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|Also Known As:||Shannon Lee Tweed||Died:|
|Born:||March 10, 1957||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Canada||Profession:||Cast ... actor model|
A Canadian bombshell, Shannon Tweed dominated Playboy history in 1981-82 as Playmate of the Month and Year as well as being Hugh Hefner's girlfriend. She established a legitimate acting career with a recurring role on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) and "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ) and a string of TV guest spots on such programs as "Highway to Heaven" (NBC, 1984-89) and "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994), but earned juicier roles in cult fare like her star turn as a feminist Indiana Jones in "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death" (1989). Known as the queen of erotic thrillers, the seductive Tweed sparked countless fantasies with her roles in steamy flicks that included "Night Eyes II" (1992), "Cold Sweat" (1994), "Illicit Dreams" (1994) and "Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure" (1995). Displaying an impressive self-awareness of her Hollywood niche, Tweed continued to book mainstream TV guest spots but won over even more fans on the reality show "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" (A&E, 2006-2012). The series, which featured Tweed, her longtime partner and eventual husband, KISS legend Gene Simmons, and their two children, earned many fans and kept her name relevant some 30 years after first finding fame. Gorgeous and good-natured, Shannon Tweed built a lengthy Hollywood career that helped her outlast many of her more mainstream contemporaries and certainly made her one of the few Playboy centerfolds success stories.
Born March 10, 1957 in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, Shannon Lee Tweed grew up competing in beauty pageants, winning Miss Ottawa in 1978 and subsequently placing fourth in the Miss Canada pageant. Buoyed by her fame, she was chosen to appear on the reality show "Thrill of a Lifetime" (CTV, 1981-87), which granted average Canadians the chance to live out their wildest dreams. In Tweed's case, that involved meeting Hugh Hefner for a chance to pose for Playboy. So beautiful and charming was the young woman that she not only became November 1981's Playmate of the Month, but became 1982's Playmate of the Year and, briefly, Hefner's serious girlfriend. Though other Playmates tried and failed, Tweed used her Playboy cache to jumpstart what would become a full-fledged acting career. She recurred during the 1983-84 season on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) as the glamorous assistant of the ruthless Richard Channing (David Selby). Working primarily on TV and in genre projects that took full advantage of her goddess-like beauty and lack of inhibitions, Tweed set male viewers' pulses racing with sultry turns in likably silly fare as "Hot Dog The Movie" (1984), "Meatballs III: Summer Job" (1986) and "Dragnet" (1987).
Tweed also notched an impressive number of more mainstream credits, including a year on "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ) as new vixen in town, Savannah Wilder, and guest spots on everything from "Highway to Heaven" (NBC, 1984-89) to "Cagney & Lacey" (CBS, 1982-88) and "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994). Commanding and intelligent as well as gorgeous, Tweed channeled Indiana Jones when she played a feminist professor in search of "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death" (1989), which became an often-played cult cable TV staple. Although she continued to accrue both mainstream and more offbeat credits, Tweed became best known for her work in erotic thrillers such as "Night Eyes II" (1992), "Night Eyes Three" (1993), "Indecent Behavior" (1993), "Cold Sweat" (1994), "Illicit Dreams" (1994), "Indecent Behavior II" (1994), "Indecent Behavior III" (1995) and "Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure" (1995). The undisputed queen of softcore erotica, Tweed's alluring image on countless video boxes and late-night cable offerings made her something of a household name among certain audiences and helped build enormous goodwill for her as a performer who also seemed to be refreshingly self-aware of the caliber of her films.
Unlike many of her peers, she was able to balance her more titillating roles with mainstream projects, including spots on "Pacific Blue" (USA Network, 1996-2000), "Wings" (NBC, 1990-97) and "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004). While she gracefully transitioned out of the erotic thrillers of her prime, Tweed appeared on "The Parkers" (UPN, 1999-2004) and "United States of Tara" (Showtime, 2009-2011) as well as lent her voice to "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Nickelodeon, 1999- ).What she achieved the greatest mainstream fame for, however, was her lengthy relationship, spanning back to 1983, with KISS rocker Gene Simmons. The two parlayed their fascinating and unorthodox partnership into wildly successful reality show, "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" (A&E, 2006-2012), that showcased their interaction as well as with their surprisingly well-adjusted children. Although some viewers and critics pointed out elements of the show that seemed scripted, "Family Jewels" retained a loyal audience and featured a dramatic arc towards the end of its run that saw Tweed and Simmons finally tying the knot after almost 30 years together on Oct. 1, 2011.
By Jonathan Riggs
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