Angie Dickinson and Burt Bacharach were left heartbroken after their only daughter, Nikki, who suffered Asperger’s syndrome, committed suicide at age 40. Find out what happened.
Angie Dickinson is recognized for her stellar career as an American actress. Born on September 30, 1931, the Hollywood star showed up in the entertainment industry scene in the 1950s after a beauty pageant win led to a minor role in “The Colgate Comedy Hour.”
In 1959, she portrayed the flirtatious gambler Feathers in “Rio Bravo.” It was her breakthrough role, and it helped establish her as a sex symbol.
American actress Angie Dickinson with her daughter, Nikki. | Photo: Getty Images
She went on to make appearances in other productions such as “Police Woman,” “Dressed to Kill,” “Big Bad Mama,” “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” and many more.
Apart from her professional achievements, Dickinson’s personal life also put her in the spotlight. In the 90 years she has lived, the actress has been married twice. Her first marriage was to Gleneden College football team star Gene Dickinson in 1952.
Although the pair were college sweethearts, their union was short-lived. They stayed married for a few years before calling it quits in 1959. After Angie left Gene, she was reportedly romantically involved with high-profile entertainers and politicians.
Angie Dickinson wearing a backless gold lame evening dress with batwing sleeves, circa 1965. | Photo: Getty Images
In 1965, Angie found love in the arms of Award-winning songwriter and composer Burt Bacharach. He is best known for “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”
They were one of America’s power couples, but in 1981, they went their separate ways. Although Angie and Burt’s marriage lasted for almost two decades, their union was not free of challenges.
Burt Bacharach and his wife Angie Dickinson in a London park in 1966. | Photo: Getty Images
However, they endured the difficulties, and we’re supportive of each other, especially in their careers. During a 1976 interview with People, the actress made a surprising revelation. She said:
“I’d hate it if I were a bigger star than my husband.”
Sadly, the former lovebirds’ support for each other could not prevent their marriage from collapsing. Regarding the divorce, Angie explained that she was unhappy about it. However, she was sure some women were delighted about the breakup.
Angie Dickinson and Burt Bacharach in Beverly Hills, California in April 1971. | Photo: Getty Images
Angie and Burt welcomed their daughter, Nikki Bacharach, in 1966. Nikki was born three months premature and weighed only one pound, ten ounces. She was in such frail health that doctors did not think she would survive.
Burt revealed that he never read it because he knew what was written inside.
Burt Bacharach and his wife Angie Dickinson watching Nikki play the piano in May 1974. | Photo: Getty Images
The experience was nothing short of traumatizing for the child’s parents. Angie confessed that they would watch Nikki hour after hour and celebrate whenever she gained an ounce.
Luckily, the child survived, but she had vision problems and was later diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The movie star discovered that her daughter needed more attention, so she sacrificed her career to care for the baby.
Burt Bacharach, wife Angie Dickinson, and daughter Lea Nikki in their Hollywood home in June 1969. | Photo: Getty Images
Instead of booking parts in big films that would take her away from her child for a long time, Angie started accepting roles in smaller TV projects. Although the icon got to bond more with Nikki, it made her mothering not so perfect. She once said:
“God, I almost lost her at birth. So I didn’t understand about teaching a child limits, about saying no.”
Despite Angie’s imperfect mothering skills, she still enjoyed a healthy relationship with Nikki. They spent most weekends together, visiting museums and hanging out at Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Beverly Hills.
Burt Bacharach and his wife Angie Dickinson playing with Nikki in May 1974. | Photo: Getty Images
HOW ANGIE SAVED HER DAUGHTER’S LIFE
During one of their mother-daughter fun times, Nikki had a near-death experience. The duo swam near Diamond Head’s famous BlowHole area when they were caught in a riptide that swept them onto a sharp coral reef.
At that point, Angie thought it was over, but she eventually survived. She was also credited for saving her daughter’s life after keeping Nikki afloat.
Nikki may have suffered developmental problems, but she was bright. She studied geology at Cal Lutheran University, and with Burt supporting her, she obtained her degree.
Portrait of actress Angie Dickinson circa 1955. | Photo: Getty Images
BURT BACHARACH’S PAINFUL DECISION
However, she did not pursue a career due to her poor eyesight. Due to her condition, Burt sent Nikki to a particular school — a painful decision he regretted for a long time.
Nikki was bullied by other students, which remained a bitter experience. Her inability to cope got the best of her before she took her life to end the suffering.
Burt was surprised at this daughter’s inability to cope. He always hoped that her relationship with Angie would prevent her from committing suicide. Burt said Nikki and her mother had a connected and symbiotic relationship.
Burt Bacharach and his wife Angie Dickinson in May 1974. | Photo: Getty Images
MORE ABOUT NIKKI’S SUICIDE
Before Nikki committed suicide at 40, she left a note for her father. Burt revealed that he never read it because he knew what was written inside. He also promised never to read it because it was of no use.
Reports explained that Nikki died of suffocation brought on by a plastic bag and helium. To keep her memory alive, Burt documented her suffering in his song titled “Nikki.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.