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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
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
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