‘Candid Camera’ Actress, Rod Steiger Wife Was 96 5

Joan Benedict, who starred on the original Steve Allen Show and Candid Camera and portrayed the tyrannical hotel queen Leona Helmsley in a one-woman stage show, has died. She was 96.

Benedict died June 24 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke, a family spokesperson announced.

Benedict was married to actor John Myhers, who played personnel man Bert Bratt in the 1967 film adaptation of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, from 1962 until his 1992 death and to Oscar-winning actor Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront, In the Heat of the Night) from 2000 until his death in 2002.

She then had a relationship with actor Jeremy Slate (Hell’s Angels ’69, One Life to Live) until he died in 2006 from esophageal cancer at 80.

“Both of my husbands, and my lifetime partner, Jeremy, were wonderful men who respected me as an actress,” she said in 2016. “They all died from different forms of cancer, so my memories are sometimes bittersweet, but with no regrets.”

Benedict was a member of Allen Funt’s stock company for Candid Camera. In two of her funniest bits for the CBS reality hit, she wore a feather in her hat and annoyingly tickled men with it as they sat next to her at the airport and made it impossible for male passersby to light her cigarette in a phone booth.

“Essentially, it’s acting,” she said of working on the show. “I can’t laugh or the whole stunt is broken up.”

Earlier, as part of the ensemble on NBC’s The Steve Allen Show, she performed in comedy skits and was the spokesperson for Hazel Bishop cosmetics.

Born in Brooklyn on July 21, 1927, Benedict was raised in a home near Prospect Park. She first performed as a tap dancer at age 7 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, then studied at the Rome Opera Ballet School, in Paris and with Robert Lewis and Stella Adler at The Actors Studio in New York.

Benedict worked on the network game show Masquerade Party, and for Butterfield 8 (1960), she served as the stand-in for Elizabeth Taylor and played a psychiatrist’s secretary.

She later showed up in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) and on episodes of The Smith Family, Fantasy Island, T.J. Hooker, Hotel, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill and Dollhouse and had recurring roles on the soap operas General Hospital, Days of Our Lives and Capitol.

After Myhers’ death at age 70, Benedict reunited with Steiger — the two had a brief romance when she was 19 — before she became his fifth wife. In 2001, they appeared together in the film A Month of Sundays and in the telefilm The Flying Dutchman.

Steiger died at age 77 of complications from surgery for a gallbladder tumor.

Benedict wrote her memoir, Brooklyn Baby, published in 2016, and in addition to her work in Leona — the play takes place in a jail cell — she starred in another one-woman stage show, the autobiographical The Loves of My Life.

Survivors include her daughter, Claudia, and her granddaughters, Hanna and Ashley.

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