40 years of faulty wiring

Life and Death of a Porn Star and Her Alter Ego: when Colleen Applegate met Shauna Grant

A blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty, Colleen Applegate was like a Hollywood stereotype, a small-town girl of 18 who left home seeking something better, except Colleen Applegate was no stereotype. Colleen Applegate was hauntingly, unforgettably real. Her story is re-told by television syndicates and in dreadful made-for-tv movies. watch The death of shauna grant: entertainment tonight

Perhaps it is her many parallels to Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jeane that fascinates people. Hailing from a dysfunctional family and experiencing little happiness in Minnesota, she attempted suicide at least once before running away. It was small wonder Colleen left Minnesota to find herself: even the obscure name of her town Farmington sounds restrictive, and post-high school Colleen couldn’t find her niche. Her mother, Karen Applegate was  cold and controlling, her father Phil Applegate, removed from the family dynamic.

Is this bleak portrait of family life typical of a porn actress?  Often drugs and pornography are blamed when a porn star kills herself but what is the catalyst that prompts an ordinary girl to leave an ordinary home and get involved in sex on film? watch Shauna Grant’s Gravesite 

Colleen and her boyfriend, Mike Marcell, went to Los Angeles where neither of them obtained employment for several weeks until Colleen’s first nude modelling gig, arranged by Jim South for World Modelling Agency. Marcell joined the U.S. Army after informing the Farmington community that Colleen was involved in porn. watch blonde, gorgeous and naked Colleen remained in Los Angeles alone.Her sultry blonde beauty secured photo shoots with well-known mens magazines such as Penthouse and Hustler. One photographer, Stephen Hicks, advised her to get out of nude modelling because “when all the magazines had used her the only thing left… would be hardcore movies.”  (watch suzy superstar – 1983)

Colleen didn’t take the advice and she began working with porn industry film producer Bobby Hollander, who gave her the stage name “Shauna Grant“. Her pay increased from $300 a day to $1,500, but she spent most of it on cocaine. A Farmington friend, Brenda, who visited her in Los Angeles offered to help her leave the porn industry and get a respectable job. Colleen refused. She made dozens of movies, but Shauna’s career came to a sudden end when she refused to do anal or lesbian sex. In 1983, a disillusioned Colleen retired from the adult film industry. Her career had lasted less than a year.  watch shauna grant and ron jeremy  1984

Through Hollander, Colleen met her last boyfriend, Jake Ehrlich, 44.  Ehrlich claimed his interest in Colleen waned when he discovered the extent of her neediness: Colleen wanted to be with him all the time and followed him around from room to room. Ehrlich suggested she see a psychiatrist. In an eerie echo of Karen and Phil Applegate, Ehrlich didn’t take her threats of suicide seriously; he felt she was “looking for attention.”

Colleen lived with Ehrlich until he was arrested for drug trafficking in February 1984. While imprisoned Ehrlich ended their relationship.  In a surprising move Colleen’s parents offered to take her back into their home in Farmington. Watch suzie superstar edited trailer 1983  Her thinking, clouded by depression, coke addiction, a tumultuous relationship with Ehlrich, and a degrading career, Colleen refused to return home. On March 23, 1984, Colleen committed suicide in Palm Springs with Ehrlich’s .22 Long Rifle in Ehrlich’s home. After spending  2 years striving to build a life outside of her home town, Collen’s body was returned to Farmington for burial. watch shauna grant and john lboth eslie at 8th annual erotic film awards

The defunct television series Frontline did a segment on Colleen’s life story beginning at around the time she attempted suicide in Farmington and committed suicide in Las Angeles.  Her childhood was virtually ignored, as well as her relationships with her family, including her brother and 2 sisters. watch 1-hour documentary PBS Frontline:  Death of a Porn Queen

Some time after Colleen’s suicide her parents, Karen and Phil Applegate, divorced.  Three years after the suicide, Karen Applegate launched an investigation into her daughter’s death, claiming it was Jake Ehrlich who arranged Colleen’s homicide. Police reviewed Colleen’s case but were “satisfied” it was a suicide. Perhaps in a posthumous display of mother love, Karen Applegate is still searching for clues to her daughter’s death, refusing to accept the cause of death as suicide. Shauna Grant on Facebook

Eerie echoes between Marilyn Monroe and Colleen Applegate:

  1. hailed from dysfunctional families in small towns
  2. Colleen had a cold, distant mother; Marilyn’s mother was
    schizophrenic and detached from her daughter
  3. wished for fame
  4.  blonde and beautiful
  5. ideal body types for their eras
  6. found recognition on film
  7.  posed nude (Marilyn posed for a series of calendar shots and it
    is rumoured she starred in a soft core porn)
  8. developed alter egos
  9. searched for a family and sense of belonging they would
    never find
  10. addicted to various substances
  11.  nominated for a number of film awards
  12. had abortions
  13. made a number of suicide attempts
  14. died by suicide
  15. suspicion surrounds their deaths in terms of a possible homicide
  16. dated older men
  17. spent significant amounts of time alone in Los Angeles
  18. Colleen had no relationship with her siblings; Marilyn had no siblings
  19. Marilyn had sex with many men in the industry to become a movie star;
    Colleen had sex with many men on film to become a porn star

If I missed any, let me know.

April 22, 2012 - Posted by | Celebrity Chic, Human psychology, Pop Culture

9 Comments »

  1. she didn’t kill her self

    Comment by diane mayer | August 24, 2013 | Reply

    • She certainly did – with a rifle to the head in her boyfriend’s bedroom.

