Bonny Lee Bakley, a New Jersey native, set out to make her big-city dreams come true at the age of sixteen.
She found herself at the Barbizon School of Modeling in New York City. The institution taught her modeling and acting skills that she would scarcely put to use in the years to come. When the performing arts failed her, Bakley found another way to support herself that would soon get her into a bit of legal trouble.
She started up a mail-order business to sell nude photos of herself and other women. She would also place lonely hearts ads in local newspapers. She scammed the men who responded to the ads for “travel expenses” to go see them, and then would promptly ghost them.
To succeed at her scam, she had to open multiple post office boxes. She possessed multiple fake licenses and social security cards to do this. Between the fake IDs and drugs, she was arrested multiple times through the 80s and 90s.
Still, her scam-based lifestyle brought her an abundance of financial success. She owned multiple homes and was able to move to Hollywood to attempt what would become an unsuccessful singing career under the stage name of Lee Bonney.
Regardless, Hollywood proved to be an exciting endeavor for Bakley. Her friends and family often described her as “celebrity-obsessed,” and being in Beverly Hills gave her the perfect opportunity to pursue the male celebrities that she was infatuated with.
This included Dean Martin, Gary Busey, and even Frankie Valli, who had to come forward and refute Bakley’s claim that the two dated in high school. Jerry Lee Lewis, another one of Bakley’s celebrity obsessions, needed a paternity test to refute the claim that he fathered Bakley’s daughter.
While Bakley failed to ignite a relationship with these performers, she did succeed in marrying a certain starring actor in the TV show Baretta.