The former Penthouse Pet had been suffering from early-onset dementia since being thrown from a horse decades ago.
Julie Strain, the Amazonian beauty and former Penthouse Pet who went on to star in more than 100 B-movies, has died. She was 57.
Strain died Sunday, according to a Facebook post from Malibu Bay Films. "She will forever remain in our hearts and on our screens as the mesmerizingly talented, contagiously kind and incredibly powerful actress and heroine," a company statement said.
A familiar face on the comic-convention circuit, the statuesque Strain — Six Foot One and Worth the Climb was the title of her 1997 autobiography — had been suffering from early-onset dementia caused by a traumatic head injury she incurred in her early 20s when she was thrown from a horse. The fall wiped out all of her teenage memories.
Her boyfriend, identified only as Dave, posted updates for Strain's fans on Facebook last year. On July 13, he wrote that the actress was "in poor heh" due to the injury, which "can cause cognitive difficulties later in life." Three days later, he wrote, "dementia is an unpredictable disease ... There are times when her condition has scared me to death."
It was a tragic turn of events for a woman who so often depicted invincible warrior princesses, first as a model for the sci-fi/fantasy magazine Heavy Metal she was married for a time to its editor, Kevin Eastman, a co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and later in a seemingly endless stream of sexploitation splatter flicks with titles like Sorceress II: The Temptress 1997, Vampire Child 1999 and The Bare Wench Project 2: Scared Topless 2001.
Born on Feb. 18, 1962, Strain grew up in the Bay Area suburb of Concord, where she was a stoner jock who played basketball, competed in track and field and rode horses. After graduating high school, an equestrian accident nearly broke her neck, resulting in severe amnesia. It would take four weeks for her just to relearn the alphabet.
Strain took a trip to Las Vegas to help recover from the trauma. It was there, while sitting ringside at the December 1989 Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran title fight, that she was discovered by a talent scout. That led her to Hollywood, where she became a buxom, B-movie queen.
She stood in for Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise 1991 and was named Penthouse Pet of the Year in 1993. A year later, Strain showed up in two mainstream films, as a dominatrix in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and as a character called "Annihilator Girl" in Beverly Hills Cop III.
Her movie career slowed down in the 2000s, but Strain remained a fan favorite and Comic-Con regular. In her eyes, she was always just a regular gal in an unusual package. "I'm just a normal person who does acting and art," she told Salon in 2000. "When the camera stops rolling, I'm not any different from anybody else in the room."