A Soap Star's Devastating Loss
11/05/2007 at 01:00 AM EST
At 19, Michael "Mickey" Tylo II was focused on the future, hoping to find his way into the field of special effects. "He wanted to study graphic design," says his father, film professor Michael Tylo. But on the evening of Oct. 18, Mickey's dreams came to an end. Set to meet his dad and two friends at a restaurant in Henderson, Nev., Mickey, a responsible sort counted on to babysit his two younger sisters, never showed. Worried, Michael, 59, called his stepson Christopher. Two hours later Chris found Mickey—who had drowned in the family pool in Henderson. Fully clothed, with his cell phone open on the pool floor, Mickey appeared to have been making a call when he suffered an epileptic seizure and tumbled into the water. When Michael saw his son lying on a gurney, "I kissed his forehead, his eyes and his lips; he was so cold," he says. "I told him I loved him. Then, I just broke down."
So did Mickey's mom, The Bold and the Beautiful star Hunter Tylo, whose 18-year marriage to Michael ended in 2005. "Hunter is devastated," says her manager Marv Dauer. "No parent should outlive a child." After learning of Mickey's death, Hunter, 45, retreated into seclusion for 24 hours. Since then, she has been joined at her L.A. home by close friends and family, among them Chris, 26 (her son by a previous marriage), who's been reeling since discovering Mickey's body. "It's been tough on him," says Dauer. Flowers and messages have poured in from Hunter's colleagues on Bold, which she first joined in 1990 and rejoined in '05. "They all know Mickey," says Dauer. "Hunter has been with the show since he was a little boy."
Mickey's father, who calls the untimely death a "freakish, horrible accident," says that his son "had a great love of life and people." He also had a keen eye for cool T-shirts, which he gave his middle-aged dad to wear in class. Mickey had just moved from Nevada to his mom's L.A. residence, not only to pursue his studies but to visit a specific neurologist to curb his occasional grand mal seizures. Clark County coroner Michael Murphy also calls the death "an accident" and says that when the standard toxicology report arrives a few weeks from now, he expects no surprises.
Sadly, such fatalities are not uncommon. In seizure-related deaths, says Dr. Paul Garcia, director of clinical epilepsy services at the University of California at San Francisco, "one-third are accident-related." Drownings are common in Arizona and California; other accidents largely involve driving or falling from roofs. "For a number of patients there is no warning," says Garcia. "That's what makes [seizures] such a hazard."
"This is absolutely tragic," says Hunter's friend, Passions soap star Andrea Evans. "As a mother, I can't imagine anything worse." Dauer, who's visited Tylo several times since Mickey's death, says, "Hunter's one of the strongest women I've ever met, but this is tough."
Certainly, Tylo is no stranger to adversity. In 1996, just two months after landing a dream job on the hit series Melrose Place, she was fired after she became pregnant. Tylo took her case to L.A. County Superior Court—and walked off with a $4.9 million judgment, putting Hollywood on notice not to mess with sexy pregnant vixens. Two months later, her 4-month-old daughter Katya, the youngest of her four children, was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer. After Katya lost her right eye, Tylo brought her case to a higher authority—God—and scored another victory, crediting prayer for saving Katya's left eye.
Now Tylo can be expected to lean on her family, her friends and her devout Christian faith. "It will take a long time to heal, or never," says Dauer. "Hunter is smart and very religious, but this is a new road less traveled. It's the worst."