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Friday, March 20, 2020

The Sudden Death of Anneka Vasta: Hollywood Noir

     Anneka Vasta was born Marjorie Lee Thoreson in July 1952 in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1973, she met and started dating Penthouse Magazine publisher Bob Guccione. Two years later, she became Guccione's Penthouse pet of the year, and in 1979, starred, as Anneka Di Lorenzo, in Guccione's soft-porn film, "Caligula."

     Vasta, in 1988, claiming that Guccione had compelled her to have sex with two of his business associates, sued him for sexual harassment. The jury, in 1990, awarded her $4 million, but an appeals court ruled  that the damages were nonrecoverable and vacated the award. In retaliation for the suit, Guccione reprinted photographs of Vasta and another woman in a lesbian love scene from "Caligula."

     In 2003, while living in Sherman Oaks, California, Vasta began suffering bouts of paranoia and anxiety. Seven years later, the recently divorced 58-year-old, now having financial problems, still struggled with mental illness.

     A pair of joggers, on January 4, 2011 discovered Vasta's naked body on a Marine training beach at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. Agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) took control of the case. Shortly after the discovery of the corpse, investigators located the 59-year-old's Mazda at a popular scenic overlook along Interstate 5. Because her body could not have reached the water from this point, NCIS agents concluded that Vasta had not jumped off the sixty foot cliff.

     At autopsy, the forensic pathologist determined that while Vasta had a broken neck and back, she had drowned. The pathologist found, on Vasta's wrists, superficial cuts called "hesitation marks" that suggested half-hearted attempts at suicide. The body also revealed two shallow stab wounds to her chest. Vasta's body contained no traces of alcohol or drugs. The autopsy produced no evidence of sexual abuse.

     In the dead woman's car, searchers found blood-stained clothing--a blouse and a sports bra--inside a plastic bag. Investigators also found a steak knife bearing traces of her blood. The Mazda also contained Vasta's cellphone and purse. On the passenger's side floor investigators discovered Lithium and an empty Xanax bottle.

     Two days before the joggers came upon Vasta's body in the sand, she had rented a room at a Motel 6 on Raintree Drive near South Carlsbad State Beach. She had not checked out. Investigators found no evidence of violence or foul play in her motel room.

     Vasta's history of paranoia and anxiety, and the presence of the hesitation marks, suggested that she had killed herself. But, as in most suspicious death cases without eyewitnesses or obvious suspects, questions remained. For example, how did Vasta get from her car to the water? How did she receive the broken neck and back before drowning in the Pacific? Could these injuries been caused by the action of the ocean before her death?

     Anneka Vasta's life and sudden death--the star-struck gal from Minnesota, corrupted and abused by a sleazy Hollywood porn merchant--is the stuff of Los Angeles noir. It brings to mind the famous quote by novelist and screen writer Ben Hecht: "I knew her name--Madam Hollywood. I rose and said good-by to this strumpet in her bespangled red gown; good-by to her lavender-painted cheeks, her coarsened laugh, her straw-dyed hair, her wrinkled fingers bulging with gems. A wench with flaccid tits and a sandpaper skin under her silks; shined up and whistling like a whore in a park; covered with stink like a railroad station pissery and swinging a dead ass in the moonlight."

     On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Anneka Vasta, having quickly faded from public consciousness, briefly surfaced in the media on the occasion of the death of a Swiss artist named H. R. Giger. The 74-year-old was best known for his design of the creature in Ridley Scott's science fiction film, "Alien." Internet articles regarding Giger's death from a fall featured him posing with Anneka Vasta in April 1980 at the opening of an art exhibition in New York City.  

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for the invite to your blog. Very nicely written and researched!

    Kathee Baird

    katheebaird.com

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  2. I met Anneka in 1975, at the height of her Penthouse Pet of the Year fame. She was at the Sebring 12 Hour IMSA races helping to promote Penthouse and the Porsche they had in the race. She spent most of a Saturday sitting in my box above pit row. Beautiful and full of hopes for making it big. What a shame to end one's life this way.

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  3. I remember seeing Anneka Delorenzo's photos in the Penthouse 1980 issue that featured Caligula photos. I thought she was a very beautiful lady and I fantasized over her. i still do. I was 18 years old in 1980 and at a very impressive age. There was no internet porn in 1980. Where I lived (very rural) I could only purchase porn in the paper form of a Penthouse magazines. In 1985, I rented the VHS version of Caligula. My favorite scene of course was the lesbian scene with Anneka. She was so beautiful. I am now 54 years old. The year is 2016 (36 years since 1980) and I'm just learning of the circumstances of her death ( Thanks to the internet ). She would be 63 years old if she'd lived and much past her prime. So am I. I feel so sad that this beautiful lady's life ended in such a violent way. It's a shame that she's only remembered for her porn film profile, but that's more than I'll be remembered for. She was a classy lady. I will miss her.

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  4. Why did you have to include that ageist and sexist but mainly unbearably cruel quote from Ben Hecht?

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  5. Because he said it, and it applies to this story. I am a blogger--a writer--not a politician or college professor. I'm interested in reality, not feel good political correctness. If you're so wounded by the quote, I suggest counseling.

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  6. I agree with anonymous. The quote by Hecht was a cruel quote, and had nothing to do with poor Anneka. "I'm not a politician, I'm a blogger" what does that have to do with anything? You chose to put it in. I think you are the one that needs counseling.

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  7. So I'm watching "Dressed To Kill" because I love 80's thrillers. At the end I see this beautiful nurse strangled by Michael Caine in a dream sequence. Only 30 secs of screen time, Anneka was so eye catching I watched credits & googled her. I expected to read about her retirement from acting, not read into a murder mystery. Sad to hear what a terrible fate to a STUNNING woman.

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  8. Ironic that in her final film, Dressed to Kill , she dies of a broken neck

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  9. Anneka performed as a singer in a USO show at the air force base I was stationed at in Greece during nineteen seventy_five New Years show> She was beautiful and was surprised how shy she seemed back then> I WILL Never forget meeting her>

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