Eight years ago today, beloved actress and musician Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith died of complications from liver disease and hepatitis. But only a small number of people knew about it. Despite such achievements as auditioning for the role of Iris in TAXI DRIVER, and being recruited a member of The Runaways in their final days, it was almost over two weeks before national media even took notice of her passing. The heartbreaking tragedy of her final days and unacknowledged passing was greatly upsetting to me, and so I wrote my observations into an essay, "Rainbeaux's Goodbye", which I initially just sent to friends as an email but eventually found its way to her friends and family, and was ultimately posted at a tribute site.
Normally, I would repost the whole thing here at my blog, but you know what? I would rather drive the web traffic and the hits over to her site. There's lots of other reminiscences and tribute from fans and friends alike to be found there, and since my ultimate goal is to get you, the reader, to learn as much about her as possible, they will do a better job than I possibly can. (Be warned: the main page plays "Butterfly Kisses" and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Look, some people genuinely like that damn song. So just turn down the volume and read the links.)
In the eight years since the loss of Rainbeaux, thankfully if belatedly, her profile has grown to a degree. Many of her films have been released to DVD, including what is probably her best performance, LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL, which I recently cited as one of my favorite underrated horror films at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Some that are still absent from DVD, such as SLUMBER PARTY '57 with Debra Winger and the campy MANDINGO sequel DRUM, have popped up on various HD channels in new transfers. Screenings have even taken place, where ardent fans such as Quentin Tarantino and collaborators like Joe Dante have been able to speak to audiences about her appeal.
On a personal level, I've been privileged to befriend her son Justin, whom she was pregnant with during production of REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS, and is even seen at the end after she gave birth to him. He is doing a great job of continuing the family business of artistic expression, both as a musician with the band Calls After Midnight and in the DJ collective atcapacity. He's a talented creative type and a sweet fellow whom I don't get to see nearly enough of. And his devotion to his mother's memory is inspiring.
Unfortunately, in the eight years since her death, we have lost more favorite faces of the '70's...Candice Rialson, Roberta Collins, Tamara Dobson, Tina Aumont, Teresa Graves...drive-in damsels and grindhouse glamour gals who also never quite got their due in film history, or had opportunity to experience a new generation of fans telling them first hand how much their work was appreciated. There are also many others that have retreated from the world...Sarah Holcomb, Sue Lyon, Monica Gayle...with such firm radio silence you can easily imagine the hurt and bad memories that drive them into seclusion, and thus feel even more sad that there's no way to get the message to them that their work made you sincerely happy and that you have not forgotten them and want to offer them your kind words.
If you know a former exploitation starlet in any fashion, living in isolated anonymity or making some extra money on the autograph circuit, give them a hug now while you can.