February 15, 2016

Cult Actors: Donna Wilkes

A headshot of actress Donna Wilkes from the very late 1970's.
"Good. Then I'll see ya at the dock at eight."
Until a few years ago, Donna Wilkes was something of a mystery. Donna shot to fame as Jackie Peters, "the chick who won’t stop screaming” in Jaws 2 (1978). She then guest starred in just about every TV series known to man before immortalizing herself in Angel (1984), starring as a “high school honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night.” 

Then, she vanished! Or, she didn't vanish so much as she just stopped acting in films for a while.

ANGEL (1984) - High school honor student by day, Hollywood Hooker by night!
Angel: High School Honor Student by Day, Hollywood Hooker by Night!
"Whatever happened to Donna Wilkes?!" the fan sites and IMDB message boards demanded—myself included!

The morbidly curious had theories: she either died of an overdose, committed suicide, or was sitting on a barstool somewhere, furiously shaking a Jaws II promotional still in some bartender's face while screaming, "My credit is good here!"

Oy! Some morbid followers of the entertainment industry can't comprehend why anyone would abandon the bright lights freely, and of their own discretion. It's like, if these actors didn't stubbornly cling to Hollywood and play out their dwindling careers in a succession of crappier movies, then there must be some scandalous, disgraceful reason why. And, you know, of course all actors are liable to be driven insane by their inability to get famous. And they invariably OD'd in a flophouse somewhere. I mean, it looked good when Sharon Stone did it in Casino (2005), right?

Actress Donna Wilkes autograph for Mike "Jack" Kearney, from JAWS 2

So, yeah, I'm one of those people who imagines all sorts of crazy crap. Honestly, it'd be cool if things were that dramatic. But most of the time, actors retire in favor of stable 9-to-5 jobs, because it, you know, makes more sense when you're raising children. 

Then, sometimes, if the fan is lucky—the actor returns to the business later, to have fun at conventions, and make some more movies.

Love you, Donna! We're glad you're back!

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