Other aliases: Silver Kane
Origin: Laguna Beach, CA
Born: October 9, 1970 as Shannon Michelle Wilsey
Died: July 11, 1994 (23 years old)
Years active: 1990–1994
Similar actresses: Wendy Whoppers, Kascha, Sandra Scream, Alicyn Sterling, Jeanna Fine, Allison Kilgore, Flame, Hyapatia Lee, Kelly Trump, Racquel Darrian, Taylor Wane, Cicciolina, Sheena Horne, Lolo Ferrari
The top regions of a list of classic pornstars are reserved for true legends. Truth, even the life of a legend has both lighter and darker shades and the story of this specific pornstar legend ends on one of the darkest down notes one could imagine. This is a story of beauty and sex, glamour and death, so if you will excuse me I will tell you a little bit about one of the most notorious and tragic pornstar stories ever, about a young woman called Shannon Michelle Wilsey – also known as Savannah.
It wasn’t hard to stumble across Savannah’s pics in the early to mid nineties as a young porn aficionado. Long straight platinum blonde hair with her typical Savannah bangs, ice blue eyes, a near perfectly beautiful face (some freckles added for fun) and a body that was just as nearly perfectly shaped. (She did get breast implants at one point in her career but those were rather well done, enhancing her beauty much more than making it look unnatural.) Needless to say I instantly fell in love with her the first time I saw Savannah’s picture.
A proverbial California Girl, Shannon Wilsey moved around the country as a kid after her parents had divorced. At thirteen, she found out that the man she had believed to be her biological father in fact wasn’t, and that’s the point where most bios about her feature a quote about her “becoming a wild child”. In fact she was so wild that she became a groupie and lived with famous rock musicians such as Gregg Allman and Billy Sheehan – before coming of age.
When Shannon was twenty years old she had seen quite a lot for her age, (including a miscarriage fathered by Allman) and being the adventurous – and beautiful – person that she was, nude modelling was the next thing for her to try out. Rex Cabo, a porn actor and director, introduced her to hardcore porn around 1990 and she took up her first stage name called Silver Kane at that time. (This being a very thinly veiled hint at the drug habit she had developed by that time.)
Her first shootings made such an impression on the industry bigshots that the then upcoming porn stalwart Vivid Entertainment signed her as one of the first “Vivid Girls” with an exclusive contract for numerous films in 1991. Now she changed her pseudonym again, henceforth being known as Savannah (after an early eighties movie called “Savannah Smiles”) and poised to become one of the biggest names in 1990′s porn.
Savvy (as her friends and fellow performers would call her) landed hit after hit with flicks like “Indian Summer”, “Laying the Ghost” or “In Defense of Savannah”. In a time when video took over, she was one of the last stars to still shoot big budget productions and pretty much rocketed to fame, winning AVN’s Best New Starlet Award in 1992. Her on-screen persona was that of an “ice queen”, never letting loose and getting all raunchy and raucous like other pornstars but keeping the air of mystery and aloofness. My first Savannah movie experience was “Roxy” in a softcore version where Ms Wilsey nevertheless made such an impression on me that I shot load after load on her getting fucked by – of all talents – flatnosed Buck Adams:
Savannah also kept her tendency to have high profile liaisons with rockers like Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Vince Neil of Poison and punk-rocker-turned-eighties-pop-star Billy Idol. (If you insist you can add “Marky” Mark Wahlberg to that list too.) Her true love, apparently, was a woman from her own trade though: Savannah had a long time relationship with fellow porn actress Jeanna Fine, a woman she called the love of her life.
However, a number of factors would contribute to Savannah’s career trajectory first getting disturbed and then unhinged. Vivid allegedly let her go for her temper tantrums she would throw on set (her smack habit probably didn’t help much eitherI) and although she kept on making successful films in the XXX business her aspired transition to Hollywood productions never went past a few minor roles in smaller horror movies. Neither did Savannah’s fame stop her relationships from failing. After she and Jeanna Fine broke up comedian Pauly Shore became her next love interest although it would never reach the level her previous relationship had had.
By 1994 Savannah, although still one of the biggest pornstars of her days, had developed serious depression fed by her various issues and it was an accident that would bring this disposition to fatal fruition. On July 11 she and a friend took a ride in her Corvette – both under the influence – and when she lost control of the steering wheel the car crashed into a fence. Although her injuries weren’t critical Savannah’s face had been badly lacerated by the smashed windshield. She then sent her friend outside and called her friend and manager Nancy Pera in tears, fearing that her career was finished with her once beautiful face now being mutilated. Pera tried to calm her down but to no avail as Savannah proceeded to shoot herself in the face with her 9mm handgun. When Pera arrived she could only take her friend to the hospital where Savannah died eleven hours later. She was 23.
Along with other notable pornstar deaths like Lolo Ferrari’s or Linda Lovelace’s, Savannah’s tragic passing is often quoted as an example how the porn industry ruins the lives of its protagonists. This feud also took place after Shannon Wilsey died although some people pointed out that her depression, her drug abuse and her failed relationships had also been factors before she got into porn. On the other hand, experiencing that not even her fame and fortune could prevent bad things from happening may have intensified her depression, with the car accident being the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
Savannah still has an admiring fanbase even more than two decades after her death. Her life and death keep getting scrutinized and you can find lots of mini documentaries and features about her on YouTube for example. She still symbolizes that new breed of pornstars who strove for fame beyond the world of adult entertainment, seeing porn as a means to reach other levels of glamour. That this not only wasn’t to be but also resulted in her untimely death is probably the saddest part of Savannah’s story.
I’ll try and keep this both poignant and in the faith of this blog. Savannah was a tragic figure, even though she was one of the most beautiful and desirable pornstars of her time, somebody whose scenes still turn me on after all those years and somebody who I wish hadn’t done hardcore if she only had found another way to deal with her issues. God bless you, Shannon Wilsey, wherever you may be now.