05/28/2024

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Linda Blair’s Dark Journey

Linda Blair’s Dark Journey

Through the shooting of The Exorcist and into postproduction and publicity, a 50 percent-dozen crew associates would insist that Linda Blair experienced emerged from the encounter unscathed, but hardly a calendar year immediately after the film wrapped, she was burning rubber in the Hollywood rapidly lane and, in advance of the conclusion of the decade, she would develop into a teenage alcoholic, bizarrely mirroring just one of the dismal Television movies she starred in immediately after creating Regan MacNeil as an offbeat cultural touchstone. Her quick but lurid interval in the highlight culminated with a infamous drug bust in 1977.

“The Exorcist, for me, lasted a life span,” Blair told A&E.

Like Jason Miller, accosted in the streets by disturbed strangers seeking for salvation, Blair endured from her newfound fame. Anywhere she went for a handful of many years write-up-Exorcist, she drew notice for a lot more than her movie star status. “I terrified countless numbers of people today,” she told Fangoria, “and they would appear at me—they would see me in a grocery store, in a outfits store—and their response was unbelievable. I freaked people today out.”

When Blair could have inadvertently terrorized gullible consumers, what she suffered considerably exceeded the regular bounce scare. Just as The united states manufactured 1000’s of dropped souls certain that they ended up in the grip of Satan just after viewing The Exorcist, so, much too, did it mass-deliver ticket customers delusional sufficient to feel that Linda Blair was truly some type of diabolical entity.

“The full satan matter under no circumstances strike me,” she advised Fangoria. “But for the reason that it was about the supernatural, demonology, et cetera, the sorts of folks that had been captivated to the movie have been pretty powerful folks. And I captivated a ton of unusual folks around me.”

Unable to differentiate concerning simple fact and fiction, people odd folks not only flinched when they noticed Blair in particular person, but some of them also despatched demise threats to her. When she was only fifteen, Blair had a security detail shadowing her. Then, a number of years soon after the peak of Exorcist-mania, stalkers commenced harassing her. “When I was eighteen, it form of occurred yet again and the FBI was in on it, because the male named the law enforcement and said he was heading to kill me. So I lived in a hideout from that and then the drug bust came on prime of it, for one thing I definitely did not do. Since of that, the paper properly ample posted my deal with, so the male had my address. I’d appear household at evening and be so horrified. It’s just so unbelievable.”

In 1974, the gossip pages also claimed that Blair was relationship 20-five-12 months-previous Australian rock singer Rick Springfield. A few months after they were being very first noticed as an product, Blair and Springfield began living with each other in Los Angeles. At the time, Blair was fifteen, not yet previous ample to meet the minimal for the age of consent, but her mother had returned to Connecticut in 1974, leaving Blair below the watch of her older sister, Deborah. “When I lived with my good friend in Hollywood, mother was a very little upset at to start with mainly because I was only fifteen,” Blair instructed the New York Every day News. “But then she claimed there was no use trying to stand in the way of really like.  I did not truly feel precocious about dwelling with a guy at that age. It was fantastic. I never dated a great deal in college. You know, I didn’t have boyfriends in the conventional feeling. When I did day, it was in teams. So when I came to California, I went straight from dwelling at dwelling to living with a guy.”

In an episode of Personal Portrait on the Life time network, the narrative voice-about bizarrely refers to the Springfield-Blair pairing as a May well-December romance when it was evidently some thing else. In truth, it was illegal. Springfield put his very own time-capsule spin on it for an episode of Biography on A&E. “Now, almost certainly I would have been burned at the stake, you know. But again then, it was just, ‘Oooh, that’s type of weird,’ you know. But to us, it was really, quite purely natural.”

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If her part as a demon-possessed little one was not sufficient to distinguish Blair from the run-of-the-mill teenager, her subsequent appearances gave her an even darker allure. The mid-1970s observed Blair establish plenty of destructive connotations to make her a bizarre image of the prurient American id, and she realized this exclusive difference primarily in middle-class residing rooms throughout the place.

The created-for-television film experienced become a household tradition considering that See How They Run premiered in 1964, usually bringing very hot-button sociological troubles to the masses, with a campy, moralistic, slapdash good quality that would differentiate it, negatively, of study course, from Hollywood releases. Early on, however, designed-for-tv productions experienced higher ambitions. The initially movie shot exclusively for television had been The Killers, directed by action auteur Don Siegel and starring Lee Marvin, Ronald Reagan, Angie Dickinson, and John Cassavetes, but its large-octane violence sent executives scurrying despite the all-star forged and crew. Alternatively of airing on NBC as scheduled, The Killers obtained an unexpected theatrical operate.

