Slasher in ‘Fri­day the 13th’

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Steve Chawkins steve.chawkins @la­times.com

Betsy Palmer, an actress who started out as a game show pan­elist and worked in se­ri­ous theater but achieved her great­est fame as a slasher and ax mur­derer in “Fri­day the 13th,” has died. She was 88.

Palmer died Fri­day at a hospice near her home in Dan­bury, Conn., her manager, Brad Lemack, said in a state­ment.

In the hor­ror film “Fri­day the 13th” (1980), Palmer por­trayed Pamela Voorhees, a sum­mer-camp cook with a pen­chant for im­pal­ing the coun­selors.

Although she later at­tended nu­mer­ous hor­ror film fan con­ven­tions, she told in­ter­view­ers that she hated the script and re­fused to act in the film’s many se­quels.

She took the job, she said, be­cause it re­quired only 10 days of work and would earn her $10,000 — just what she needed to re­place the aging Mercedes that quit on her one ter­ri­ble night as she drove on busy In­ter­state 95. She re­placed it with a Volk­swa­gen Sirocco.

“And here we are, 25 years later, and I get fan mail from all over the world,” Palmer told a Ne­wark Star-Ledger re­porter in 2005. “What do they call me? I’m ‘The Queen of the Slash­ers.’ I can’t be­lieve it.”

Born Pa­tri­cia Betsy Hrunek in East Chicago, Ind., on Nov. 1, 1926, Palmer stud­ied at DePaul Uni­ver­sity be­fore head­ing for the Ac­tors Stu­dio in New York. She had dra­matic roles on re­spected tele­vi­sion shows in­clud­ing “Play­house 90” and “Stu­dio One” in the 1950s. In 1953, she ap­peared on a new game show called “Wheel of For­tune” as the let­ter-turner — the orig­i­nal Vanna White, as she later re­counted it.

Her film work in­cluded “Mr. Roberts” with Henry Fonda, “The Long Gray Line” with Ty­rone Power and Mau­reen O’Hara, “Queen Bee” with Joan Craw­ford, and “The Tin Star” with Fonda and An­thony Perkins.

Mean­while, she did stints on “The To­day Show” and be­came a long-run­ning celebrity pan­elist on the quiz show “I’ve Got A Se­cret.”

Her other TV cred­its in­cluded “Knot’s Land­ing,” “The Love Boat,” “Ne­whart,” “Just Shoot Me” and “Mur­der, She Wrote.”

On Broad­way, Palmer ap­peared in “Cac­tus Flower” (1967), “Same Time, Next Year” (1977) and many other pro­duc­tions.

Palmer was mar­ried in 1954 to Dr. Vin­cent J. Merendino. They di­vorced in 1971.

She is sur­vived by daugh­ter Melissa Merendino.

Mark Len­ni­han As­so­ci­ated Press

CHAR­AC­TER ACTRESS Betsy Palmer, with for­mer “To­day” co-an­chor Bryant Gum­bel in 1992, did stints on the show.

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