[Editor’s Note: Our own Scott Drebit recently hosted panels at the sixth annual Calgary Horror Con. At the three-day event, Scott caught up with Adrienne King, who discussed playing the first final girl in the Friday the 13th franchise, her interest in painting, returning to acting, and teaming up with Valley View to create Crystal Lake Wines.]
Hi Adrienne, thanks for sitting down with Daily Dead. I’d like to start off with Friday the 13th. It’s always been my belief that Halloween is unique and an anomaly, and that Friday the 13th really set the tone for the slashers that followed.
Adrienne King: I think so, too. In terms of women not being victims, or a woman being the killer, it hadn’t really been done before. And sometimes I think about if it was accidentally empowering women, or if they just wanted to do something that had a twist. And who would have ever guessed that the killer could have been a woman? A sweet lady, too, Betsy Palmer. No one saw that coming.
My generation really didn’t know Betsy Palmer. But when my parents saw her on the screen, they were like, “Oh my god! Betsy Palmer is the killer!” They knew her from the ’50s and ’60s, and the gameshows. They thought it was delightful that she turned up at that point in the movie, because you just knew something was up…
Adrienne King: Especially when it doesn’t happen until the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie, right? It was just the perfect storm; we had Harry Manfredini’s music, which was so special and different. I sat with Harry at a screening—just him and I together—without dialogue, just music… and I learned things. If you think about it in those terms, he gave each character a little libretto. So even when the killer isn’t onscreen, but they’re around, you hear their theme. I don’t really think that had been done before.
You get conditioned to hearing the killer’s music, and then when they’re not around, but you hear their music, you start to feel tense.
Adrienne King: Exactly! And then you had Tom Savini with the special effects—a genius… CGI can’t hold a candle to him. And the timing was right; as a country, we needed a rollercoaster, an outlet. There was so much going on in the world in terms of war, and we had gone through the feminist movement. It was almost the ’80s, and we had all these passionate people come together to make a movie. And we were running out of money; so we had to be creative. Those are some of the things that make the first one so special. Yes, I know a lot of fans consider the second to be their favorite; but number one had to set the whole storyline.
I go to bat for Part 1 all the time. I just think it’s a perfect little thriller. And it’s not a whodunit; people criticize it for that.
Adrienne King: But it is! Just listen to the music. I learned that from Harry; Lord knows you watch it enough times [laughs], my “happy campers” [fans] watch it how many times a year—you learn things. And it is kind of a mystery—is it Crazy Ralph? If you notice—and I’m sure you do—it’s not like the credits were up front. And you knew Betsy was in it, but you didn’t know when or where she would show up. And then it goes on, and she hasn’t shown up, so you forget she’s in it. So, to me, it kind of was like a whodunit. We threw in the red herrings here and there.
When you get to that final stretch, it’s so taut and tension-filled. There are certain movies when you’re a kid that are “fun” scary, and then there are others that you know you shouldn’t be watching, but you can’t turn away because it’s so riveting. Sean Cunningham gets a bad rap, but I think it’s really well-directed.
Adrienne King: He’s underrated as a director; he also doesn’t give himself any credit as one. He kind of shirks it off as, “I just needed the money,” or “I was about to lose my house so I made a scary movie.” But the fact is, he surrounded himself with the best casting people from New York City, Julie Hughes and Barry Moss, who knew all the best young talent in New York. The pool of people they brought in, and of course Betsy and Walt Gorney, they were fabulous actors; so he was smart enough as a director. It was a long casting process; Sean was looking for certain dynamics, the kids next door. He realized that it’s not going to be scary if you’re not invested in the characters. Now you watch movies, and you hope they die [laughs]. Right from the get-go you care about our characters, from the time Annie [Robbi Morgan] jumps in the truck.
They’re very appealing.
Adrienne King: You find at least one character that you can identify with; that’s what Sean was going for. Whether it’s Annie, who’s timid, or Marcie [Jeannine Taylor], the vamp; or Kevin Bacon’s Jack, or Harry Crosby’s Bill—nobody didn’t love Bill. You cared about them when they were killed, and that’s what makes a good horror movie. You have to become invested, and then it becomes riveting.
So after Part 1 and Part 2, in which poor Alice meets her demise, you shifted your focus to painting. How did that come about?
Adrienne King: My mom had me acting from an early age; I was always on sets. So I had my 64-pack of crayons and was always drawing and painting. I was blessed with having two passions; and throughout high school I still acted, I just had to keep my grades up. But my favorite classes were art and painting, which they don’t even have in school anymore, which is such a shame. It’s an outlet; if I didn’t have art or acting, I would have been a very troubled kid. I know for a fact that it allowed me to become who I was; by the time I graduated high school I had an acting résumé from here to there, and I was accepted into FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology, so both of my passions were right there!
I moved into New York City, into a dorm on the FIT campus—which was right around the corner from Guiding Light [a TV soap opera]. So, in between classes, I would do small roles. And of course the professors noticed I was missing. And I remember my professor saying to me, “Do you want to be a starving artist, or a starving actress? You have to choose one.” [Laughs] And I said, “I don’t plan to be either of those.” He gave me great advice; he said, “You have the talent, artistically speaking. But you can always come back to painting. If you want to be an actress, now is your time.” And god bless him, because I was running around like That Girl, Marlo Thomas, tapping and singing, taking dance classes.
