Gets Put To Good Use
By Ken Hall
"All of my collections are
practical," Adrienne Barbeau says with pride. "You'll never catch me
buying something just to stick in a hutch or curio cabinet. It has
to be useful." And she's not kidding. The Fiestaware is used as
everyday dinnerware at her home outside Los Angeles (a Spanish
bungalow); same for the Ironstone in a second home on the New Jersey
shore. American primitive furniture dots the California residence,
antique quilts are used as throws and firkins as waste
Firkins, in case you didn't
know, are old wooden sugar buckets. They're often banded, with
handles and tops, and can command handsome prices among collectors.
For Adrienne, though, utility is paramount. "They're ideal as low
end tables, being about 15 inches high," she said. "I stack things
on them, or use them for storage. I've also got them in my
bathrooms, where they make good waste baskets. The tops are great --
they keep the dogs out" (Rain and Mertz, her cocker
Collecting things probably
would have become a passion for Adrienne anyway but, being in the
entertainment industry, "it gives me something to do while on
location. There's a certain amount of delight going to a new town
and finding a piece that an unsuspecting owner or even a sly
proprietor might not know the real value of." Actually, two
collections were born in the'70s, while Barbeau was in Pittsburgh
filming the movie Creepshow, directed by George Romero.
Fiesta was one, the
riotously colorful dinnerware made popular by Homer Laughlin of Ohio
during World War II. "I fell in love with it, but was hesitant to
make it a collectible because I didn't think I'd be able to assemble
matching sets," Barbeau remembered. But that fear was put to rest
when she went into a Pittsburgh shop and the place was teeming with
Fiesta. "I ended up shipping home complete place settings for
twelve," she recalled, laughing. "I just about bought up the
Adrienne has Fiesta in the
original colors (cobalt blue, red, aqua, cream, yellow and green),
plus the grey, pink, dark green and chartreuse that were added in
the 1950s. "When my son Cody was born (her only child from a
marriage to director John Carpenter), I was worried about radiation
in the red pieces. I knew they had uranium in them, because that's
what made the ones made during World War II scarce. I had the fire
department come out with a Geiger counter to take a
The fire department gave
her Fiesta a clean bill of health, but Barbeau still keeps the red
items up in a cupboard, safely out of the reach of her identical
twin sons, William and Walker, age 4 1/2 (from her marriage to
current husband Billy Van Zandt, a Hollywood producer-director and
the brother of E Street Band guitarist Stevie). Of having children
so late in life, Barbeau remarked, "I was the only woman on the
maternity ward who was a member of AARP!." She was over
The antique quilt
collection was the other one started in Pittsburgh. "I was at the
home of a lady whose house, by the way, was decorated in oyster
plates. I thought that was incredible. But she also collected and
sold quilts out of her house, and I bought two Amish pieces. That
got me started. I gave one to my mother-in-law and the other, which
I still have, is signed 'Aunt Mary, 1915.' I have some appliques, a
Lone Star, many from the '30s, and some dating as far back as the
Barbeau said she collects
quilts because they're colorful and she likes the designs in them.
"I probably have about 30 quilts in about every style, except the
crazy quilts. I just love textiles. And, like my other things, I use
them. A few are on the wall, but the others are on the boys' beds,
or used as throws, or whatever." As for storage, she leaves nothing
to chance (or moths). The quilts are wrapped in acid-free paper,
then put into pillow cases and finally a storage box. Triple
Ironically, the only time a
quilt ever showed signs of unusual wear wasn't due to the kids'
roughhousing or a wine spill or mishap. "I had a piece that had been
hanging on a wall for years," Barbeau remembers. "I began noticing
these brown stains, and I couldn't figure out how they were getting
there. It wasn't getting any direct sun. We never did solve the
mystery." She added two of her favorites are American pieced cotton
quilts, 84" long, with the 'Trip Around the World'
Adrienne's fascination with
American primitive furniture began around the time she bought her
current house in 1980 and had help decorating it from noted designer
Karin Blake (named one of America's top 100 designers by
Architectural Digest). "Karin wasn't known that much back then, so I
was fortunate to have her work for me. We've become great friends
over the years, and she knows about everything there is to know
about American primitive. She helped me find the early
Some of her favorites from
around the house include:
* A Rococo revival cast-iron bed (she
paid $150 for it while filming Escape from New York.....in St.
