Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-01-17
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Q&A: Barbara Parkins
2006-06-21

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


By Richard Knight, Jr.

It's delightful that Barbara Parkins, the star of Valley of the Dolls, is polite enough to identify herself by saying, 'Hi, I'm Barbara' at the outset of our interview—but it's hardly necessary. There's no mistaking the voice of Anne Welles, the 'damn classy' character that she played in the 1967 film version of Jacqueline Susann's infamous and tawdry showbiz saga. After decades of listening to Parkins begin the film by reciting 'You've got to climb Mt. Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls,' the sound of that cultured voice, with its perfect diction, is as distinctive as the Mt. Everest of camp classics that follows it.

Now Fox Home Video has released a two-disc special edition of the movie ( and its in-title-only sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls ) and the good-natured Parkins was happy to talk about the film and its extraordinary enshrinement by the gay community. Excerpts from our conversation:

Windy City Times: Everybody I told that I'd be interviewing Barbara Parkins was so thrilled. We all love this movie so much—my sisters, my parents, and all my friends. So it's not just gay men [ who ] get Valley of the Dolls.

Barbara Parkins: I was going to say, 'Does it go beyond the gay community?' and I know that the answer is that it does. Even my daughter would have friends over and say, 'Oh, we're going to have a Valley of the Dolls night' and they're laughing and hooting.

WCT: That was one of my questions. How do your daughter and your family respond to the movie?

BP: She loved it. Like I said, she'd have her friends over and I'd go storming into her room saying, 'It's not that funny! It's dealing with drugs and sex and three women spiraling out of control and it's a sad story,' and she'd say, 'Oh, but it's soooo funny, mommy, look at you.' They really enjoyed it.

WCT: But your performance, ironically, is really filled with a lot of conviction and balances the camp stuff.

BP: You're the first one that's said that.

WCT: You're kidding!

BP: You're the first one. And that's interesting because I've never even thought that. I've always thought, 'Oh, well, it's all over-the-top, even my lines—I got some pretty silly lines.' But I've never felt that my character was the balance of it all.

WCT: Oh, but Anne Welles is so sweet.

BP: I love that you said that. She's very naive, as a lot of young girls coming to Hollywood or New York during that time would have been. That's how I perceived her because I was playing the bad girl in Peyton Place and I thought, 'Well, there's got to be such naivete and such innocence in this young girl that's just lived with her family up in Connecticut.' And coming to the big city, she's overwhelmed and excited and just goes with the flow.

WCT: Well, I think you really caught it. There's a lot of warmth and tenderness there. But, of course, then you finally have to go to the dolls—the red gel caps.

BP: Of course—got to get that cap off and get those dolls down.

WCT: But before that there's that fabulous Gillian Girl commercial with those fabulous hairdos and crazy gowns. Did you get to keep that fabulous hairspray bottle or some of those gowns designed by Travilla?

BP: No I didn't—but Judy Garland ran off with them.

WCT: That's right. You talk about this on the DVD but can you speak for a moment for the Windy City Times readers about working with Judy Garland, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate?

BP: Well, I think the strongest image in my mind in working on the film was working with Judy. It was the biggest thrill for me and stays with me because she was this icon; she was this phenomenal singer and my first scenes were done with her. It was the scene where she tears up the contract and I've said in many interviews that the night before filming I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn't call up the director strangely enough—and I said, 'What do I do? I'm nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen.' She said, 'Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.' So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, 'Oh, baby, let's just do this scene' and she was wonderful. But she was also an emotional rollercoaster and I saw her go through many different types of emotions—angry, happy and sad. ( Eventually, she locked herself away in her dressing room and was fired. ) That's who I enjoyed truly working with the most—even though it lasted two days.

WCT: Weren't you Sharon Tate's matron of honor at her wedding to Roman Polanski?

BP: Yes. Sharon and I became very close. We became very good friends. We'd kind of go onto the set and watch Patty because, you know, Patty had won an Oscar at something like seven years old and she was the pro and we thought, 'This is pretty amazing.'

WCT: I would imagine watching some of her really intense scenes in person were probably very different than seeing them on the screen. Maybe they didn't seem quite so over-the-top.

BP: No, they didn't. None of us found it over-the-top at the time but the way the director directed it probably was over-the-top, and maybe he didn't get it right or maybe he did get it right and that's why it achieved the cult status that it has. It was all filmed on a surface level and that's why I think, as the years went along, the scenes became fun and comical to watch, as opposed to saying, 'My God, these girls are losing it.'

WCT: It's not too often that you see somebody in rehab and it's funny.

