
The closest Valerie Perrine came to marriage was to importer and gun collector Bill Haarman, then 30, but a month before the wedding, the pistol he always carried in his waistband fell to the floor and went off. The bullet ricocheted off a door and struck him in the heart, killing him instantly. Perrine never recovered from the tragedy of his death.
She had several lovers over the years — including Elliott Gould to Dodi Fayed, who died in the Paris car crash that killed Princess Diana — but she never married.
Now 79, Valerie continues to defy death in a ten-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, which has destroyed her mobility and much of her ability to eat and speak. But not her sense of humor and positive outlook.
As the Grim Reaper waits in the wings, she takes a puff of pot from her pipe and laughs in his face.