Those closest to former actress and Playboy playmate Yvette Vickers say she led a dual life: one as a private recluse hidden away in her Los Angeles neighborhood, and another as a vivid storyteller who charmed audiences at film festivals and kept in touch with her fans years after her star had faded.
Now police believe the badly decomposing body found in Vickers' Los Angeles home, although not yet identified, is indeed the 82-year-old woman best known for her role in "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman."
The coroner's office has yet to determine how long the body lay in the Vickers home.
Ed Winter, assistant chief of investigation at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner, said the body "appeared to be mummified."
"Once you start to have decomposition, it becomes more difficult but it looks like it's probably at least six months; it's hard to say," said Lt. Tony Carranza of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Such a discovery is not altogether uncommon, especially in a big city. The L.A. coroner's office sees two to three of these nearly mummified bodies every year and nearly 300 John or Jane Does, of which they're able to identify about 90 percent, Winter said.
In the unlikely case that they aren't able to identify the body, the coroner's office will do a cremation and keep the remains.
Worried neighbor Susan Savage, an acquaintance of Vickers who hadn't seen her lately, felt compelled to investigate Vickers' whereabouts. She discovered the body April 27.
"It was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen. I didn't even recognize it was a body," Savage said.
Despite the circumstances –- the electricity in the home was still on -- it appears there was no foul play. "We have no reason to believe there was a crime involved in this," Carranza said.
'She Thought People Were Stalking Her'
Over time, Vickers' friends and neighbors say, she descended into paranoia and hoarding, her home eventually filled with black mold.
In her heyday, she had appeared in several films, notably "Hud" and "Attack of the Giant Leeches." Her first movie was "Sunset Boulevard," a 1950 film about a former movie star living as a recluse in a ramshackle home. For just a few seconds on screen, Vickers played the part of a laughing girl.
"She was a wonderful lady and I'm so sorry and sad because I wished I could have helped her," Margaret Netcell said, her voice choked with sorrow. "I just can't imagine dying like that."
Netcell, the operations manager at the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Happy Trail Children's Foundation in Apple Valley, Calif., has known Vickers for the past nine years. Vickers had participated as a panelist at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Western Film Festival that ran for 10 years, until 2007.
"The glamour girl that she was … even in her older years she still reflected that," Netcell said, referring to Vickers' glory days, which included a 1959 spread as July Playboy Playmate of the Month.
Although she had neglected herself to some extent in later years, "She still had that body: pretty, tiny and petite. You could tell she was a knockout, she still had that beautiful blond hair," said Netcell, 50, still struggling with news of Vickers' apparent death.
"We would talk at length on the phone and she'd tell me how much she appreciated my friendship and thanked us for our fun times at the film festival," she said.