Whenever Venetia Stevenson walked into a room, every man would turn his head and gawk, including Elvis Presley.
The actress and model, who was once labeled “the most photogenic girl in the world,” died in September at age 84. Tab Hunter’s longtime partner Allan Glaser confirmed to Fox News Digital that he’s producing a film about Hunter’s life in which Stevenson is prominently featured.
Her sister Caroline Stevenson spoke to Fox News Digital about how her “idol” captivated some of Hollywood’s sought-after leading men, including the King of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Elvis Presley was one of the most polite, wonderful, genuine kind men she’s ever met,” said Caroline. “Of course, me being a teenager, I thought, ‘Oh my God, is Venetia going to marry Elvis?'”
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Stevenson, the daughter of “General Hospital” star Anna Lee and “Mary Poppins” director Robert Stevenson, became romantically linked to the singer in the late ’50s. She visited him in Memphis, Tennessee, and the pair were photographed attending a screening of Presley’s 1957 film “Loving You.”
“He couldn’t have been nicer,” said Caroline. “She did go and stay with him. I know they stayed in separate bedrooms because she made it very clear that’s how she wanted it. He respected that. And she thought he was just wonderful. But nothing ever evolved beyond that. Can’t imagine why. I mean, we were all doing flip-flops whenever he walked into a room.”
“I remember he was so down-to-earth,” she continued. “He came to this little restaurant and ordered a hamburger. The waitress was just swooning. And here he is saying, ‘This food is delicious. But you’ve got to make this lettuce smaller. You’ve gotta chop it up. Chop this lettuce up, or it just falls off the hamburger.’ Meanwhile, the waitress is just fainting almost on the floor.”
Joanna Venetia Invicta Stevenson was born in 1938. It was around this time her father signed a contract with producer David O. Selznick, and the family traveled from London to Hollywood. At 14, Stevenson was scouted by photographer Peter Gowland on a beach in Malibu, California. Her photos soon appeared in numerous magazines, including Esquire.
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In 1956, Stevenson was signed by RKO Radio Pictures. She and Bond girl Ursula Andress even took tap-dancing lessons together. She then signed a contract with Warner Bros. Then, Popular Photography magazine named her “the most photogenic girl in the world” out of 4,000 contestants in its 1957 issue. She accepted the award on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“I remember I was in Grand Central Station [in New York City] and I looked at the magazine stand,” Caroline recalled. “One time, I counted 46 magazine covers with my sister. She’s a chameleon. She could be Marilyn Monroe. She could be Ingrid Bergman. She could be whoever the photographer wanted her to be.
“She just had this incredible ability to make herself look completely different in each photo. Some people thought she was a little distant or reclusive. The truth is, I felt Venetia was always a little shy. And I guess some people mistook that for coldness . She had a great sense of humor. I never knew her to speak unkindly about anyone.”
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As a movie star, Stevenson dated “all kinds of people,” Caroline shared. She acted as a confidant for Hunter, a Hollywood heartthrob who was closeted at the time, and “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins. Hunter was allegedly one of Perkins’ first lovers, Entertainment Weekly reported. In the 2015 documentary “Tab Hunter Confidential,” Stevenson said she served as “a beard” when she was photographed around town with the two actors.
“I remember I got to stay at her apartment one time,” Caroline recalled. “She would get a lot of phone calls, and I was able to mimic her voice. I would have about seven- to 10-minute conversations with all sorts of people who wanted to be with her. I remember there was this man who was in charge of Warner Bros. at the time, and he really wanted to date Venetia. I just had this wonderful conversation with him, mostly yes and no, but quite a lot of nos.”
Stevenson said “I do” to “West Side Story” actor Russ Tamblyn on Valentine’s Day 1956. However, the relationship was short-lived, and the pair called it quits in 1957. It was at “The Ed Sullivan Show” where she met Don Everly of The Everly Brothers. They were married from 1962 until 1970.
Stevenson and Everly had three children, including actress Erin Everly. Erin married Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose in 1990. According to reports, it was Erin who inspired the band’s hit song, “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” Their marriage was annulled in 1991.
Despite having a life of glitz and glamour, Stevenson quit acting after marrying Everly.
“She would not mind me saying this, but my sister Venetia was not a good actress,” Caroline chuckled. “She would be the first to tell you that. She didn’t like acting. But she was under contract and when you are, it doesn’t matter whether you like acting or not. That’s just what you do. She got out as soon as her contract was done. And she was happy to get out at the time. The [studio] had its stable of celebrities. And there was so much more she wanted to do.”
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Stevenson went on to serve as a script reader for Burt Reynolds’ production company. She also became a vice president at the production company Cinema Group and a manager who represented director Renny Harlan.
“I’ve never really known anything but Hollywood,” Stevenson once said. “I don’t think I could relate to a physician or an accountant. What would we talk about? I guess, when I really stop and think about it, I have lived a very narrow existence because movies are all I know.”
Fighting back tears, Caroline said it was difficult watching her sister battle Parkinson’s disease shortly before her death.
“I pray for her all the time that she’s really found happiness because she had Parkinson’s in the end,” said Caroline. “And I know how hard it was for her having been so beautiful. Parkinson’s is so cruel to your body, your everything. I wish I could have given her more comfort. I still feel her loss very much.”
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Stevenson’s brother, actor Jeffrey Byron, confirmed to Fox News Digital that the star died at a health care center in Atlanta.
“My sister was resilient in this industry,” he said. “She took life as it came to her. And when things maybe didn’t go quite her way, she was able to turn it around and find new adventures and succeed in those adventures.”
“She had an amazing life,” added Caroline. “I really idolized her. With everything that she accomplished, I’m just so happy that she was my sister.”
Stevenson is survived by Byron, Caroline and her daughter Erin, as well as another daughter named Stacy, a son named Edan, a brother named Steve and four grandchildren.