I am writing this from memory. More than a decade later, I remember it well. Shannon Wilsey was due to shoot a movie the next morning. As she returned home, she crashed her Corvette into a fence. She broke her nose and cut her face, endangering her career. She needed the money to pay off debts caused by substance abuse and compulsive spending. She called her manager in a panic. Then she walked the remaining block to her house, found the handgun she kept for protection, and shot herself. She was 24 years old.
She spent her short life sleeping with rock stars: Greg Allman (as a teen girl), Axl Rose and Slash, Vince Neal and others on the LA rock scene. By the time she died, these men didn’t return her calls. None of the celebrities she knew and fucked showed up for her funeral: except Paulie Shore. Say what you will about his movies. Shannon Wilsey was his some-time girlfriend, and when she killed herself, he at least had the decency to put on a suit and stand at her grave.
I never knew the woman. She was a porn performer, best known by her stage name, Savannah. I have never seen one of her films. But a cable news show ran a feature on her suicide, and it never left me.
She was a teenage runaway, and then a groupie, and then a nude model, and then a porn performer. She only worked in porn for about four years. She burned out early and hated the job; but her debt and troubles pulled her back in. She was to shoot her comeback feature the morning after her death. When she injured her face, even the grim prospect of making more porn films to settle her debts was extinguished, and apparently with it the last light at the end of the tunnel.
With all the men she fucked, couldn’t one of them have been a friend? Given her a place to stay and some support so she could sober up? Some help controlling her spending? A job that didn’t eat her up a day at a time?
Couldn’t they call each other to say, “hey, I have really bad news. Remember Shannon? She killed herself”? Couldn’t a few of them have put on a tie? Stood there on the grass next to the casket and said something nice to mark the passing of a very young woman, gone too soon?
With the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, I started thinking again about Shannon Wilsey, and the discussion of Spitzer and prostitution have brought her to mind again. These were young women with few prospects. The patriarchy dangled a wad of bills in front of them if they would put on sexual performances for men. Then it treated them like shit when they took it. Sex objects, objects of curiosity, objects of scorn. They circled the drain and then got swallowed, and the men who are the consumers stand around and act like it is these women’s fault. Apparently, for women, the wages of sin are death (a self-fulfilling prophesy; being pigeonholed and marginalized and exploited will have that effect). For men, apparently the wages of sin are mild embarrassment at being publicly linked to such women.
I’m an atheist, but I know a little of the Book of Matthew. It says, “Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done unto me.” (Matt. 25:40, KJV.) Our brothers, perhaps. But everybody treats the sisters that trade sex for money like a hole and a pair of fake tits.
It’s never too late to say that she deserved better.
(Many thanks to Zuzu and Jill for my occasional guest privileges.)