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'Exorcist' Star Puts Own Spin on Creep Festivals

October 17, 1994|JIM WASHBURN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hey, go meet "Exorcist" star Linda Blair at the Creep Festival! And when you do, be sure to ask her to rotate her head 360 degrees. No one's ever asked her that.

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Or at least she's an unflappable enough professional to give you that impression.

"There's two ways to go about it," she says of meeting with fans who still ask about "The Exorcist."

"I could either have been like a lot of other actresses who just go, 'Hey, man, that was years ago,' just being plain rude. I could have made my life really miserable by having a bad attitude like that, or I could realize that each time people see me they recall their reaction to the film, and I realize that it's much easier to go along with them and make them feel good, act like he or she is the first person to tell me to spin my head around or whatever."

She was on the phone from a suburb of Philadelphia where she was appearing at another Creep Festival. The local one is at the Lion Country Center by Irvine Meadows; nightly through Halloween, it will feature a haunted castle and hayride, a Kiddie Krypt and sundry animatronic horrors. Blair is there tonight through Thursday.

She barfed her way to screen immortality in 1973 and reprised her role opposite Richard Burton in 1977's "Exorcist II: The Heretic." Since those splashy days, the Hollywood fates have not been exceedingly kind. While fellow '70s film sprite Jodie Foster has gone onto choice roles and best actress Oscars, Blair has had to brunt her way through TV movies and exploitation flicks. And now she's sharing a ghoulish midway with creatures like Toxic Waste Man.

If there's an injustice here, Blair, now 35, seems unperturbed by it. She remains thoroughly upbeat about her prospects and her present gig.

Does she ever worry that, like Orson Welles, she may have peaked at the beginning of her career?

"Well, if you consider that I never planned to be an actor, I'm doing all right. I think I'm lucky I was part of 'The Exorcist' and then got to do films like 'Born Innocent' and 'Sarah T.--Portrait of a Teen-Age Alcoholic' (made-for-TV movies in which she gave strong portrayals of troubled teens).

"If you could have met all the people who have told me how I changed their lives through those and how grateful they are. . . . It touches you so much. It's something to realize: God, we really do effect people with our work.

"I don't get jealous or envious about others getting roles. I was raised never to be that way. My feeling is everybody has her day in the sun and mine will come. Maybe my day won't be this year or next, but who's to say it won't be in five years?"

Which doesn't mean she's merely waiting for luck to spin her way. Displeased with the roles she has been offered, or not offered, she has formed her own production company and hopes to make films that appeal to her. If she has her way, they won't much resemble some of the B-movies she has done.

"I want to do more family-oriented films that are about the human spirit, about people achieving their dreams, feel-good movies. Anything other than violence , let's put it that way.

"In this business when you're hot you're hot, and when you're not around--like me who took a lot of time having a life--you don't get called. And in my 20s the film business seemed to switch over to the 30- to 50-year-old market with the push on Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Jessica Lange.

"So I worked out of the country, took whatever work was offered because I come from a background of 'We work for a living, that's what we do. Work is good.' But I was unhappy with a lot of the films. We were barraged with (production) money from the Middle East, some countries that don't look at women and life with kind eyes, would be a polite way to say it. And the result was movies that were B-grade T&A. It was a very disturbing time for me work-wise.

"Now I figure I do what I want to do and make the films I want to see, or it just doesn't interest me to stay in the business."

She is mystified by what people see in horror movies. "I know how some people want to laugh, some want to cry, some want a good love story. But I don't understand how so many people like to be scared. I don't get the concept, because I don't like to be scared. So the only thing I can figure is these people are able to separate themselves from reality and enjoy it. I personally don't like to get my heart rate going that much. Not like that. I'd rather be riding a horse."

But she said she has several reasons (besides the money) for doing the Creep Festivals. First, there's the fans.

"I have complete respect for the fans. People in Hollywood ought to realize that without their fans they are nothing. It's not about how special you think you are. But I really don't know many other celebrities who will put themselves in this position to actually greet and talk to their fans, outside of the people in country music, which is why I admire them so much."

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