BP: Well, yes—the funniest scene to me is when Patty finds Tony Scotti in the hospital and they sing to each other. I mean, how did that scene ever come to be? It's just wonderfully hilarious—

WCT: —yeah, it really is.

BP: —and his singing is so bad!

[ Both interviewer and subject laugh. ]

WCT: Why do you think gay men have embraced the movie almost 40 years later?

BP: Well, I tend to turn that question around and ask the gay community or the people that I speak to at the various screenings I've gone to watch the take-offs. I ask them, 'Tell me what it is' and—

WCT: So actually I'm the one that should answer my own question.

BP: OK, yes, right. So, give me your play on it.

WCT: Well I think it's what Ted Casablanca ( and don't you love that he took his nom de plume after a Valley of the Dolls character? ) and other gay media people have said: 'It speaks to our community.'

BP: In what way?

WCT: A lot of that surface stuff of being an outsider and all this tragic, 'It's a rotten business but I love it' stuff and then it's the wigs, the gowns and the big drama of it. You three women are so incredibly beautiful in the film and I think any backstage story really appeals to gay audiences. It's also one of the first movies where they said the word 'faggot' and, though it's derogatory, there's an undercurrent of acceptance, too. I really think that that's the place where Jackie Susann broke new ground; she broke open the closet door in a way with that.

BP: She opened the door in a sense, yeah, that's right. Well—thank you for answering your own question for me. [ Laughs. ]

WCT: [ Laughs. ] You're welcome. So, tell me, almost 40 years later, how it feels to be recognized for this movie for you?

BP: It's still an honor. I'm still in awe. I'm still proud of it and I continually thank the gay community. I think it's the gay community that has kept it going through all these years. I always say, 'thank you, thank you, thank you' at these events I go to. Your community is the reason it's getting this special DVD. I'm proud of it; it was my first film. I loved it, I loved working with the people and I love the people who say, 'Oh my God, I love Valley of the Dolls,' and I say, 'Wasn't it wonderful?' I think Jackie Susann, were she alive, would have been having her Friday night champagne parties, kicking up her heels and absolutely loving every minute of this.

WCT: She would have reveled in this?

BP: Yes, absolutely.

WCT: Can you finish by saying the line for me that starts it all—the one that transports you into that world of 'too much, too soon?'

BP ( recites ) : 'You have got to climb to Mt. Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls.' Everyone does!

_____

Entries for the GLBT Pride Movie Survey were still pouring in at press time so the results will appear in next week's column. You can still take the survey by heading to www.knightatthemovies.com .


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson announces Parkinson's diagnosis 2017-11-17 - The following is a letter from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Dear Friends and Supporters, On July 17, 1960, ...


Gay News

Barbara Flynn Currie not seeking re-election in 2018 2017-09-15 - Barbara Flynn Currie—the first woman to serve as majority leader in the Illinois House of Representatives and the state's longest serving woman in ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Indomitable: The Life of Barbara Grier 2017-02-22 - By Joanne Passet, $28.95; Bella Books; 359 pages On the third page of Indomitable: The Life of Barbara Grier, the woman ...


Gay News

White House Appoints Force's Barbara Satin to Advisory Council on Faith-based Partnerships 2016-05-12 - Washington, DC, May 12, 2016 — The White House today announced that the National LGBTQ Task Force's Barbara Satin has been appointed to ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Barbara J.'BeeJay' Hollowell 2015-12-08 - Barbara J. "BeeJay" Hollowell, 72, passed away Nov. 24 at her home in Franklin Park—with her life partner of 34 years, Kea M. ...


Gay News

Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer 2015-06-24 - Her smile was perhaps her biggest asset. Barbara Gittings countered the vitriol of homophobes by using any tactic at her disposal. Sometimes that ...


Gay News

ACLU honors state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie 2015-04-22 - More than 900 individuals gathered April 17 at the Hilton Chicago to honor Barbara Flynn Currie as a longtime champion of human rights. ...


Gay News

ACLU lunch to honor IL House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie 2015-04-16 - CHICAGO — More than 900 supporters of human rights and civil liberties will gather in Chicago on Friday, April 17th to honor a ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Barbara "Robbie" Smith, services March 7 2015-03-04 - Affinity announces with sadness the services of a beloved community member and mentor to many, Barbara "Robbie" Smith. Robbie was a longtime ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Chicago activist Barbara 'Robbie' Smith dies 2015-02-19 - Family and friends have announced the passing of beloved Chicago community member and mentor to many, Barbara "Robbie" Smith. Born May 25, 1946, ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.