Every horror fan worth his salt knows who Linnea Quigley is. When thinking of the label “scream queen” she is the first actress to come to mind.
Linnea was born in Davenport, Iowa but moved to Los Angeles after she graduated with her parents. Her father was Dr. William “Nip” Quigley a Dean of Education at Palmer College who would later become President of the Los Angeles campus.
Ironically, Linnea would be a shy wallflower during her teen years. She tried out for school plays and froze when it was her turn to speak, a far cry from the vocal skills she would display as a scream queen years later.
“I was so shy,” Linnea said in an interview with the Quad-City Times. ”I didn’t move my mouth, didn’t sing in glee club or anything like that, didn’t do any plays. I was terribly, terribly shy.”
She did, however, have an affinity for drive-in movie fare.
“I used to go to the drive-ins all the time to see movies like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry,” Linnea said in a People magazine interview. “There were some I could even imagine myself in.”
Linnea got a desk job at a Jack LaLanne gym but because of her blonde sprite looks she was encouraged to take a stab at doing the modeling/acting thing. Acting upon this advice, she began taking acting classes in addition to learning to play the guitar. Overcoming her shyness, she was no longer the quiet “Barb” from Davenport, Iowa. She became “Linnea”, arguably the greatest scream queen of the 1980s.
The work came almost immediately as she was cast the Charles Band’s Fairy Tales before taking on numerous small roles in low-budget genre flicks. She landed a large role in 1981’s Graduation Day.
“I got Graduation Day by going in and having to act scared,” Linnea said in an interview with Horrorasylum. “This other girl had already been cast as Delores but once she got on the set she refused to show her breasts, so they called me and I was scared too, but I wanted to do the film so badly, and back then it was like a huge no no to refuse to do nudity, so I guess I got lucky. Bad luck to who ever she is. I was also working on The Black Room at the time and had to run a lot. I learned the hard way never to run after eating. Despite this, I thought it was so much fun and luckily it wasn’t too cold I hate cold.”
Shortly after doing Graduation Day, Linnea would form an all-female band called The Skirts.
But horror continued to beckon and she got every horror fan’s attention in the 1985 zombie horror classic, The Return of the Living Dead. She plays a stoner named “Trash” and at first glance is almost unrecognizable as she cut off her trademark blonde hair for a bright red punk look. She also does a memorable nude strip down in a graveyard.
“I loved that part,” Linnea recalled. “It was a fun, unlike-me part and I loved it.”
“In this business, you have to scream well, run well and die well,” Linnea said. “To die well, you have to open your eyes really wide and make gurgling noises. But it’s always degrading to have to take your clothes off. Everybody forms the opinion that you’re a slut. I’d probably think the same if it was someone else.”
Some of her nude scenes didn’t sit too well with her parents at the time and Linnea never felt liberated doing nudity as so many other actresses often state.
Linnea would close out the 1980s by appearing in numerous low-budget genre flicks such as Creepozoids, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Witchtrap and a memorable turn in Night of the Demons.
Now in the twilight of her career, Linnea wrote a few books on her experience in the b-movie industry; The Linnea Quigley Bio & Chainsaw Book and I’m Screaming as Fast as I Can: My Life in B-Movies and Skin.
She would also become an animal rights activist.
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