Dark Dreams
The Scream Queens: 4 Actresses Who Defined A Horror Genre

Devan Sagliani | 25 Aug 2014 17:15
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Michelle Bauer was born and raised in Simi Valley, married young and moved over the hill to San Fernando Valley with her husband. She worked at a car wash before stumbling upon a want ad for figure models. Soon after she made the transition to taking off her clothes in front of the camera. Bauer freely admits to acting in several adult films under the pseudonym Pia Snow, including the renowned pornographic classic Cafe Flesh, but swears she insisted on a having an actual porn star play her double during sex scenes. By July of 1981 she was officially a Penthouse Pet. Her centerfold was wildly popular, which led to a film try-out for director Fred Olen Ray and eventually her first role as an Egyptian witch in the now infamous B-movie The Tomb. From there she went on to make several classics, including Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Reform School Girls, Nightmare Sisters, Death Row Diner, and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

By far the most unlikely of this seminal trio is Brinke Stevens, a polyglot who once boasted an active membership in Mensa. Born in San Diego, California, Stevens eventually earned a Master of Science in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Obsessed with dolphins Brinke intended on devoting her life to studying and deciphering how they communicated. She became a Scream Queen on accident after being cast as a movie extra while she was looking for work in her new home in Los Angeles. She went on to star in over 100 horror movies and is still working today. Brinke also wrote several screenplays, produced two documentaries, and is a welcome staple at some of the country's biggest horror conventions. In 1995 she co-write a three part comic series based on her character called 'Brinke of Destruction' with Todd A Kaylor for 'High Top Publications'. She also made a special literary appearance in Bad Moon Rising, the third installment of Jonathan Maberry's Pine Deep trilogy.

In no time at all the girls found they had racked up scores of credits along with a sizable fan base, excited by the possibility of hot naked girls who actually answered fan mail. Bauer describes being invited on talk shows and being flown to events as a guest of honor as "an E ticket ride that wouldn't end." Stevens got named dropped on Jeopardy and began appearing on late night horror shows across the country. MTV hired Quigley to cover Fangoria's convention as the "Queen of the B's." Yet despite their undeniable popularity the girls were looked down on by Hollywood in general, dismissed as being inferior for working in "those movies" and forever stigmatized for having taken off their clothes on camera. It didn't matter that movies like Fred Olen Ray's Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, which starred both Bauer and Quigley as full time prostitutes and part time chainsaw murder enthusiasts, were being eaten up by fans all over the world. No one associated with the titles found they couldn't get hired in big budget features. There was a glass ceiling they never seemed to be able to break through.

Ironically the popularity of the genre also caused an explosion of new girls eager for attention to latch on to the title, some without any claim other than having posed nude in a fantasy horror magazine. Soon anyone who had got naked on film, and a few who simply cultivated the look, began to call themselves a Scream Queen, including porn stars and mud wrestlers, effectively killing the meaning behind the title in the process for many fans. Quigley insists that these legions of attention hungry wannabes ruined the good thing they had going, muddying the waters and ripping fans off in the process. Girls she'd never seen or worked with began packing trade shows in skimpy outfits, charging fees for photos at conventions and pretending to rival the status of girls who worked hard for their place in B movie history. She wouldn't have to be upset about it for long.

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The inevitable rise of chain video rental stores like Hollywood Video, or the Mormon owned Blockbuster which refused to carry B movies, signaled the inevitable decline of the genre, bringing an end to what can only be described as a magical period of American film making. So-called 'mom and pop' brick and mortar stores were quickly run out of business by the big guys. The slasher phenomenon began to fade, condemning these masterpieces to censored versions on USA's Up All Night or late night softcore cable porn channel viewings. The market for independent low budget movies vanished almost overnight. The party was officially over, at least for a decade or two. These days B movies are enjoying new life for their retro status, not to mention their kitsch, with a new generation of fans discovering their impossibly imaginative worlds full of unabashed topless killer stars while laughing at their poor quality, ridiculous storylines, and often abysmal special effects. Still it's these same people keeping their heroes alive. Brinke claims most of her work these days comes from fans who've grown into horror directors themselves.

It's safe to say that the legacy of Bauer, Stevens, and Quigley still resonates with us to this day. Bonafide Scream Queens like Debbie Dutch, Monique Gabrielle, Debra Lamb, Denice Duff, JJ North, Maria Ford, Debbie Rochon, Julie Strain, Felissa Rose, Tanya Dempsy, and Tiffany Shepis all owe some of their success to the original trio of howlers. You can still catch glimpses of Quigley and Stevens in new releases from time to time and both still show up at events to meet their fans. Bauer dabbles in making appearances and cameos, but swears she has put the life of a Scream Queen behind her. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers would later go on to be listed as number 4 on Maxim Magazine's greatest 100 B Movies of All Time. Silent Night, Deadly Night, which famously stars Quigley being hung on a pair of antlers naked, is still considered one of the most controversial movies of all time. If you're interested in learning more I suggest you check out the documentary Screaming In High Heels; The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen.

Marilyn Burns never gave up acting. Her final horror movie, Sacrament, was shot last year in Texas. Like her seminal role it revolved around a group of kids in a small town obsessed with cannibalism. Her final interview, as well as a retrospective on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, will be available in the November issue of Penthouse.

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