* An American country pine step-back cupboard from the
* An American country cupboard, 81"x56",
painted orange/grey/mustard; she keeps it in a bathroom.
* A goat
cart with original blue paint that has been converted to a coffee
* An English carved glider hobby horse, 19th Century.,
purchased in Ashland, Oregon ("the boys ride on it, my husband hates
* A sleigh-shaped bentwood and iron field cradle from the
* An American Federal style painted cupboard
(87"Hx60"W) in a blue/grey color ("just gorgeous!").
step-back cupboard with original glass and original blue paint.
Bentwood bow-back arm chairs, painted trunks, a painted buckboard
seat and "lots of painted coffee bins."
Ironstone the 19th
Century white earthenware that is sometimes called Stone China or,
in America, White Granite Ware -- is the last thing Barbeau has come
to collect. "It started a couple of years ago," she said "I needed
some dinnerware for the house in New Jersey, a 1910 farm house. The
Ironstone just seemed like a good fit. I've got all these mismatched
pieces, but it's all English and it's all antique, with the
exception of some American-made pieces I picked up along the
Her collection includes
dinner plates, serving pieces, salt and pepper shakers and more. "I
buy primarily over eBay," Adrienne said. "I was heartbroken recently
when I bought a sugar bowl, but the lady didn't wrap it properly and
it arrived in pieces." Her intact items carry names like Adams,
Johnson Bros. and Alfred Meakin, attesting to their authenticity.
Ironstone is so-named because it can show brown marks over time that
mimic iron stains. These can be bleached out with a
Adrienne Barbeau was born
to a French-Canadian father and an Armenian mother. She grew up in
northern California and the state's Central Valley and began taking
dance lessons at age 3 and voice in the 5th grade. By age 15 she had
been accepted into the prestigious San Jose Light Opera. She also
acted in high school productions. After graduating, she enrolled at
Foothill College in Menlo Park, Calif., but left at age 19 to
participate in a USO Tour with the San Jose Light Opera.
"After I did that tour, I
almost went right back to college, but I knew what I really wanted
to do was study acting," she said. "I knew all the best teachers
were in New York, so that's where I went." Her first break came when
she was cast as the daughter "Hodel" in the Broadway play Fiddler on
the Roof. After that, a Tony nomination for her work as the original
"Rizzo" in the Broadway production of Grease. Then it was back to
California, where she played "Carol" in the hit TV series
Film audiences know her
best from The Fog, Escape From New York, Cannonball Run, Swamp
Thing, Creepshow, Two Evil Eyes and Back to School. She just
finished shooting No Place Like Home in Utah. It is due for
theatrical release later this year and co-stars Judge Reinholdt,
Joanna Pakula and Bruce Weitz. Three other film projects are also in
the works: A Wake in Providence (a comedy); Across the Line (an
action film); and The Convent (a horror picture).
Barbeau has done numerous
made-for-television movies, including Doublecrossed: The Barry Seal
Story, with Dennis Hopper (which won an Ace Award); Burden of Proof,
with Hector Elizondo; and A Champion's Fight. Weekly audiences can
see her in a recurring role on The Drew Carey Show as Oswald's mom.
Off-camera, Adrienne is the voice of Catwoman in Batman: The
Animated Series. She also just released a CD of country, blues, rock
and folk tunes, titled adrienne barbeau.
recently released a CD titled, simply, adrienne barbeau. On it, she
sings country, blues, folk and rock. Her beauty and talent have
sustained her in a career that has spanned four decades.
purchased this blue goat cart and used it to make a coffee
country cupboard is 81" high x 56" wide and is painted
orange/grey/mustard. Barbeau keeps it in a bathroom.
voice and dance as a child. Early in her career, she appeared in
Fiddler on the Roof and Grease on Broadway.
imagination and creative arranging, Barbeau is able to enjoy her
antiques and utilize them, too.