Tuesday, 5 January 2021

There Are Worse Things I Could Do

Stevie Wayne’s World

There Are Worse
Things I Could Do

by Adrienne Barbeau
Carroll & Graff
ISBN: 9780786716371

My first big memory of actress Adrienne Barbeau was when I was absolutely terrified, alone in the dark on my own as a young teenager, while I watched the late night, debut TV screening in the UK of John Carpenter’s The Fog (reviewed by me here). It was an absolutely wonderful experience and Barbeau in particular, with her sexy voice as she played DJ Stevie Wayne, broadcasting from her lighthouse at Spivey Point (I think it was Spivey Point, right?) certainly stuck in my mind. I didn’t put two and two together until later that it was Barbeau who had impressed me so much a few years earlier as the busty, vengeful 'Maggie' when I’d gone to see the AA rated screening of Carpenter’s Escape From New York at my local cinema. She was always an actress I looked out for but she wasn’t often in the kind of films I would go and see, to be honest so, when the earlier ‘made for TV’ movie Someone’s Watching Me also came on television at some point, I saw that one too... not realising at the time that Carpenter had also directed it. The only other thing I consciously remember seeing her in again was in her segment of George A. Romero and Dario Argento’s Two Evil Eyes.

So I was delighted when, sometime last year, I found out that she’d written and published an autobiography back in 2006. I managed to get a second hand copy of the then out of print tome fairly cheaply on Abe Books and was delighted to find that it looked like it had a) never been read and b) had a personalised inscription from Adrienne to someone who, putting two and two together from the message, must have worked with her on one of her film or theatre productions.

So I finally got around to reading it and, I have to say, it’s a really entertaining read. It’s not an incredibly detailed account of her specific film and TV work but it does reveal a lot about her and a lot about the different jobs she took, some of them acting and... some not... to finally get to the actress she’s known as today. She’s also not shy about naming companions and lovers and, telling a few intimate things about herself and her struggles as she stormed through life with one of the best, positive mental attitudes you could ask for in anyone. And, yeah, you’ll get to hear all about people like Burt Reynolds, way before she worked with them on a movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Cannonball Run but I suspect I should ‘put it on the list’, so to speak... and she’s very complimentary and was somewhat star struck by Roger Moore on that movie, it seems to me. Which is no bad thing.

Now, I can’t say I’d seen a lot of the things she talks about... I’ve never seen an episode of Maude, for example (in fact, never even heard of it until I commenced reading this) but I did twig, before I started it, that the title of the book was named after the song from Grease. Yep, turns out she was the original Rizzo on stage. I think I saw Grease in London with Richard Gere at some point but this is going back quite a while before it was a movie, so this was all interesting stuff.

The book is more or less chronological but it does group by themes and contrasting stories too... you’ll find out about her two waitressing jobs where she inadvertently was working for what she politely refers to as ‘The Syndicate’ nights, while taking acting lessons and going to auditions by day, the chain of events that got her some big breaks, some lightly supernatural stuff and the power of positive thinking. You’ll also find the story behind her marriages and her children, the famous Cody Carpenter and the process of having her twins in her fifties. There’s even a great story about her learning to do a snake dance for the show Carnivale (which also sounds like something I should make a point of catching up with) and, one or two absolute film disaster areas where she’s good enough to not name the actual films by title but, you know, amazing and frankly horrifying tales of film set perils.

And it’s all contrasted and punctuated by various diary inserts. She’s been keeping a journal religiously from a young age wherein, as she says, you won’t find information about her film and theatre experiences but, you will find a lot about what was going on about her various lovers at the different times in which she recorded her observations. There are also some interesting points made which reflect ‘things to come’... so to speak and these were obviously sifted out with a deft eye to accommodate the themes and stories as she tells them.

And... yeah... nothing much more to say about Adrienne Barbeau’s magnificent tome, There Are Worse Things I Could Do, other than I’m glad I read it and she has a nice work ethic, which is to be admired. She writes about things with good grace and a lot of humour. I also suspect she’s a really good person to have around a film set because, as you’ll see if you read this one, she seems pretty calm and tolerant in situations where others might not be so generous with their support and presence. I believe there are still, as I review this, a few reasonable priced copies available on a few of the obvious online marketplaces (the hardbacks tend to go for cheaper than the paperbacks, for some reason but, that’s okay for me, at any rate... at my age I much prefer hardbacks of these things anyway). So, yeah, a definite recommendation for me and if you want to see what else she’s been doing, check out her website https://abarbeau.com

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