      Comment by gothrules | August 25, 2013 | Reply

  2. Interesting analysis of both Colleen/Shauna and Norma Jeane/Marilyn. Personally, I don’t see much resemblance between the two but you drew some very thoughtful parallels…definitely food for thought.

    I think Marilyn was much prettier than Shauna, but they both had the same body type, slender with nice curves.
    Shauna Grant is also not generally known or remembered by anyone today, except those of a certain generation. While Marilyn Monroe is still considered iconic 54 years after her death.

    “Death of a Porn Queen” was indeed a very sad documentary about Shauna’s life.
    I’ve shared my own experiences with porn and I will tell you honestly that the reason I wound up in it (something I never thought I would ever do) was because of what I was going through at home.

    My environment growing up was very unhappy, mostly because I had a very abusive stepfather who mistreated me and a mother who enabled it. I also had trouble with finding employment once I was out of high school. I don’t know all the details of Colleen’s life at home with her parents other than what you’ve stated or what I’ve read in other places.
    I know that her mother admitted to being distant and the father wasn’t always the best dad, but I’m not sure if that is what contributed to her being in the porn industry.

    I believe that she was a sweet, gullible young woman with big dreams and she didn’t know how cruel the world could be.
    I think that she is a bit more like Dorothy Stratten…a Playboy centerfold from Canada who was murdered in 1980. Dorothy was another girl who was caught up in the glitzy Hollywood scene and died a tragic death.

    With Colleen/Shauna, I feel that she was overwhelmed by living too fast, too young.
    She couldn’t return home to her little town because everyone knew that she was a porn star. Her family felt ashamed of her and her siblings were bullied at school. There was no real work to be found anywhere. So I think she was just broken and she felt like she was alone in the world. There is also the issue of her strict upbringing in a religious home…that often conflicts with issues of sex.

    Comment by MB | December 2, 2015 | Reply

  3. Oh, yeah…look up Alyssa Funke; she is actually much more like Colleen/Shauna.
    Both were from Minnesota, both did porn, both came from unhappy homes, both killed themselves when it all became too much.

    The only difference is that Alyssa was biracial (black and white). She was a very pretty girl with dark hair and tanned skin.
    She died last year after the news of her porn career reached her small town in Stillwater, Minnesota. But I don’t think it was just the rumors and the bullying…I think there was more to it, like her father being in prison and not having any real stability in her life.

    She was just trying to pay for school and make a better life for herself, but obviously had no one to guide her in the right way.

    Comment by MB | December 2, 2015 | Reply

  4. On the subject of whether Colleen’s death was suicide or murder, I believe that it was suicide.

    Some people (they are in the minority) feel that she was murdered by associates of her boyfriend at the time, Jake Ehrlich…he was in jail when it happened.

    I’m open to that possibility, but there is more evidence to indicate that Colleen died by her own hand.
    She was severely depressed and battling drug addiction; she was estranged from her family; she had very few real friends. And outside of porn, there was no chance to find honest work so she could support herself.
    I believe that all of this contributed to her death.

    One of her former friends mentioned something that is so sad and hits home with me, because it shows how judgmental people can be about things they don’t understand.
    Colleen had apparently returned to her hometown in 1983 after her porn career took off, to attend the wedding of a friend from high school. She was turned away from the church by that girl’s mother and several “friends” shunned her.
    The irony is that the wedding was in a church, a place that often preaches love and acceptance and forgiveness, yet Colleen was unwelcome because of her lifestyle. I’m sure that only made her feel worse.

    What Colleen needed was somebody who cared and wouldn’t give up on her. Sadly, it seems that many people did turn their backs on her.

    Comment by MB | December 6, 2015 | Reply

  5. I think it’s pretty sad about both of Marilyn and Colleen. Both were very beautiful, hard to believe felt lonely, starved for affection and sadly got with many men who saw the opportunity to get there jollies with no thought whatsoever for the ladies interest. It saddens me how many men who make so many pitiful excuses for their actions like: She meant nothing, it was just sex, she was a hoe, a botched, a slur, whore, and the list goes on. Guys that end up this way should have their balls cut off. While Alot of women are loose does not mean a guy should Go-for-it. What about morals, principles,? And suicide is NEVER the answer ladies.

    Comment by Dennis H. | February 5, 2016 | Reply

    • Marilyn and Colleen had difficult childhoods which contributed a lot to their future “career” choices and ultimate suicides. Their difficulties began long before they were adults.

      Comment by helthnut | February 15, 2016 | Reply

  6. Yes, unfortunately, it is so true that people around can be very cruel and judgmental. And yet God tells all “judge not or you will be judged. I’m reading these things about Marilyn and Colleen and I’m shocked. But am equally shocked about the reasons people get into the porno industry. I came from a very dysfunctional, broken family but it didn’t break me or my spirit. And if u feel uneed to sacrifice principles for profit then it’s not worth it. My father was not much of a father, then he died when I was 13, my mom was with mental issues, and our family fell apart. But I didn’t become a drug users, or alcohol abuser, both my grandparents were dead but crossed paths with an older grandma type lady who took me in at 151/2 yrs old and gave me a nurturing teenage hood into my young adult yrs. Truth is if something is slowly destroying u get away from it. I think Colleens boyfriend who left her in LA made a very smart decision when he joined the Army. He wanted a life and not fantasy. Colleen just didn’t have her head on straight. She was looking for love in all the wrong places.

    Comment by Dennis H. | February 6, 2016 | Reply

    • It’s very fortunate that you were taken in by a good person. That didn’t happen to Monroe or Applegate. It might have made a difference in their lives had that been the case.

      Comment by helthnut | February 15, 2016 | Reply


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