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The adult industry's most celebrated star, and perhaps its most controversial one, apparently took her life in the early morning hours of July 11 (1994) with a self-inflicted handgun wound to the temple.
As AVN went to press, police were investigating, but details were still sketchy on the circumstances involving the death of actress Shannon Wilsey who was better known to her fans as Savannah.
From what AVN could gather from the tragic incident, Savannah was reportedly despondent over a car accident earlier in the evening in which she supposedly drove her white Corvette into a fence. Upset by a recent dancing engagement in Las Vegas for which she was still trying to get paid, Savannah thought she had broken her nose in the car accident and that it would prompt cancellation of her upcoming dance appearance which was scheduled at Goldfinger's in Nyack, N.Y.
The dancing engagements were an extremely important part of Savannah's curriculum, and she was known to earn as much as $5,000 in a single evening. To that extent, Savannah had commented one time on the Joan Rivers Show, that the best thing she liked about the porn business was that she didn't have to look at price tags anymore.
"Savannah lived expensively, but she was in a crunch for money. She saw her world collapsing," said writer/director and Savannah's industry confidante, Nancy Pera. Pera was Savannah's manager "as well as you could manage her," Pera said. "Savannah could be a pain in the neck, but I was very fond of her."
Savannah, according to Pera, was crying about a possible broken nose. She called Pera about 2:15 A.M., informing her of the car wreck. Pera arrived about 2:40 A.M. at Savannah's house in Universal City. Savannah had just purchased the home this past October, ironically, for cash because of bad credit.
By the time she arrived, Pera found a fire truck in the driveway. In the intervening minutes, Savannah had evidently gone to her garage, produced a 9mm semi- automatic pistol (though police would neither confirm this detail, comment, nor make a report available) and put it to her head. Meanwhile, detectives from the North Hollywood Division, responding to a 911 call, called the Fire Dept. Medical Unit. The paramedics arrived and transported Wilsey/Savannah to the St. Joseph Medical Center. Pera said the gun wasn't something "like Dirty Harry would use, but it was close to it." Pera found Savannah laying in a pool of blood but was still breathing.
"I said, 'Stay with us, Shannon.' I thought she would make it," Pera said. Savannah was rushed to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank where she died 1:20 PM after almost 11 hours in a coma. Pera had last seen Savannah around 7 PM Sunday evening when they took Savannah's dogs for a walk in the park.
According to producer/director Al Borda for whom Savannah starred in The Hustlers, the alleged suicide has a bizarre element to it. "To the best of my knowledge she didn't own a gun," says Borda. "She didn't like guns."
Savannah was born in Laguna Beach and would have been 24 years old this October 9 (1994). An actress and rock groupie who had appeared in commercials and several music videos, Savannah also appeared in mainstream films and on boxcovers, notably Invisible Maniac and Ghoul School. Although she had the reputation for being an ice goddess, Savannah once proudly stated in an AVN interview that she was an exhibitionist who frequented wild parties and had done "some pretty crazy things" along the way: "I love sex and l love sex with rockers more than anything else," Savannah would often say.
"I don't seem to go out with really normal people. I'm kind of on the wild side. I don't think I ever went out with anybody with short hair. l like musician types," observed Savannah whose party tools of choice were screwdrivers and Michelob, to the extent where her friends joked about her having dedicated her refrigerator to Mickeys'.
Savannah had celebrated affairs with the likes of Greg Allman from the Allman Brothers Band; Billy Idol (with whom she once bragged as having sex with at least six times in one evening - Idol liked her to wear high heels - and never less than three on any other occasion), and both Slash and Axl Rose from Guns N' Roses. Savannah created further world headlines in a supermarket tabloid by rating Rose as a "1" on the scale of 1 to 10 in the sack. Just recently she had been dating Danny Boy from House of Pain who was currently on a European tour at the time of the incident. There have also been romances with an L.A. Kings hockey player and film/TV personality Pauly Shore.
Capitalizing on her past as an internationally recognized groupie, Savannah made her celebrated move into the world of XXX, billing herself at one time as Silver Kane.
She had done a number of amateur features along with enema and spanking videos for Prestige Video and began gaining recognition as Video Exclusives' premier boxcover girl. Paraphrasing Forrest Gump, controversy is as controversy does, Savannah parlayed her tabloid-worthy lifestyle and covergirl looks into instant star status and was recognized as one of the highest, if not the highest paid female performers in the adult film business.
In April 1991, Savannah signed a contract with Vivid and went on to do films like Indian Summer, Indian Summer 2: Sandstorm; Sinderella, House of Sleeping Beauties I & 11, and the 4-part epic On Trial series in which she played a porn star whose film is at issue in an obscenity trial.
In 1992 Savannah was named AVN Best New Starlet, a decision that had sparked some furor, not the least of which included post awards show imitations by other actresses impersonating Savannah and her infamous "kiss my ass" acceptance speech.
After her Vivid contract had run out, Savannah began hiring out to other companies, though not on a frequent basis. She appeared in a Mitch Spinelli feature called The Savannah Affair and later raised a number of eyebrows by agreeing to appear in the premiere release of director John T. Bone's Starbangers gang bang series.
"She was awesome," Bone recalled of that shoot.
"I think she felt her career was on the slide and she wanted to do something outrageous and shock the world. I had met her one other time for about three minutes and had heard all the horror stories about her, but, unlike her queen image, I found her to have a good, professional attitude."
I think she had a secret sense of humor which Savannah didn't care the share with others -- like she didn't want people to know she was having fun," opined Bone. Later in the year, Savannah starred in The Hustlers, a film directed by Buck Adams, produced by Al Borda.
Borda said there was a side of Savannah which the public wasn't privy to.
"She was Shannon in freckles and a ponytail, and then she was Savannah," noted Borda. Savannah apparently donated vast amounts of money to charities, particularly, The Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and was a noted soft touch among her friends.
"She was always paying her friends's rent, buying them clothes and picking up restaurant tabs," said Borda. "It seemed like this was expected of her."
Offering evidence that events follow a circular pattern, Savannah had begun appearing in Video Exclusives' (now known as Leisure Time Video) boxcovers once again. Her most recent release, as of this writing, was Summertime Boobs.
Although there was talk of Savannah doing another Sinderella movie for Vivid, the company hadn't promised a new contract as Savannah was leading friends to believe.
"Savannah was a very special person," said Vivid president Steve Hirsch. "And although she hadn't made a movie for us in two years, it was as though there was a death in the family. We all miss her very much."