Independent Creativity: The Writing Life of Adrienne Barbeau

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***This post is part of The Adrienne Barbeau Blogathon, hosted by the Movie Movie Blog Blog blog. ***

“All my life I’ve been a performer – an actress, a singer, a dancer, even a talk show host – but never in the wildest dreams of my first 50 years did I ever imagine I would write something that other people would read. I still can’t quite get over it.” – Adrienne Barbeau

I will admit that the name Adrienne Barbeau was new to me when I first came across this blogathon. However, I recognized her on the blogathon banners from the 1981 film The Cannonball Run. I remember going to the theater with my sister and her best friend to see the film and how much we loved the saucy and funny scene when Barbeau’s character and her driving pal Jill (Tara Buckman) get pulled over by an equally saucy female highway patrol cop (I won’t go into much more than that to avoid spoilers). I was only eleven but I remember feeling shocked at first to see Barbeau and Buckman using their sexuality to get ahead in the race but later I realized there was a certain empowerment in these two scantily-clad women taking their fate into their hands and using what they had as an asset.

I will also confess right now that the idea of participating in this blogathon didn’t attract me at first. Barbeau’s filmography reveals a string of characters who feed into the image of a woman’s worth being dependent on how attractive she can make herself to men. But after doing a little research on Barbeau’s career and life, my views quickly changed. Barbarea’s attitude towards being cast as one of the sex symbols of the 1980’s (in a Den of Geek interview, she admits, “I never set out to be a sex-symbol, and I don’t know what makes a sex-symbol. I think that it was the camera, or the media or whatever, that made me a sex-symbol.”) reminds me of a short documentary I once saw about actor Vincent Price. Price, of course, became the king of the campy B-horror genre in the 1950’s and 1960’s, despite an impressive filmography of roles dating back to the 1930’s. But Price never played felt belitted by that image. He accepted it was a media creation, had a lot of fun with it and gained a place in film history. Barbeau seems to me to have taken the role of sex symbol into stride, playing with it and having fun with it and giving it a kick-ass chick spin.

Adrienne Barbeau Pic

Photo Credit: Adrienne Barbeau at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (BMO Center, Calgary, Alberta, Canada), taken 19 June 2011 by Sergei Scurfield. Scurfield added this touching note to the photo: “Of my day at the convention, Adrienne was my favourite meeting. A truly beautiful woman, she is friendly, personable, and gracious.”: Rashinseita/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY SA 2.0

Of course as a writer, I was especially thrilled to find Barbeau maintains a career as an author as well as an actress. Her first book was a memoir titled There Are Worst Things I Could Do (the title refers to the song from Grease, as Barbeau played Rizzo in the original Broadway play in the 1970’s). Barbeau told Den of Geek, I found a [writing] voice when I was doing [this book], and tried to bring it into [my new book] as much as I could”. It’s not so uncommon for celebrities to write about their lives. But I was thrilled to find that Barbeau also writes fiction, which is less common.

Barbeau takes what she knows (which I wrote about here) and turns infuses it into what looks like an entertaining genre. Her first book of fiction, Vampyres of Hollywood combines mystery, horror, and romance with a little Hollywood thrown in. From what Barbeau says, she sort of fell into writing the book, thanks to author Michael Scott:

“He said ‘You should be writing a horror novel for your horror-genre fan base. And I said that I didn’t know, I’ve never written a novel, just this non-fiction book, and he said ‘Oh, I’ll help you – that’s nothing!’”

She goes on further to explain how the book was written:

“The structure of it is really Michael – he wrote the first draft of the chapter and then he sent it to me and said ‘This is your book, just do whatever you want with it’… So the voice, the actual words on the paper…the voice is more mine. The dialogue, the way they speak – that’s more me. But when we went back over it, we both agreed that we couldn’t tell where I had left off and he had picked up and vice versa.” (Barbeau)

Although the first book was co-written with Scott, Barbeau took the reins of her writing career and wrote two more books in the series, Love Bites and Make Me Dead without Scott, both of which feature the Vaympres of Hollywood protagonist, Ovsanna Moore.

Barbeau has played a lot of tough chicks in films, so it’s no surprise that created one for the Vampyres of Hollywood series. She tells the Den of Geek interviewer, “Ovsanna, she can kick ass [laughs] just like all [the books my male authors with male protagonists] that I read, and like the characters that I usually play” (Barbeau). The mystery/horror genre in fact lends itself to just this kind of kick-ass protagonist, Barbeau points out:

“What better format to write the kind of woman that I would like to be – and like to think that I am, on occasion, and that I play in the movies…the strong survivor, fighting for justice…”

One of my favorite lines in the Den of Geek interview is Barbeau’s very clear vision of how her female protagonist relates to herself:

“I’ve sort of spent my life trying to grow into…if I say a strong person, I mean a capable person, or a person who can take care of herself and hopefully take care of the people around her.”

So Barbeau takes from her own psychological reality (she comes from a family of tough Armenian women who survived the Holocaust) and infuses it into her fiction, like most good writers.

It’s a shame Barbeau’s film career, extensive and varied as it is, has overshadowed her writing career. In fact, the Wikimedia entry for Barbeau doesn’t talk much about her writing (other than to mention her memoir) even though it discusses extensively not only her film career but her singing career as well. Hopefully, this won’t be the case in the future as Barbeau publishes more books with kick-ass protagonists.

Works Cited

Barbeau, Adrienne. Adrienne Barbeau. Web. 27 September 2017. https://abarbeau.com/.

Barbeau, Adrienne. Interview by M.A. Den of Geek! DoG Tech LLC. 3 July 2008. Web. 27 September 2017.

 

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2 thoughts on “Independent Creativity: The Writing Life of Adrienne Barbeau

  1. Very nice piece. I agree with you that Adrienne acts as though she has lucked into her career and just wants to make the most of it. I’ve only read her memoir thus far, but this definitely makes me want to seek out her novels. Thanks so much for contributing to the blogathon!

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