A 10 years later, Linda Blair starred in Born Innocent, a teen delinquency melodrama so coarse it lit up switchboards at NBC and launched sensitive newspaper columnists into overdrive. In her very first display visual appeal because The Exorcist (other than a visitor spot on a activity present), Blair plays Christine Parker, a serial runaway who winds up, at fourteen, sentenced to a juvenile detention centre after her dysfunctional mom and dad indication her more than to the condition. In the notorious centerpiece of the film, produced doubly unpleasant simply because of its length, Christine is held down by her cellmates and raped with a plunger take care of. Subsequent outrage from viewers compelled NBC to concern defensive statements as to the sociological value of the movie even so, it excised the scene totally for potential airings.

Though Blair is sexualized through, with a pair of strip queries, two shower scenes, and the gruesome rape, Born Innocent, irrespective of its undeniable salaciousness and a specific sum of implausibility, is remarkably productive. As the rare primary-time downer, Born Harmless also stood out from The Wonderful World of Disney, Satisfied Times, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Good Periods, and The Waltons the identical way Charles Manson might have stood out at a debutante ball. The documentary look solidifies the nightmare top quality of Born Innocent, and the climax, which contains a scorched-earth riot and a closing scene of the now-hardened Blair becoming a member of her rapists and going for walks off into the length just ahead of the credits roll, feels just about revolutionary. No happy ending? No redemption? No mawkish speeches of the type William Peter Blatty cherished? Practically fifty yrs afterwards, Born Innocent seems like some sort of horrible incident, a single that fully blindsided a state watching the 1st period of Tiny Residence on the Prairie by the thousands and thousands. Born Harmless seemed to say, to hell with the so-named “Family Hour.”

A scores bonanza for NBC, Born Innocent set the template for Blair as a teen martyr to whom not just undesirable items happen—but quite, extremely poor things. Immediately after a small job in the disaster spectacular Airport 1975, Blair returned to the airwaves with Sarah T.—Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (directed by Richard Donner just just before his breakthrough with The Omen), one more grim issue film with a title that efficiently features as a spoiler. In contrast to Born Innocent, Sarah T. is significantly less goal and far far more preachy nevertheless, Blair spends a major quantity of on-screen time struggling, and, in preserving with her sexualization, at one particular position, her character presents to trade her system for a bottle of liquor.

When Blair headlined one more designed-for-tv extravaganza a calendar year later on (this time for ABC), she turned a national worry. As an illiterate farm lady kidnapped by an escaped psychological patient (performed by Martin Sheen) in Sweet Hostage, Blair, now sixteen, seemed significantly less typecast than the issue of some kind of cultural experiment. At the Buffalo Information, Jeff Simon seemed genuinely disturbed by the Linda Blair phenomenon. “How is it achievable that a teenage actress can be producing a busy vocation out of being violated, abused, and victimized, most typically in kinky instances?” he requested.

Other media observers and critics also commenced hand-wringing. “Linda Blair has grow to be a skilled target,” wrote Monthly bill Carter of the Baltimore Sun. The Philadelphia Inquirer referred to her as an “exhibitionist,” and the Los Angeles Instances imagined that Blair was probably asking herself, “Who do you have to know to get OUT of this business?”

In 1977, when capturing commenced for what grew to become recognized as Exorcist II: The Heretic, even so, Blair experienced significant life-imitating-art complications to confront. By then, her eyebrow-increasing romantic relationship with Rick Springfield was in excess of, but Blair had adopted selected hedonistic facets of the rock ’n’ roll outlook. This incorporated, amongst other indulgences, liquor. In no time, Blair became a serious-daily life Sarah T., battling with alcoholism and melancholy. She spelled out the extent of her dependency to Life span: “For me to consume whatsoever I could find—vodka, a quart or a bottle, no matter what, I do not know, I can not remember—but it was adequate for me to know that I could get to bed and that I would move out.”

Despite the fact that Blair would deny it, to the extent of earning statements that prompt reaction formation, drugs had been also a dilemma. In truth, her insatiable urge for food for medicine frightened off her hottest boyfriend, Glenn Hughes, ex-bass player for English proto-steel band Deep Purple and singer/multi-instrumentalist for hard-rock highway warriors Trapeze, again in The united states for a reunion tour. Inspite of acquiring lived out the excesses of the rock period in the early 1970s and obtaining after explained to NME, “I spent a million bucks on cocaine,” Hughes could not retain rate with Blair. “Like me, Linda was very addicted to cocaine,” he informed Classic Rock journal in 2011. “I was going absolutely off the rails, and I’d discovered the ideal mate to stumble together with. We shacked up in LA together. It’s extraordinary to explain to you this, but I broke up with her since she was undertaking so a lot blow, it was getting as well powerful for me to be all over. We’d be driving down Sunset Boulevard, she’d have an ounce of cocaine in a bag on her lap, and she’d be doing bumps by means of a straw. I’m pondering: ‘Any minute now they’re likely to catch us whoever they are.’ I couldn’t deal with it. A several weeks following we broke up she bought busted.”

