Actress Denise Nickerson, known for her role as the bubblegum-blowing baddie Violet Beauregarde in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, passed away on July 10, 2019, after being taken off life support following a major medical emergency.
“They just took off all the equipment. None of it was helping, but making her only more uncomfortable. We're telling her it’s ok to let go,” her family wrote on Facebook.
The former child actress was born on April 1, 1957, in New York City but eventually moved to Miami Florida. By the age of two, Nickerson worked on a television commercial for a Florida heating company. At four, during a local fashion show, she was discovered by Zev Buffman of Neighborhood Playhouse. She went on to play Wendy’s daughter in Peter Pan at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse, even touring with the production. Nickerson ventured into television, appearing in The Doctors before making her big break on ABC’s Dark Shadows. She played recurring characters Amy Jennings and Nora Collins between 1968 and 1970.
She later appeared in the made for TV movie The Neon Ceiling, and starred as Lolita in the ill-fated musical Lolita, My Love. Around this time, Nickerson was 13 and landed her signature role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. During the early 1970s, Nickerson joined the cast of The Electric Company as Short Circus music group member Allison. She later guest starred on episodes of The Brady Bunch, and had the role of Liza Walton on CBS’ Search for Tomorrow created for her.
Additional credits include the movie The Man Who Could Talk to Kids, opposite Peter Boyle and Scott Jacoby, the satiric Smile, Zero to Sixty, and Child of Glass. After turning 21, Nickerson retired from acting to pursue a nursing career. She later made sporadic television appearances, including episodes of To Tell the Truth, and reunions with the cast of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for Top Chef: Just Desserts and the Today show.
Nickerson was married twice, first to Rick Keller and then to Mark Willard. She had one son, Josh, with Willard before divorcing in 1998. Nickerson is survived by her son and daughter-in-law Jasmine.
The family is using their Go Fund Me page to fulfill Nickerson’s final wish to be cremated and have her ashes made into a piece of glass art.