I've got the "scream queen" at the other end of the line and she is pretty much a scream.
Adrienne Barbeau, star of "Swamp Thing" (a classic) and "The Fog" (the original), one of the stars of "Escape to New York" and TV's "Maude," and the uncredited voice of a computer in "The Thing," doesn't mind being labeled "scream queen" — or "sex symbol," she says, when told IMDb.com lists "big breasts" as her trademark.
"Hey, if it got me work, I'll take it," she says from her home in Los Angeles. "I never thought I was a sex symbol. I was in my mid-50s before I did my first love scene — except with a monster."
The actress/icon is in the Bay Area this weekend touring with her new novel, "Vampyres of Hollywood" (co-written by Michael Scott). She will read passages, talk about her life and field questions during stops at Clayton Books and at the Hayward, San Bruno and Los Altos libraries.
Barbeau, 63, says nothing's off-limits; books, movies, working as a go-go dancer at a Mafia-run nightclub in New York, stints on Broadway in "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Grease" (she was nominated for a Tony for playing Rizzo in the original production). And if people ask, she will also discuss dating Burt Reynolds and her previous marriage to filmmaker John Carpenter. (They had one son, Cody, now 24 and a composer and musician.)
Her candor is one reason I like her.
I read "Vampyres," a tasty blend of detective story, horror, humor and Hollywood, and I liked it (full disclosure: I'm a genre junkie). The central character is a female studio mogul, of Armenian ancestry — like Barbeau — who's also a vampire clan leader. She works with a human detective to find out who's killing the vampires of Hollywood.
It's Barbeau's first novel — she previously published "There Are Worse Things I Can Do," a memoir that hit No. 11 on the Los Angeles Times best-seller list — and I was surprised at how entertaining it was. That's another reason I wanted to talk to her.
The third is I've had a little crush on her for years.
A Sacramento native who spent part of her childhood in San Mateo, her teen years in San Jose, Barbeau says her co-author first suggested she write a horror novel for her horror-movie fan base.
"I wanted to (write) something in keeping with what I knew," she recalls. "I realized writing a vampire book is writing the kinds of characters I like to play; someone who kicks (butt), gets the job done, takes no prisoners."
Barbeau credits her co-author with the book's structure. She says the story, the words on the page, the humor, characters and descriptions are pretty much her own.
She is currently at work on a sequel and acting — and raising her 11-year-old twin sons, Walker and William, with her husband, playwright Billy Van Zandt.
Next up on the movie circuit are the Sci Fi channel release "Werewolves," "The Strange Case of Dr. and Mrs. Jacobs" ("I get to play a zombie who knows she's a zombie and is trying to deal with it") and "Reach for Me."
The latter, currently on the festival circuit, casts her as a woman who's had a mastectomy. Alfre Woodard also stars. Levar Burton directs.
"Looking back," I ask, "do you have any regrets?"
"No," Barbeau says, "not a one."
Adrienne Barbeau appears at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hayward Public Library, 835 C St.; 5 p.m. Sunday at Clayton Books, 5433 Clayton Road, Suite D; 7 p.m. Monday, Los Altos Library, 13 S. San Antonio Road; 7 p.m. Tuesday, San Bruno Public Library, 701 Angus Ave. W. Admission is free.
Reach Barry Caine at firstname.lastname@example.org.