That’s what youth is for, right? To take advantage of all that.
Adrienne King: Yeah, and it was just the best time, and the best way to go from adolescence into adulthood.
Did you end up at London’s Royal Academy of Arts?
Adrienne King: I did, but that was after the stalker. It’s funny, in high school I made a prediction that I would be going to RADA [Royal Academy of Arts], but that first I wanted to spend some time in New York acting, so, ta-da [laughs]! I’ve always said that part of my success was always believing I could do it. I was very fortunate with my surroundings, and my parents were very supportive. I never considered myself a starving artist; I got to dance in Saturday Night Fever, and we would dance all night and then hit open calls the next morning without even changing [laughs]. But, like I said, when you’re young, you just go for it.
It was the same thing with Friday the 13th. It was an open call, and I didn’t even have a theatrical agent. And it was a long process; it was four or five weeks of auditions. And I’m almost positive, but I think the scream nailed the job [laughs]. I was so blessed, looking back at it. But then the movie came out, and all hell broke loose with my personal life. And that’s when I went to RADA.
But you’re back now. Your name has been popping up on IMDb since 2014.
Adrienne King: Here’s how it went down. The book Crystal Lake Memories, or as we call it, the Bible, was being written by Peter Bracke, and he tracked down everyone, including me. I was doing lots of voiceovers and looping, for films like Titanic and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I did the voiceover work because I was really good at it and wanted to stay in movies, but was too shaken up by the incident to be in front of the camera just yet.
But I had tried after I returned from RADA; I did a screen test and was hired for All My Children. And right before my entrance, waiting in the wings to come out, I had a massive anxiety attack. And that’s the kiss of death; you can’t be a nervous actor! So they let me out of my contract, and my agent and I decided we would focus our attention on voiceovers and looping. I had a great time doing that, and then Peter tracked me down through my husband, who ran a production company, but I was keeping a low profile.
So when the book came out, Peter told me, “Hey, you have three generations of fans out there who care about you; you should let them know.” People didn’t know what had happened to me, or why I disappeared until the book came out. So when it was released, I started getting scripts. But the timing was kind of weird. We were just moving from LA to Oregon, a beautiful place where I could set up my art studio and paint away the day. But the first film I did was called The Walking Dead, I mean Walking Distance [laughs]—yeah right, that would have been nice—and wouldn’t you know? No anxiety attack. So I knew I was back.
It was time.
Adrienne King: Yeah. I have to credit my first convention, and also Peter Bracke, for letting the promoters know I might be interested. It was January, freezing cold, and there was a line around the hotel. And people were so excited and sweet; I was baffled. Because I didn’t know the impact that Friday the 13th had. Nor was I prepared; we had to run out to Kinko’s to make copies of pictures [laughs].
Amy [Steel] was there, too, and she had never done a convention, either. Betsy was there as well. So we did a panel, and someone asked me where I’d been. And so I told people what had happened with the stalker, and everyone was so supportive; big guys with tattoos were crying. And it was then that I realized that there was a little piece of my heart that hadn’t healed until that moment. And I owe that all to the fans. They made me see that if Alice could survive, so could I. And I feel so blessed; I’ve been married to the same wonderful, supportive man for almost 29 years, my paintings are collected all around the world, I’m acting again, and I also have partnered up with the oldest family-owned winery in southern Oregon.
My wife would kill me if I didn’t ask about the wine.
Adrienne King: When Richard and I moved to southern Oregon to retire—yeah right; I’m busier than ever [laughs]—there were about 11 wineries in the area. By far our favorite was Valley View. We joined their wine club and got to know the owners. And it took them a couple of years, but eventually they told me they loved my artwork, and maybe I could do a label for them? “Oh, and by the way, we’re huge horror fans, and we love Friday the 13th.” And I told them, “Why did you wait so long to tell me?” They said they didn’t want to invade my privacy. So they asked me to join their family, and of course I said “yes.”
So we thought, what about calling it Crystal Lake Wines? They set up a Facebook page called Crystal Lake Wines by Adrienne King, and it blew out their website. That was in 2009, and it hasn’t stopped. It’s all word of mouth; not a dime was spent on advertising. And, here’s where my schooling in marketing came in, the first wines we named Survivor’s Syrah, Cabin A Sauvignon, and Moonlit Chardonnay, with different colored canoes to reflect the varietals. And now we’ve really gotten creative—instead of Alice leaning towards the water, she’s holding her glass of wine towards the moon, saying “Cheers!”
I’m so thrilled for you that everything is going so well personally and professionally. It seems that the sky’s the limit.
Adrienne King: At this point, I’m able to give back before I kick the bucket. Through social media, I’m able to help young independent filmmakers with advice, or maybe do a cameo to help them get to the next level. With the winery, I’m able to help out different charities in the area. My “happy campers” come out and we sit on the lawn and watch the film, and they support the local firefighters, etc. It’s just a wonderful place to be.
Well, on behalf of this “happy camper,” thanks for all the entertainment and love you’ve given the horror community. Cheers.
Adrienne King: Cheers.
For more info on everything Adrienne, visit her website: