Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Deathday: Pornstar Shauna Grant 1963-1984 RIP
Shauna Grant (May 30, 1963 – March 23, 1984) was an American nude model and pornographic performer. Born Colleen Marie Applegate, she was sometimes credited as Callie Aimes, Callie Aims, or Colleen Applegate.
Born in Bellflower, California, Colleen Applegate grew up in the small town of Farmington, Minnesota. Her family moved there in 1973, when her father took a managerial position with Central Telephone Company of Minnesota. Colleen was a cheerleader in high school and graduated from Farmington High in 1981. She stayed in the small town, working first as a cashier and then as a repair clerk with the phone company. There, one night in December, she consumed a handful of prescription sinus pills in a suicide gesture.
In PBS's Frontline: Death of a Porn Queen profile (US air date 6/8/87), her father, Phil Applegate, admitted that he never discussed the suicide attempt with his daughter -- he and his wife at the time (Colleen's mother, Karen Applegate) believed that their daughter was merely seeking attention.
According to the Frontline piece, the entire family had at least one group session at a counseling center during which no one really talked about the situation.
When the news spread about her overdose, Colleen ran away from home and moved to California in March 1982, with her high school sweetheart, Mike Marcell. Applegate left behind her parents, a brother, and three sisters.
Adult film career
The couple arrived in Los Angeles, California. Applegate and Marcell unsuccessfully pursued several employment leads in the first month. Then Marcell saw an ad for the World Modeling Agency in Van Nuys, which diligently sought attractive new recruits for "figure modeling." Accompanied by Marcell, Applegate visited the agency's owner, Jim South, who set up a photo session with legendary soft-core photographer J. Stephen Hicks, whose work was frequently featured in Penthouse.
Her first pictorials' theme featured a mock camping set and was to be published by Club. Hicks reflected on Applegate's appearance and personality, saying "I deal with a lot of girls who are new in the business, a lot of young girls and a lot of girls from out of town. Colleen was so incredibly young and naive. She was completely un-hip and non-L.A."
Her wholesome, "girl next door" looks soon landed her work posing for other magazines such as Hustler and Penthouse. But Hicks advised Colleen to get out of nude modeling quickly, because when all of the magazines had used her, the only thing left for her would be hardcore movies. "You know, you take a typical girl that's used to working at McDonald's or at a shoe store, where she's used to making a minimum wage, and suddenly she's given the opportunity to get made up, and be in front of people who tell her she's beautiful, and make as much money in a day as she was making in three weeks and, um, they change. They change. And that's sad."
Almost immediately, Applegate progressed to filming hardcore photo sessions for Suze Randall.
Applegate's relationship with her boyfriend did not endure their first two months in California, as Marcell joined the U.S. Army. Before his induction, he informed her small town that Colleen was involved with pornography. Her family suffered much embarrassment.
Ignoring Hicks' advice, Colleen continued working with World Modeling Agency, where she met veteran porn producer Bobby Hollander. Hollander launched her adult film career, suggesting what he felt was a "classy" stage name, Shauna Grant.
As a fast-rising adult-entertainment personality, she was featured in Virginia, Suzie Superstar and Flesh and Laces 1 & 2, among many others. Her pay rose from $300 a day to nearly $1,500. As Shauna Grant, she made dozens of popular adult movies, more often plot-oriented. In Suzie Superstar, she played the lead singer of a rock band. By industry standards, Grant was early in her career when it suddenly came to an end. In a filmed interview, she said that she "wasn't ready" to try anal sex, an attitude that usually marks a starlet rather than a star. She also did only heterosexual scenes; most female porn performers also do lesbian scenes.
Off-screen she traveled in limousines and stayed in first-class hotels. Grant was provided with her own make-up artist, 27-year-old Laurie Smith (who was also an adult star). Smith, who co-starred with Grant in several movies (including the aforementioned Suzie Superstar as well as The Young Like It Hot and Bad Girls IV), also became Shauna's best friend -- and fellow cocaine partier -- during that period. She quit the adult film business for a short time following Grant's suicide.
Shauna's popularity earned her three acting nominations at the March 1984 Erotic Film Awards. Despite her beauty, she had some difficulty getting work due to her cocaine addiction and lack of "enthusiasm" during sex scenes. In some circles she acquired the nickname "Applecoke," and gained a reputation for being flaky.
In 1983, Grant retired from the adult film industry after less than a year and just over 30 movies. She disliked the industry, although she regarded Joey Silvera well. Through Hollander she found a new boyfriend, cocaine dealer Jack "Jake" Ehrlich, age 44. Ehrlich eased her out of adult films, and the two settled in Palm Springs, California. According to Palm Springs Police, Ehrlich made his living supplying cocaine to tenants of an upscale condominium park close to his house. He had compiled an extensive record of arrests in California, which included such offenses as selling narcotics and possession of stolen property. He also owned a leather goods store, Pelle, in downtown Palm Springs, which Grant began to manage.
According to the Frontline piece, while Grant was still living with Ehrlich, she began a relationship with a Minnesota college student (who appears in the Frontline story) during a trip back to Farmington, telling her high school friends that she planned to marry him.
