Mariska Hargitay was in the 1967 car accident that tragically killed her mother, '50s- and '60s-era blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, as well as the 19-year-old driver, Ronald B. Harrison, and Mansfield's lawyer and then-boyfriend, Samuel S. Brody. Mansfield's other two children from her marriage to ex-husband and former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay were also in the car.
While all three adults were thrown from the vehicle and died, Mariska, then three, asleep in the backseat, and her brothers, 8-year-old Mickey Jr. and 6-year-old Zoltan, survived.
Although the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actress, 53, has said she doesn't remember the crash, the scar on the side of her head has served as a reminder. So have constant comparisons to her similarly gorgeous and whip-smart (her I.Q. was apparently 163) mom, which have followed Hargitay throughout her career. Now, 50 years after the accident, she opened up about losing her mother in an interview with Closer Weekly.
"In some ways, being the daughter of a Hollywood icon has been a burden," the publication quotes Hargitay as saying. "I used to hate constant references to my mom because I wanted to be known for myself. Losing my mother at such a young age is the scar of my soul."
The Emmy award-winning actress and Joyful Heart Foundation founder said something similar to Redbook in 2009, adding, "But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I did to be here."
The car had been traveling from Biloxi, Mississippi, to New Orleans, where Mansfield was to appear on television. Ahead of them, a truck was spraying mosquitoes, emitting a thick white fog that may have obscured Harrison's vision, causing the collision at full speed.
The accident robbed Hargitay of the chance to get to know Mansfield, who was just 34 when she died, and is most remembered for her roles in The Girl Can't Help It (1956), The Wayward Bus (1957) and Promises! Promises! (1963), as well as her dead-on Marilyn Monroe impressions and publicity stunts. But, she says, having kids (August, Amaya and Andrew) has helped her heal.
"Being a wife and mother is my life, and that gives me the most joy," Hargitay said to Closer Weekly. "I understand [my mother] in a new way that gives me peace. Now I understand the love she had in her, and it makes me feel closer to her."