If there’s one actress who had the talent and the beauty that outshone her contemporaries, it’s Adrienne Barbeau. And it’s safe to say that she’s still got it today!
She made her mark when she appeared in the now-classic sitcom Maude. Since the 1980s, she establishes herself as one of the most famous actresses in the horror genre. Now in her seventies, she’s still just as busy as ever.
But how did she starts? Did you know that she actually began her show business career working as a go-go dancer? She comes a long way from there…
Let’s look back at Adrienne Barbeau’s life and career and how she’s keeping herself busy today…
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Adrienne Barbeau was born on June 11, 1945, in Sacramento, California. She wasn’t from a show business family, yet somehow, she had an innate desire to entertain others. Graduated from Del Mar High School in San Jose and then decided to relocate to New York City in the late 1960s.
She soon found herself working as a go-go dancer at some of New York City’s most notorious nightclubs! In her autobiography, she later described this as “working for the mob!”
But it is clear that she destines for bigger things. She decided to try her luck at the theater. Her Broadway debut was as a member of the chorus in Fiddler on the Roof. As she gained more experience, she eventually landed the role of Hodel – one of Tevye’s daughters in the play.
This helped increase her popularity in theater circles and she soon found herself receiving one offer after another for plays and musicals. She kept herself busy and appeared in over 20 plays and musicals – building up her acting talent.
She involves with an opera troupe, The San Jose Civic Light Opera. With them, she toured Southeast Asia and performed for American troops stationed in the region. It was during this time that she realized she wanted to dedicate her life to entertaining others.
While the theater was keeping her busy, she knew that it had its limits. To become a big star and make an impact on a larger audience, she had to graduate to work in film and television.
She also knew that these industries were a lot harsher than working in theater. They were highly competitive and often, it was hard to find decent roles. Adrienne got a lot of attention for her beauty, and often, she came across producers who were more interested in exploiting her beauty than they were in her acting talents.
Nevertheless, she determines to make it. As the 1970s approached, she was eager to become a TV star…
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ADRIENNE’S TV CAREER
Adrienne Barbeau’s TV debut is arguably one of the best TV debuts of any actress! She is cast as Carol Traynor in the new sitcom Maude, which debuts in 1972. Carol Traynor was the divorced daughter of the titular character, Maude Findlay – played by Bea Arthur.
She loves working on the show and her work praises – though there are times when she feels that it is her beauty, rather than her talent that is the focus. She even recalled in her autobiography that “…no one was even listening to me. They were just watching my breasts precede me.”
In fact, she appeared in only a few episodes of the final season of Maude. She determines to establish herself as a serious actress and fight against the notion that she was merely a sex symbol.
Apart from her role in Maude, she appeared in several television movies which gave her a chance to showcase her talent. Her first major role was as Daisy White in The Great Houdini – a biopic about Harry Houdini.
Her role received praise and she continued to get more work in TV movies. She also appeared in the TV movies, Crash, Someone’s Watching Me!, and The Darker Side of Terror.
Her film career began in the 1980s, but she never stopped working in television. In 1980, she appeared in three back-to-back hit TV movies. These were Top of the Hill, Valentine Magic of Love Island, and Tourist. She played lead roles in these 3 TV movies, and they helped increase her popularity in the industry. With these roles, she showed that she was a talented and versatile actress. After these 3 TV movies, she never looked back.
Adrienne Barbeau has kept herself busy working in television ever since. Her other notable roles have been as Silvia Hartnell in the mini-series The Burden of Proof. She also played Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, and Gotham Girls.
She played Kim Harvey in 6 episodes of The Drew Carey Show, Ruthie in the TV series Carnivàle, and Susanne Stanwyck in the popular soap opera, General Hospital.
Her most recent TV roles are in the episode “Drive-in” in the show American Horror Stories and in the episode “Callisto Soul” in the show Cowboy Bebop – both released in 2021.
ADRIENNE’S FILM CAREER
Adrienne Barbeau has been a familiar face on the small screen – and she’s also a huge star on the big screen!
She make a big screen debut in 1980 when she is cast in the lead role as Stevie Wayne in the horror film The Fog – which is co-written and directed by her then-husband, John Carpenter.
John Carpenter created the character specifically for Adrienne to play. The film was a low-budget independent film that had huge success upon its release. This film was proof that Adrienne Barbeau had talents not just for TV – but that she was on her way to becoming a movie star as well! It also established her as a staple in the horror genre. Today, she saw as an iconic actress in the horror genre.
Another popular role of hers was in the escapist sci-fi film Escape from New York – also written and directed by John Carpenter.
She also appeared in the horror film Swamp Thing and appeared in a segment of the film Creepshow. By 1986, she was now a movie star, and she had a small but memorable role in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy film Back To School.
This hilarious film must have rekindled her interest in working in comedy films. In 1989, she had a lead role in the adventure-comedy film Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.
She returned to her horror roots in 1990 when she starred in the now-classic film Two Evil Eyes.
She continued acting in feature films in the 2000s. Her notable films included The Convent, Across the Line, No Place Like Home, Ghost Rock, Unholy, Fly Me to the Moon 3D, and Reach for Me.
She hasn’t slowed down since, and she’s been just as busy appearing in films. Her notable film roles in the 2010s have been in Argo, Complacent, Divine Access, Beyond the Edge, Jimmy’s Jungle, Chain of Death, Hoax, and Gates of Darkness.
The 2020s also looks promising for her film career. 2020 saw two film releases for Adrienne Barbeau – the comedy-drama film The Eagle and the Albatross which she starred in. She also had a lead role in the drama film For the Love of Jessee.
In 2022, she showed that she’s still in love with horror films when she played a supporting role in the independent movie Hellblazers. She’s also playing the lead role in an upcoming horror film called The Pitch-Fork – which will hopefully see a release soon!
SHE’S STILL GOT IT TODAY
The fact that in the 2020s, Adrienne Barbeau is still just as busy as ever in both film and television shows that she’s still got it today.
She’s established herself as one of the most versatile actresses of her generation – having a particular aptitude toward horror and comedy. She’s seen as a living legend in the horror genre and still gets offers to appear in horror films and TV shows today!
But she’s also loved for her appearances in comedy films and TV shows and is still lauded for her performance as Carol Traynor in Maude. Adrienne Barbeau is still just as enchanting as ever and is still seen as a sex symbol. Yet, unlike many other sex symbols, she’s also seen as a brilliant actress – which is what she set to prove when she joined the TV and film industry.
She’s come a long way from her days as a go-go dancer at New York nightclubs! She honed her craft on stage and then became a legend in both film and television – now how many actresses can brag about such achievements?
Adrienne Barbeau was married to John Carpenter from 1979 to 1984 and had a son John ‘Cody’ Carpenter with them. Following her divorce from John Carpenter, she married Billy Van Zandt in 1992 whom she was married to until their divorce in 2018. She has two sons, Walker and William from her second marriage.
She’s also had a brief career voicing characters for video games, including Descent 3, Batman Arkham Asylum, God of War III, Mad Max, and Fallout 76 – to name a few!
She’s kept herself busy entertaining us for 6 decades and she’s not slowing down anytime soon! For that, all we can do is thank her!
Now, let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Adrienne Barbeau?
In fact, here’s what we’d like to know:
Do you think that people still remember her early work and appreciate her for her contribution to film and television?
Or has she not received the credit that she’s due?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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