The very vision of the curvaceous bathing beauty, former "Baywatch" babe Yasmine Bleeth made an immediate pop cultural impact and set male hearts aflutter by simply running down the beach in a red swimsuit, her brown hair flying in slow-mo behind her. Although she was perhaps best known for her role as one of the lone brunette lifeguards in a sea of blondes, the iconic TV show was far from Bleeth's lone claim to fame.
Born in New York City, NY on June 14, 1968, the camera-ready Bleeth wasted no time landing her first gig. At the age of six months, she appeared in a Johnson & Johnson "No More Tears" baby shampoo commercial. At age six, she starred in a Max Factor cosmetics ad with 70's supermodel Christina Ferrare. Famed fashion photographer, Francesco Scavullo, took notice and included Yasmine and her mother in his book, Scavullo Women.Though her family was far from wealthy it did not stop the Bleeth clan from living well. Her father, Philip Bleeth, was a photographer and her mother, Carina, a model. Together they ran a business that rented vans for photo shoots. They sent their daughter to the prestigious United Nations International School in Manhattan where most of Bleeth's classmates were picked up in limos. She received a bilingual education (French/English) due to the fact that her mother was of Algerian and French descent. Her parents separated when she was young, leaving her to be raised by her mother. When Bleeth was only 20 years old, tragedy struck when her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 47. Devastated by the loss of her mother and best friend, she declined all acting and modeling roles for the next several months in order to recuperate.
At age 12, Bleeth made her feature film debut in the flop, "Hey Babe" (1980), opposite comedian Buddy Hackett. At age 16, she scored the part of Ryan Finelli, Jack Fenelli's daughter, on the daytime soap "Ryan's Hope" (ABC 1975-1989), followed by a role on yet another soap opera - this time as the seductive Lee Anne Demerest on "One Life to Live" (ABC 1968- ).
In 1994, she decided to try her luck on the west coast, auditioning for the part of Caroline Holden, the impressionable younger sister of Lieutenant Stephanie Holden (Alexandra Paul) on the bouncy hit, "Baywatch" (NBC, 1989-2001). The producers immediately liked the dark haired New Yorker and offered her the part. With her "Baywatch" debut, Bleeth saw her Hollywood stock rise. A favorite download on the relatively new internet, only co-star Pamela Anderson drew more requests. Bleeth even found herself on People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" list for 1995. But the pressure to maintain her "Baywatch" body was getting to the young actress. She gained 10 lbs during filming, prompting the show's producers to allegedly post a sign next to her picture that said, "If you see this woman, do not feed her." Ouch! Though she was making over $10 grand a week, by 1997 Bleeth had had enough, leaving the series amidst rumors that she was tired of playing an idiot. She promptly moved to San Francisco a year later, taking on the role as the no-nonsense Inspector Caitlin Cross on NBC's "Nash Bridges (1996-2000) opposite Don Johnson.
The late 1990s turned into a dark period for Bleeth. After a recent break up with her long-term boyfriend, actor Richard Grieco, and finding herself in alone in a city of strangers, Bleeth started ordering cocaine as if it were Chinese takeout. In the beginning, the drug not only comforted her, it helped her lose that all important weight. It was the beginning of an ugly downward spiral into drug addiction. In 2000, she was able to hide her addiction well enough that legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling convinced CBS to release her from her "Nash Bridges" contract so that she could star in his new series. It wasn't the first time Spelling had pursued Bleeth. He had tried to cast her on his early 90's hit "Beverly Hills 90210" and the short lived "Pacific Palisades" (1997), but Bleeth had turned him down both times. The third offer was the charm. Bleeth finally accepted his offer to play vixen Heather Lane Williams in his new primetime soap, "Titans" (2000). Unfortunately, the series fizzled quickly, with only 11 episodes aired.
By 2001, Bleeth's addiction became public knowledge when her horrifying mug shot was plastered all over the news media, following her arrest in Detroit for crashing her rental car into a median (the police found liquid cocaine in the car). The image of the formerly gorgeous actress, with bags under her bloodshot eyes and her nose noticeably deformed from years of snorting, showed how far her star had fallen. Arrested with Bleeth was her fiancé, Paul Cerrito, who was a passenger in the car. The couple met while they were both undergoing (unsuccessful) treatment at a drug facility in Malibu. Bleeth got off with two years probation. The story had a happy ending when the couple reportedly got sober and married in a romantic ceremony atop a Santa Barbara cliff in August of 2002.
In 2003, Bleeth resurrected the Caroline Holden character in the reunion TV movie "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding" - a small screen valentine to viewers still reeling from its cancellation after twelve years on air. In 2006, the actress returned to the big screen in the romantic comedy "The Last Guy on Earth" alongside an impressive cast that included Carol Burnett, Joan Cusack and Whoopi Goldberg.