That’s right, this month the fantastic Linda Blair, is my icon of the month.
Blair was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 22nd, 1959, to her father James, an executive headhunter and mother Elinore, a real estate agent , she raised in Westport, Connecticut with her brother, Jimmy, and sister, Debbie. She began her career as a six-year-old child model appearing in commercials and PSAs.
At the age of 9 she had a regular role on the short-lived “Hidden Faces” in 1968. Her first theatrical film appearance was in “The Way We Live Now” (1970), her next film role was in 1971’s “The Sporting Club”. She’d appeared in 75 commercials and hundreds of magazine catalogues by the time she was 12.
In her early teens Blair was selected from a field of 600 applicants for her most notable role as ‘Regan’ in “The Exorcist”, a role that would largely define her professional career. “The Exorcist”, a story in which a girl is violently taken over by a demon. Based on a William Peter Blatty novel, the film was directed by William Friedkin and co-starred Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller; it opened in late 1973 and became known for its gruesome, body-chilling depictions of possession, sparking intense audience reaction and dialogue.
Blair received death threats after the film premiered. Warner Brothers, the studio which released the film, hired the police to live with the Blair family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 months. The original culprit was never caught. Once Linda’s promotional job on the movie was done and the studio stopped paying for security, threats from fanatics and religious zealots continued. Blair received a supporting actress Golden Globe for her role and an Academy Award nomination in the same category.
Blair’s next big role was in the 1974 NBC TV-movie “Born Innocent”, in which she played a sensitive teen runaway who becomes hardened in a state girls’ home. Later that same year she was featured in “Airport 1975”, a drama/disaster pic with an ensemble cast lead by Charlton Heston and Karen Black.
For the duration of the decade, Blair starred in other TV movies like “Sweet Hostage”, “Sarah T.: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic” (both 1975) and “Wes Craven’s Summer of Fear” (1978) as well as the 1979 Canadian film “Wild Horse Hank” and domestic big screen venture “Roller Boogie” (1979) (Blair did a lot of her own skating and consequently developed bursitis in her hip). She also returned to her ‘Regan MacNeil’ role in “The Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977), which didn’t fare as well as its predecessor.
As the 1970’s closed, she started to land good, demanding roles for which she was prepared, and stepped into the fast lane, for which she was not prepared. Blair encountered trouble as she was arrested and charged with drug possession and conspiracy to sell drugs. After trial, she was found not guilty of possession, but guilty of conspiracy to sell, leading her to get a reduced sentence of three years’ probation.
Blair was also required to make at least 12 major public appearances to tell young people about the dangers of drug abuse. The much-publicized drug bust caused Linda to be blacklisted in Hollywood, though she tried to act in film, Blair found it hard to restart her screen career and landed low grade films in the ’80s and beyond. As she herself said in an interview, her career “went down faster than the Titanic”.
Although her career never returned to its former glory, Linda proved to be a good sport about embracing the change, and out of the ’80s emerged roles in films such as “Ruckus”, “Hell Night”, “Night Patrol”, “Red Heat”, “Savage Island” “Nightforce”, “The Chilling”, “Bad Blood“, “Moving Target”, “Witchery”, “Grotesque” and more.
There were also numerous tv roles in shows such as “Fantasy Island”, “The Love Boat”, “Laugh Trax”, “Monsters” and “Murder, She Wrote”.
There was also lead roles in two cult classics: the women-in-prison film “Chained Heat” (1983) and the femme fatale vigilante action film “Savage Streets” (1984).
During this time of her career she also started topless modelling, posing for top shelf magazines. She also dated Soul legend Rick James, but they split after a couple of years, “Cold Blooded” was supposedly about his and Blair’s romance.
She continued acting in numerous films throughout ’90s, including the “Exorcist” spoof “Repossessed” (1990) co-starring Leslie Nielsen. There was also “Zapped Again!“, “Fatal Bond“, “Dead Sleep”, “Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer? The Bambi Bembenek Story” and more, including an uncredited cameo appearance as a reporter in “Scream”.
Again there was more tv work in shows such as “Married with Children“, “MacGyver“, “Extreme Ghostbusters“, “Godzilla: The Series” and more.
In 1997, she also took to the Broadway stage and starred as “Rizzo” in the revival of “Grease”. Also In 1997, she appeared in a documentary for Channel 4 in the UK entitled “Didn’t You Used to be Satan?”, which served as a biography of her life to that point and how the film “The Exorcist” had dominated her career and life.
She received widespread mainstream attention again in the 2000’s with the theatrical re-release of “The Exorcist”, followed by a hosting job on the hit Fox Family TV series Scariest Places on Earth (2000), which ran for six years and followed Linda as she visited notorious “haunted” locations around the world.
She continued her acting career in the 2000’s but very sporadically, In 2008 she was awarded a lifetime achievement award for her work in the horror genre & turned up in person to receive it.
She appeared in the 2009 documentary “Confessions of a Teenage Vigilante”, discussing her role as Brenda in 1984’s “Savage Streets”. The documentary is included as a bonus feature on the 2009 DVD release of the film.
In 2012 Blair appeared at a pre-taped 84th Academy Awards ceremony honouring makeup artist Dick Smith, who had created the iconic makeup for Blair in “The Exorcist”.
Blair has become an animal rights activist and humanitarian, working with PETA, Feed The Children and Variety. Blair also devotes time to her non-profit organisation, the “Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation“, which works to rescue abused, neglected and mistreated animals. She is a also vegan, and has co-authored the book “Going Vegan!”, she also runs her own clothing line ‘Linda Blair’s Wild West Collection‘. She also makes frequent appearances at horror fan conventions to celebrate the legacy of “The Exorcist”.