Icon Of The Month: Linda Blair

That’s right, this month the fantastic Linda Blair is my icon of the month.

Linda Denise Blair was born born on January 22, 1959 in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Westport, Connecticut. The daughter of a job-placement executive and a real estate agent, Blair began modeling and acting at age 6, appearing in commercials and PSAs.She began her career as a six-year-old child model and started acting with a regular role on the short-lived “Hidden Faces” in 1968.

Her first film role was in 1971’s “The Sporting Club”. In her early teens Blair was selected from a field of 600 applicants for her most notable role as ‘Regan MacNeil’ in “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 a supporting actress Golden Globe for her role and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. “The Exorcist” as a film radically redefined the horror genre and became the top blockbuster of its day, only outranked at one point by “Jaws” and the first two “Star Wars” films and eventually going on to earn more than $440 million globally.

Blair Received death threats after “The Exorcist” 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, including after the release of the film’s sequel. Her family ultimately had to take matters into their own hands and hide her out with friends in Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

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. 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 film “Wild Horse Hank” and  big screen venture “Roller Boogie” (1979).

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 1970s 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.

During the making of “Exorcist II: The Heretic” Blair went through her parents’ divorce, two break-ups (one with rock star Rick Springfield), depression, and a drinking problem, Later that same year, three of her friends from the band Lynyrd Skynyrd died in a plane crash. She flew to Florida to attend funerals for members of the band, when an acquaintance convinced Linda to go with her to buy cocaine. Blair reportedly went because she was interested in buying pedigree puppies which the dealers were selling. Blair reportedly placed a hold on one of the puppies and returned home to Connecticut.
She kept in touch with the dealers, supposedly to buy the puppy, but the Drug Enforcement Agency was tapping the phones. They arrested Blair, along with 30+ others, when the dealer successfully pressured her into buying cocaine along with the dog, and she was charged with conspiracy to buy the cocaine from Florida to sell in Connecticut.

Police searched her purse, found amphetamines, and then charged her with possession. The possession charge was dropped, and the conspiracy charge was reduced. She was ordered to serve three years probation, pay a $5,000 fine, and make at least twelve 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 carry on acting in film, Blair found it hard to restart her screen career and landed low grade films. As she herself said in an interview, her career “went down faster than the Titanic”. During that time her career was spiralling downwards she had a career change and became a topless model posing for top shelf magazines, that career turn was also short lived.

Blair’s career took a new turn in the 1980s, as she starred in a film in 1980 entitled “Ruckus” along with actor Dirk Benedict. She also starred in a number of successful low-budget horror and exploitation films, including “Hell Night” (1981), the women-in-prison film “Chained Heat” (1983) and the femme fatale vigilante action film “Savage Streets” (1984).

Blair continued to star in genre action/thriller film productions throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, while also having guest spots on TV programs like “Murder She Wrote”, “MacGyver”, “Perry Mason” and “Married With Children”. She returned to horror with the 1990 spoof “Repossessed”, co-starring Leslie Nielsen, and had an uncredited cameo appearance as a reporter in 1996’s “Scream”.

In 1997, Blair took to the Broadway stage as part of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre revival of the musical “Grease”, taking over the role of ‘Betty Rizzo’. She appeared in a handful of projects during the early 2000s as well, She was cast as a regular in the BBC television show, “L.A. 7” (2000) including the Griffin Dunne comedy “Lisa Picard Is Famous” (2001) and the television series “The Scariest Places On Earth”, which she hosted.

In 2006, she guest starred on the TV Series “Supernatural” playing the part of ‘Detective Diana Ballard’ as she aids ‘Sam’ & ‘Dean Winchester’ in the Episode: “The Usual Suspects” which aired November 9th, 2006. In 2013 Blair accepted a role in the comedy web-series “Whoa!” and has since appeared in the 2016 feature “The Green Fairy”, as well as the upcoming “Surge Of Power: Revenge Of The Sequel”.

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 also appeared in critic Mark Kermode’s 1998 BBC documentary “The Fear of God” (which Kermode directed and hosted), included as a special feature on the DVD of The Exorcist. Most of Kermode’s linking scenes to camera were removed from the DVD version to shorten the running time. The version shown on BBC TV in 1998 was shown intact.

In 2008, she appeared at the 18th annual Malaga Fantasy and Horror Film Festival to accept a lifetime achievement award for her work in the horror genre. She appeared in the 2009 documentary “Confessions Of A Teenage Vigilante”, discussing her role as ‘Brenda’ in “Savage Streets” (1984). The documentary was included as a bonus feature on the 2009 DVD release of the film.

In 2010 she appeared as herself on the cable series “Pit Boss” and “Jury Duty”. She appeared in the 2011 Rick Springfield documentary “Affair Of The Heart”, and was a panelist in a 2011 episode of “The Joy Behar Show”. 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”.

Her love of animals has ultimately taken centre stage in her life. She now runs the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation, a non-profit 501C3 tax deductible organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused, neglected, and abandoned animals from the harsh streets of the Los Angeles area, as well as from the overcrowded and overwhelmed city and county animal shelters. She works and lives on the 2-acre rescue sanctuary full-time in California, which was featured on “The Today Show” in a segment titled “From Devil to Angel.”

In addition to also helming her own western clothing line called Linda Blair’s Wild West Collection, Blair is an equestrian, activist and humanitarian, working with PETA, Feed The Children and Variety. Blair also penned with Sunny J. Harris the 2001 book, “Going Vegan!”.

One of Linda’s pet dogs was stolen from her, and that was the start of her animal work and ever since she has become involved with stopping animal/pet theft. After Hurricane Katrina, she personally rescued and transported 51 displaced dogs that had been left to die. All her life’s savings have all gone to charity and animal welfare.

She was one of the celebrities to fight against the FDA’s Nutritonal Labeling and Education Act of 1990, which involved an agenda to restrict the rights of American citizens to purchase natural herbs and vitamin supplements on the basis of those supplements being “unsafe” and in need of strict regulation like pharmaceutical drugs. Along with other celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Randy Travis, Blair helped to fight back this legislation at the time, but the agenda is still being pushed today by both the FDA and the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius program.

“Not a day goes by that somebody doesn’t say something about it, which is interesting. My life is possessed with ‘The Exorcist’.”Linda Blair

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