January 17-23, 2007

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

Look Who's Stalking!

By Gary Singh

SINCE this author grew up watching reruns of the '70s sitcom Maude, I just had to lurk in the shadows when Adrienne Barbeau rolled back into San Jose a few weeks ago for Fangoria magazine's Weekend of Horrors convention. She was filling in for famed horror director George Romero, who had to cancel his appearance, to the dismay of many conference attendees. Why she filled in for him, I'll never know, but since they had worked together on the 1982 flick Creepshow, I'm guessing they've been friends ever since.

Basically, she just sat onstage and had everyone ask her questions, most of which were about what it was like to work with all the people she's worked with in her 40-year career. The event was a blast, and to my knowledge, there had not been a horror convention in San Jose in about 15 years.

Not someone you usually see at horror cons, Barbeau has a long, varied career, and not many people in this neck of the swamp know that she actually went to junior high and high school in San Jose. She began her entertainment career here in the early '60s and went to Foothill College. That alone is worth celebrating.

Sitting there in the audience, I asked her which high school she went to and she said Del Mar. A few groans emanated the crowd, for whatever reason. She said she graduated in 1963 and that her sister still teaches high school somewhere in the Alum Rock district. She briefly talked about Del Mar and how in those days it was considered a flagship school for its time, with a sunken football field, an amphitheater and the whole nine yards. After apparently wondering about the groans, she then asked if the school was still there. We all nodded our heads. That was a weird exchange, I must admit.

Believe it or not, Barbeau has more than enough zonked stories to tell. When she was married to director John Carpenter, she appeared in his 1980 film The Fog, and when someone in the crowd asked her if she had seen the remake, she said no, and that she probably wouldn't ever go see it. That brought resounding applause from the audience. Barbeau also played Rizzo in the original stage version of Grease in 1972. When someone asked her what she thought of the movie version, she said she'd never even seen it. Again, resounding applause. I have much more respect for horror nerds after witnessing that.

Anyway, you can wax unpoetic all you want about that one scene in Swamp Thing, or that famous Barbeau poster, which this author confesses to having owned, or that she had twins at 51, but it is the sheer variety of stuff she's done that merits at least some amount of attention. Her career is absolutely one worth exploring. After all is said and done, any woman who took part in Cannonball Run, Maude, Creepshow, Fiddler on the Roof, The Match Game, The Drew Carey Show and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is down in my book. Totally. If I lose friends for fessing up to this, then so be it. Just casually reminiscing about Barbeau's career with the convention attendees made me want to get back onstage and start playing wacky lounge tunes again, which is what I used to do as recently as four years ago.

Last year she released an autobiography titled There Are Worse Things I Could Do, which will soon be out in paperback. And what better quote can you find than this: "I went from being a musical comedy performer to a sitcom actress to a scream queen to a mother and a TV talk-show host and a book reviewer and a voice-over performer, and then back to the stage and back to musical comedy and back to television and concert halls and more films, and even into the recording studio for a CD and into my office to write this book." Hallelujah. I guess variety really is the spice of life.

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