On December 20, 1977, Linda Blair produced global headlines when she was arrested on drug prices and connected to a nationwide cocaine ring. An army of DEA agents and local regulation enforcement descended on her tiny Cape Cod property in Wilton, Connecticut, to provide a fugitive warrant from Jacksonville, Florida. While there, officers learned amphetamine (aka speed) on the premises, one more setback for Blair, who now experienced a possession demand tacked onto a rap sheet that would before long contain conspiracy to obtain or market cocaine.

Blair was whisked to the Court of Prevalent Pleas in Stamford for arraignment, exactly where she posted bail of $2,500, with a continuance day scheduled for January 18. In the meantime, Duval County (Florida) asked for her extradition to Jacksonville, where the fugitive warrant experienced originated. In October 1977, Blair had traveled to Florida to attend the funeral of Ronnie Van Zant, direct singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who had died in an airplane crash. As aspect of the rock circuit (she had dated, among other musicians, Tommy Bolin of Deep Purple, Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas, and Glenn Hughes of Trapeze and had even graced the deal with of a modern difficulty of Circus journal devoted to “Women in Rock”), Blair roamed via a netherworld of barbiturates, crank, coke, morphine, and quaaludes, with heroin however an occasional chance (Tim Buckley experienced overdosed in 1975 and Bolin in 1976, and the reduction of Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison was even now fresh new). “At the funeral, another person prompt we do some cocaine,” Blair instructed the San Francisco Examiner. “I felt horrible, and dope was not on my thoughts. But a senator’s daughter convinced me, and we acquired some coke from a couple who ended up also breeding basenji pet dogs.”

Sad to say for Blair, it turned out the puppy breeders had been also component of a sprawling drug ring. “All I wanted to do was buy a puppy,” she would afterwards assert. As an alternative, Blair obtained cocaine at least two times from George Edward Mangum, described by the push as a cocaine wholesaler from Jacksonville, Florida.

Whilst Blair fought extradition to Florida, her case in Connecticut proceeded. On April 17, 1978, the point out dropped fees when Blair agreed to enroll in a rehab program. She exited courtroom laughing that day, but four months later on she was busted again, this time carrying two joints in her purse at Calgary Intercontinental Airport.

To save her already precarious occupation, Blair created public statements about drug use that ended up, on the surface area, nothing at all small of preposterous. “Some people may perhaps not recognize, but I definitely do not like them,” she wrote in the Bridgeport Telegram. “When any of my close friends get associated with drugs I get upset.” If so, then her rock roll lifestyle, the place almost absolutely everyone she knew snorted, swallowed, or shot up, ought to have still left her perpetually distressed. And the Jacksonville bust was no exception: when Blair would go on to manage her innocence about drug use in normal, her latest ex-boyfriend Teddy Hartlett and her bodyguard Steve Schiano have been also element of the dragnet, billed with conspiracy to purchase or offer cocaine. (Equally would sooner or later plead responsible to lesser prices.)

Right after Connecticut and Florida both equally dropped condition charges versus Blair, a federal grand jury returned a sealed indictment in Jacksonville in March 1979. When testimony revealed that Blair had 2 times procured cocaine in compact amounts (every single time just one-quarter of an ounce), it was crystal clear that what she was intrigued in was individual use.

For the reason that Blair was presently implicated, prosecutors may well have viewed her as an individual who could glow a spotlight on the drug scourge, which would only get exponentially even worse in the 1980s and 1990s. Most probable, the rates in opposition to Blair were being trumped-up: though it was proven that she employed medications and had ordered cocaine from Mangum, the conspiracy angle suggested prosecutorial overreach. In the late 1970s, fifty percent the enjoyment business in The us snorted cocaine. It was one of many adult fads made by the “Me 10 years,” along with porno stylish films, wife swapping, and primal scream remedy. “The full town of Hollywood is coked out of its head,” Robert Blake when explained.

At some point, soon after numerous courtroom appearances, Blair would plead responsible to conspiracy to possess cocaine, a federal misdemeanor, and a considerable downgrade from the primary demand of intent to distribute. In June 1979, U.S. District Choose Howell W. Melton sentenced her to 3 a long time of probation and requested her to carry out neighborhood outreach. Blair was also fined $5,000.

At all over the exact time as her lawful ordeal began, Blair noticed Exorcist II: The Heretic bomb in theaters, damaging her hopes of a foreseeable future beyond sensationalized Tv appearances. Directed by John Boorman, who experienced distinguished himself with the modernist noir Point Blank and the harrowing blockbuster Deliverance, Exorcist II was 1 of the good follies in Hollywood. Its initial reception from opening weekend viewers (which integrated uproarious laughter and particles hurled at the display screen) so disturbed Warner Bros. that Boorman raced back again to Hollywood to reedit the movie and shoot new scenes in hopes of salvaging the international box workplace. Nothing at all, even so, could be accomplished to enhance this kind of absurdity.

Immediately after her plea offer, Blair returned to the display in Roller Boogie, created by Brooklyn huckster Irwin Yablans to exploit the twin fads of disco and roller skating. A insignificant hit, Roller Boogie was the last time Blair would star in anything at all even remotely resembling a mainstream release till 1990 when she spoofed her role as Regan MacNeil for the Carolco film Repossessed.

Her jobs were noteworthy for alternating amongst pure exploitation and sheer ineptitude, with a several films shelved before acquiring delayed launch and other people so fringe that they were ignored when they opened. Savage Island, for case in point, was a grind-household cheapie that just about defies description: It is 3 unique films cobbled together to produce a single seventy-9-moment adventure in sleazoid trash. Just after chopping and pasting components of two current Italian torture fests (Escape from Hell and Orinoco: Jail of Intercourse, both of those from 1980), the producers asked Blair to seem, with a machine gun, for a prologue and a bloody ending that totaled one particular reel of monitor time. “A position is a work,” Blair advised the Los Angeles Occasions, reflecting a pragmatic worldview that jibed with her general indifference toward acting.

By the mid-1980s, the arrival of VHS created the immediate-to-online video marketplace, which fed the insatiable starvation for fringe trash. And Linda Blair would inevitably star in numerous B cars through the 10 years. Usually, she would look nude in them, producers exploiting the on-display screen notoriety she had formulated as a teenager in the 1970s. Blair was naked in relatively graphic scenes in Chained Heat, Red Warmth, and Savage Streets, though partial nudity figures in both of those Night Patrol and Bedroom Eyes II.

In a 1987 job interview with Fangoria, Blair, continue to only twenty-8, looked back again with acrimony—not qualified detachment—over some of her roles. “I individually despise Chained Heat,” she stated, about the outré females-in-jail quickie co-starring Sybil Danning. “I’ve in no way even viewed the complete detail. It built great income, but it was a piece of trash. To this working day the issue with my job is that this film retains actively playing and producers really do not want to hire me due to the fact of it. Chained Warmth has in fact ruined my job. In addition, it was not the motion picture I signed to do. I signed to do a entirely unique film that was made and it is a seriously large difficulty in my lifetime. Wow, was I unprotected.”

In an job interview with Deep Purple journal, Blair expanded on her rates of exploitation. “The script they gave me for Chained Warmth was nothing at all like the script that we finished capturing. The film turned a T&A film. I cried additional than you are going to ever know, but there was nothing at all I could do. I experienced by now been paid. supervisors weren’t there to assistance me. It was awful it was a circumstance of possibly get my top rated off in the shower or get sued. I cannot notify you that this is a good enterprise. Men and women can be definitely suggest.”

Nevertheless, Blair was a survivor. She put in the subsequent two many years or so as what may be uncharitably identified as a D-checklist movie star, starring in immediate-to-movie foolishness, making guest appearances on many tv shows, popping up, by some means, in a pair of Australian cheapies, getting to be a normal on the Hollywood Squares, and then, finally, having fun with a continual gig as the host of Scariest Spots on Earth, a ghost-looking display that aired on cable for various yrs. But there has never ever been something uncharitable about Blair, whose philanthropic pursuits (ranging from environmental brings about to rescuing canines) are a much cry from her early post-Exorcist lifetime when she confronted the odd effects of a strange celeb profile: “How would you like it,” she as soon as requested, “if every day, all over the place you go, anyone would request: Spin your head or throw up?”

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From THE Devil Within: THE Dim LEGACY OF THE EXORCIST by Carlos Acevedo. Copyright ©2023 by Carlos Acevedo. Reprinted by permission of the Hamilcar Publications.