Adrienne Jo Barbeau is an American television, film, character and musical theater actress, as well as the author of two recently published books. Barbeau came to prominence in the 1970s as Broadway's original Rizzo in the musical Grease, Bea Arthur's divorced daughter Carol Trainer in the hit sitcom Maude, and in several early 1980s horror and science fiction films. A popular sex symbol during that era, her more notable film work includes The Fog, Creepshow, Swamp Thing and Escape from New York. During the 1990s, Barbeau became known for providing the sultry voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series and subsequent Batman cartoon series. And most recently for starring in the acclaimed HBO series Carnivàle.
Barbeau was born in Sacramento, California, the daughter of Arman and Joseph Barbeau, who was a public relations executive for Mobil Oil. Barbeau's father was French-Canadian and her mother Armenian-American. She attended Del Mar High School in San Jose, California. In her autobiography, Barbeau says that she first caught the show business bug while entertaining troops at army bases throughout Southeast Asia, touring with the San Jose Civic Light Opera.
In the late 1960s Barbeau moved to New York City and worked "for the mob" as a go-go dancer as well as appearing Off-Broadway in a "nudie musical" called Stag Movie before making her Broadway debut in Fiddler on the Roof playing Tevye's daughter Hodel alongside fellow co-star Bette Midler. Adrienne has since starred in over 25 musicals and plays, among them Women Behind Bars, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and of course Grease as tough girl Rizzo for which she received a Theater Guild award and a 1972 Tony Award nomination.
During the 1970s Barbeau starred as the daughter of Bea Arthur's title character in the comedy series Maude which ran from 1972 to 1978. In her autobiography There Are Worse Things I Could Do she remarked: "What I didn't know is that when I said I was usually walking down a flight of stairs and no one was even listening to me. They were just watching my breasts precede me."
Barbeau was cast in numerous television films and shows such as The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Valentine Magic on Love Island, and Battle of the Network Stars. In her autobiography she claimed: "I actually thought CBS asked me to be on Battle of the Network Stars because they thought I was athletic. My husband clued me in: who cared if I won the race, as long as I bounced when I ran?"
The popularity of Barbeau's 1978 cheesecake poster confirmed her status as a sex symbol. Barbeau's popularity stemmed partly from what critic Joe Bob Briggs referred to as the "two enormous talents on that woman", and her typecasting as a "tough broad". Barbeau refused offers to appear topless in Playboy, although shots from an early nude shoot (in which she appeared topless) appeared in High Society in July 1980. In some Off-Broadway plays (early in her career), and in several movies, she has appeared topless as well. Despite her initial success, she said at the time that she thought of Hollywood as a "flesh market", and that she would rather appear in films that "explore the human condition" and "deal with issues".
Barbeau was cast by her then-husband, director John Carpenter, in his 1980 horror film, The Fog, which was her first theatrical film appearance. The film was released in on February 1, 1980 and was a theatrical success, grossing over $21 million in the United States alone, and establishing Barbeau as a genre film star. She subsequently appeared in a number of early-1980s horror and science fiction films, a number of which have now become cult film classics, including Escape from New York (also from Carpenter), Creepshow and Swamp Thing.
She also appeared in the high grossing Burt Reynolds comedy The Cannonball Run in 1981 and as the shrewish wife of Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School (1986). For the remainder of the 1980s Barbeau mostly starred in low budget fare such as the spoof Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. She appeared in 1986's Tomes & Talismans, a library skills series presented as a serialised science fiction story.
Barbeau continues to explore new fields ranging from a one-woman Off-Broadway show, hosting a talk show, to releasing an album of folk songs. In the 1990s, Barbeau mostly appeared in made-for-television films such as Scott Turow's The Burden of Proof in 1992, as well as playing Oswald's mother on The Drew Carey Show and gaining newfound fame among animation fans as Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series and Gotham Girls. She also worked as a television talk show host and a weekly book reviewer for KABC talk radio in Los Angeles. In 1999, she guest starred in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" as Romulan Senator Kimara Cretak.
In 1998, Barbeau released her debut album as a folk singer, the self-titled Adrienne Barbeau. She starred in the cartoon series Totally Spies! doing the voice of villainess Helga Von Guggen in seasons 1, 2 and 4.
From 2003 to 2005, she starred on the HBO series Carnivàle. From March to May 2006, she starred as Judy Garland in the off-Broadway play The Property Known as Garland.
Barbeau played Barbara Florentine in Rob Zombie's Halloween, a "reimagining" of the 1978 classic film of the same name, written and directed by her first husband, John Carpenter. Her scene was cut from the theatrical version of the film but is included in the DVD version.
Adrienne's autobiography "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" was published in 2006 by Carroll & Graf, rising to #11 on the Los Angeles Times Best-Bellers List. In July 2008, her first novel, "Vampyres of Hollywood", was published by St. Martin's Press. The novel was co-written by Michael Scott.
Barbeau was married to director John Carpenter from January 1, 1979 to 1984. The two met on the set of his 1978 TV movie, Someone's Watching Me!. The couple had a son, John Cody (born May 7, 1984) shortly before they separated. During their marriage, the couple remained "totally outside Hollywood's social circles."
Barbeau married actor/playwright/producer Billy Van Zandt on December 31, 1992. The two met in 1991 when Barbeau was cast in the west coast premiere of his play, Drop Dead!. Billy is the brother of musician/actor Steven Van Zandt. She gave birth to twin boys, Walker Steven and William Dalton Van Zandt, on March 17, 1997, at the age of 51 claiming she was the only one on the maternity ward who was also a member of AARP.
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