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Spotlighting Joey Heatherton

by Dale Pierce

November 2005

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The world is full of promising hopefuls who never rise to original expectations. In boxing, does anyone recall the rash of great white hopes like Dino Dennis or Jerry Quarry any longer? What about Wild Cherry in music? What about Raul Ponce De Leon, Miguel Villanueva or Julian Maestro in bullfighting? Regardless of where or what realm, there's always a list of names of people expected to do great things, but end up being bombs that deliver a firecracker pop rather than an explosion. The film world is notoriously good for this. Yesterday's hero can be a bum today. That's just the sad truth of things. In a performance-related realm, fame comes and goes fast.

Joey Heatherton would be one such case ...

Born in New York in 1944, she rose to stardom as a teenager on the stage, before embarking in a film career as an adult. Though singing and dancing were her strong points, she did quite well in Twilight Of Honor (1963), an outright drama, indicating she could be taken as a serious actress as well.

She later gained the recognition of horror fans as the star of My Blood Runs Cold (1965), a very creepy film about reincarnation and fixation, where she played alongside Troy Donahue. Though the film was once seen consistantly on television, it has since faded from view as well. I cannot recall the last time it was run, nor have I found it on video or DVD, though I am sure it might be.

Other films followed, but seeing the song and dance realm as her definite forte, she embarked on a second career in this area, becoming a hot item on the Las Vegas circuit. She was regarded as an outright sex symbol in the 1960s, with large eyes, short blonde hair, go go boots and mini skirts. Yet she failed to adjust or improvise with the times, which changed on her while she did not.

A marriage to football star, which hit the rocks, an arrest for indecent exposure and a series of problems with the law related to cocaine addiction spelled her downfall. This was followed by an eating disorder which nearly took her life,à la Karen Carpenter. National Lampoon eventually did a nasty satire on her, while her drawing power at the box office went right down the tubes, extinct like the dinosaurs.

One of her last attempts at a comeback, where she seemed like she could make a go of it, came alongside none other than Richard Burton in the film, Bluebeard (1972). In this, Burton played a rich maniac who would kill his multitude of wives as soon as they aroused him sexually, using various bloody and creative means of termination. Heatherton was to figure out what was going on before she could be next in line and though locked in a freezer in the house, managed to escape, while her husband was assassinated by a totally unrelated fanatic at the end.

The film attracted a lot of attention, due to the starring role played by Burton, the musical score by Ennio Morricone and the scream queen who's who list of actresses playing the murdered wives, though some had only a brief bit of screen time.

While horror fans loved the vehicle, most established film critics panned the thing, at least in America. So it was back to the drawing board.

Never one to say die, Heatherton fought back against her various demons and made numerous ploys to return to film, stage, music and the limelight, but her day was in the past. A sad case of yet another victim, chewed up and spat out by the Hollywood film industry.

[Editor's note: It maybe should be noted that Heatherton later played the titular character in the wonderfully titled Happy Hooker goes to Washington (1977) and had a small role in John Water's Cry-Baby (1990).]


© by Dale Pierce

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
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... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


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