In February 1984, Ehrlich was arrested and later sentenced to a five-year prison sentence, which he began serving in the State Institution for Men in Chino, California. The charges related to Ehrlich's 1981 arrest for possession of what detectives described as "several" pounds of cocaine. Grant was ambivalent about her circumstances following her boyfriend's conviction, which cut off her drug supply.
The night of the 8th Annual Adult Film Association Awards show, at the Cocoanut Grove Ambassador Hotel, she was a multiple nominee and presenter (with John Leslie). While her desire for work in mainstream films was not working out, she was so prestigious at the time that famed director Francis Ford Coppola was seated at her table.
That night she agreed to work on her first adult film in ten months. Matinee Idol was due to begin filming in eight days in San Francisco, California. A few days after the awards show, her Minnesota boyfriend flew to Los Angeles to see her, but Grant and Smith had partied for two days, and Grant literally forgot about it until the last minute. The beau was stranded at the airport, as neither Shauna nor Laurie had a car. This was the same day that Ehrlich telephoned from jail, saying that their relationship was over and that Shauna would have to move out.
Grant persuaded her friend and veteran porn actress, Kelly Nichols, to take the role which was intended for her. Shauna also had the option of returning to Minnesota. Her parents offered to pay for her college expenses, but she believed she would no longer be comfortable at home in Minnesota.
On March 23, 1984, Grant committed suicide in Palm Springs by shooting herself with a .22 Long Rifle. Shortly after 7 p.m. she lay down, placed the gun horizontally against her head, and pulled the trigger. The shot passed through her right temple, out the left and into the bedroom wall, according to police reports. The gun was discharged from such close range that the bullet left virtually star-shaped holes. Brain dead, Shauna was rushed to Desert Hospital, where life support systems were disconnected after two days.
Grant's funeral was held March 28, 1984, at St. Michael's Church, a Catholic parish near the center of Farmington. Members of the adult industry were absent from the ceremony, believing their presence would only exacerbate the family's anguish. Instead they contributed both flowers and letters. Grant was buried in her favorite color, pink.
Preliminary investigations by Palm Springs police posed questions regarding the circumstances surrounding Grant's death. Weeks after the event, police were still awaiting results of toxicological and gun-residue tests. The possibility of a foul play investigation hung in the balance. It is known that Grant had received threatening phone calls that related to her boyfriend's business affairs. Also, detectives noted Ehrlich avoided jail for a time by providing authorities with information. At the time of Grant's death, there were two people playing pool in Ehrlich's house--Brenda Rosenow, a friend of Colleen's, and Cal Ardigo, a friend of Ehrlich's. Shortly before Grant's shooting, two unidentified visitors showed up outside the home. The back door of Ehrlich's house was a possible means of access to the bedroom and to Grant.
Depiction in popular culture
Grant's career and death were fictionalized as the basis for a television movie called Shattered Innocence, a film that bears little resemblance to her actual life. Her parents used their proceeds from selling the rights to the movie to fund Grant's tombstone.
The musician Klaus Flouride honored Grant in the song "Dancing with Shauna Grant" from his 1991 album The Light Is Flickering. The song also mentions Virginia and Suzie Superstar, films which Grant starred in.
Death metal band Ripping Corpse wrote a song for their 1991 album Dreaming with the Dead about Grant, entitled "Deeper Demons." Not disrespectful, the lyrics wonder why such a tragic fate befell "little Colleen."
Christian metal band Mastedon wrote a song 'Innocent Girl' in memory of Shauna Grant on their debut album It's a Jungle Out There!. The lyrics were written by John Elefante (ex Kansas lead) & brother Dino.
Notable television appearances
Hard Copy playing "Herself" (archive footage) in episode: "Shauna Grant" 18 June 1990
Frontline playing "Herself" (archive footage) in episode: "Death of a Porn Queen" 1987 (originally produced as a local special report for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul)
Johnson, Thomas S. "Feeding on Shauna Grant: Ritual Cannibalism in Two Documentary Retrospectives ." Journal of Popular Culture. Vol. 36, Issue 1, pp. 25-43.
Los Angeles Times, The Death of Colleen by Michael London, May 6, 1984, Pg. R3-Pg. R9.
McNeil, Legs (with Osborne, Jennifer, and Pavia, Peter), Shattered Innocence Los Angeles/Farmington, Minnesota 1983-1984 in The Other Hollywood, The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2004, Pages 359-370.
Riley Patrick, Shauna Grant in The X-Rated Videotape Star Index II, A Guide to Your Favorite Adult Film Stars, Prometheus Books, 1997 Pages 612-613.
Syracuse Post-Standard, Small-Town Girl Meets Death in Porn World by Michael London, Saturday, May 19, 1984, Page A-9. Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times.
Syracuse Post-Standard, Porn Queen Uplifting And Sad Documentary by Howard Rosenberg, June 16, 1987, Page D-7, Reprinted from Los Angeles Times.
PBS's "Frontline: Death of a Porn Queen" (6/8/87), reported by Al Austin, produced by Andy Greenspan