Adrienne Barbeau never set out to be a sex symbol, she isn't a fan of horror movies, and she never intended to become the poster-girl for women over 50 having babies, but those revelations and a lot more are laid out in her memoir, There Are Worse Things I Could Do. (The title was taken from her signature song in the Grease musical play, in which she played Rizzo.)
Barbeau's book starts at the beginning describing her early childhood, her parents' bitter divorce, her awkward teen years, how she got into acting, and her vow to stay a virgin until she got married (lest you should think that John Carpenter was the lucky recipient of that gift, you'd be wrong… it was the 60s, and well, things happened). The first several chapters of the book refer a lot to her journals. Certainly understandable, since details of happenings decades ago would be hard for anyone to remember — but if I wanted to read a kid's diary, I'd break out my fifth grade copy of Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.
Things eventually get interesting when Barbeau starts talking about her on-and-off relationship with a super-selfish sex symbol: Burt Reynolds. While Barbeau clearly harbors no ill will, Reynolds doesn't come off looking so good. One story that Barbeau tells in this section of the memoir pretty much illustrates the main problem I had with it: There is little-to-no follow through.
She builds up a story about going with Reynolds to the premiere screening of his latest blockbuster movie, and how, in spite of her pain due to a badly-inserted I.U.D., she doesn't get up to go to the bathroom for fear of how her leaving the theater would appear. When the lights go up, her seat-cushion is drenched in blood. Then that's the end of the story. How did they exit? Did anyone see? Was she medically OK? A lot of the stories in There Are Worse Things I Could Do are like this. I found it made for a frustrating reading experience at times.
Another source of frustration is the writing style… It's uniform at first, then partway through the book she starts flipping back and forth between present- and past-tense. I had a hard time relaxing with that stylistic choice.
Of course, the real lure for any horror fan in reading There Are Worse Things I Could Do are Barbeau's accounts of acting in The Fog, Swamp Thing, Bram Stoker's Burial of the Rats, The Convent, Carnivale… and many more scary movies, some I've never even seen! It's funny and insightful, considering she isn't a huge fan of the genre when it comes to just watching them. She doesn't say a whole lot about playing Stevie Wayne in The Fog, but she does into some detail about Escape From New York, Creepshow, and Empire of the Rats, which was shot in Russia under worse than deplorable conditions.
The chapters about John Carpenter offer up a few water cooler tidbits — that Carpenter broke up with Debra Hill to be with Adrienne; he may or may not have cheated during their marriage; and that Carpenter chose to stay on location rather than return home for the birth of their son, Cody — but there aren't many intimate details or big revelations.
For a fun, fast page-turner, there are worse things you could read. If you can get by the stumbling blocks (half-told stories, and the changing perception), they are minor.
Barbeau emerges as "just one of us" — a normal woman with the same insecurities, lapses in judgment and the same foibles as any human being. She's still a bit of a hippy-dippy, a believer in psychic healing and psychoanalysis. But she never comes off as a self-absorbed, airheaded "ac-tress!". Barbeau does come off as smart, witty, and extremely generous, loving and giving. You will like her.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson