Happy birthday, Adrienne Barbeau


Today is the 70th birthday of actress Adrienne Barbeau. Considering how this woman almost singlehandedly got me through puberty, I would be remiss to let this milestone go unheralded.

In the pre-cable-TV days of the 1970’s, possibly the most astounding sight on national TV was to see Adrienne Barbeau on Monday evenings, bouncing across the set of the sitcom “Maude,” gloriously bra-less. By the time “Charlie’s Angels” and other such “jiggle-TV” shows made it to the air, Barbeau watchers sniffed in disdain. We’d already seen the finest.

And yet, the most amazing part of this national display is that Adrienne herself seemed quite unaware of it. Regular viewers of “Maude” could cite any number of scripted instances that make jokey references to Adrienne’s hefty chest. And yet, in her own memoir, Adrienne noted that it took her second husband to point out to her that, whenever she was making an entrance on the show, the cameramen took great pains to focus on her bosom as she was, say, walking down a staircase. She really didn’t think anyone would notice her unencumbered 36C bust entering the room before she did??

Adrienne’s unawareness of her own physicality continued right through her movie career, where she briefly appeared topless in the campy sci-fi movie Swamp ThingThe American version of the movie showed just a brief side glimpse of her toplessness, but the European version showed a full minute of her in full-frontal glory. This version later made headlines when it was released on video in America, and a Texas mother was horrified when she innocuously rented the PG-rated movie for her two young sons, only to have them treated to Adrienne’s eye-popping double feature in the comfort of their living room. After the mom complained, all such copies of the video were recalled and deleted, much to the regret of film historians.

My point is that, as gratified as millions of American males were to see Adrienne without benefit of brassiere, one wonders how she could have been so unaware of her effect on viewers. However, there’s no doubt that she’s aware of it now. In a self-questioning Q&A session in her memoir, Adrienne asks, “Are they real?”, and she answers herself, “Yes, just sitting a little lower than they did 20 years ago.”


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