Queen of the Dead—dateline October 31, 2011
• 105-year-old British stage actress Norrie Woodhall died on Oct. 25. She was the last surviving member of the long-forgotten Hardy Players, an early 1920s Dorset troupe who put on Thomas Hardy-based shows, with Hardy’s own blessing (he picked Woodhall to play Liza-Lu in Tess of the D’Urbervilles). “My mother was milking a cow when [Hardy] saw her,” said Woodhull of the character’s inspiration. “He said later on: ‘I must have seen your mother milking a cow and that put me in mind of Tess all those years ago.’” Actress Devina Symes noted the end of an era: “Thomas Hardy said that we have two deaths. The first is when we die, the second is when the last person who knew us dies. With the passing of Norrie Woodhall, Thomas Hardy has had his second death.”
• Mystery in San Diego: the body of 58-year-old actress and 1975 Penthouse Pet of the Year Anneka Vasta (also billed sometimes as Anneka Di Lorenzo) washed up on the beach on Jan. 4, it has only now been reported. Her neck and back were broken, and police are investigating: did she fall or was she pushed? Vasta appeared twice as the bawdy Messalina (in Bob Guccione’s Caluigula, and Messalina, Empress of Rome), and in such treats as The Centerfold Girls, Mama’s Dirty Girls, and Act of Vengeance.
• I always wanted to be an advice columnist: “Get over it!” “Oh, cry me a river!” “Divorce the idiot!” I probably would not be very good at it. But Elizabeth Winship (who died on Oct. 23 at 90) was. She wrote the teen advice column Ask Beth in the Boston Globe from 1963 to 1998. The wife of Globe editor Thomas Winship, she was a Vassar and Radcliffe girl, which impresses the hell out of an old preppie like me. Winship’s daughter and successor, Peg, said, “Ask Beth was the very first teenage advice column . . . the first column to treat young people with complete respect and honesty.’’
• And Australian actress (and director, and set designer) Joy Youlden died on Sept. 28, aged 91. She mostly worked onstage (and toured for the troops during World War II). In the late 1940s, Youlden appeared in some of Australia’s earliest TV shows, for the fledgling Channel Seven, mostly in comedy and variety. She was married to producer and director Des Connor from 1944 till his death in 1951.