My mother got me addicted to “Search for Tomorrow” when I was in pre-school. The summer before I went into kindergarten, I fell in love with a character named Robin – a teenage prostitute! My life was never the same again! Morgan Fairchild was cast on the soap around that time, too, and I, soon, simply, became fascinated with her Thelma Todd-like “white hot” beauty. The summer that her bitchy character, Jennifer, was thrown into a full plate glass sliding door by one of the men that she had tried to destroy, was the most exciting one of my very young life! Even “Who Shot J.R.?” years later could not compare! Jennifer survived, but Fairchild soon left to explore bigger show business horizons. I followed Fairchild’s career post-Search, of course, but nothing could compare to those early soap days when I thought she was the most magnificent creature that breathed on this Earth. (In fact, at first, I simply could not believe she was mortal!) As a pre-teen, spending my paper route dollars on yard sale records and fan magazines, I, eventually, discovered a picture in Movie Mirror of Fairchild and her aspiring actress sister, Cathryn Hartt. Hartt, the caption said, had a role in Fairchild’s latest motion picture, the slasher-thriller, The Seduction. I waited, breathlessly, until the picture appeared on cable a year later. The picture disappointed me – 12 months of anticipation can do that – but it was thrilling to see Hartt and Fairchild in the same movie together. They were, both, celluloid goddesses to me, now! About three years later, our bootleg cable got an extra boast when we got free Cinemax, along with free HBO, for about a month. One late Saturday night, I stayed up to watch something called Pink Motel with Phyllis Diller and Slim Pickens. It was billed as a sex comedy and I am sure that I had wanted to watch it, in the hopes that I coul d catch some hot bare man booty. What I got was better – Cathryn Hartt in a featured role as a seductive, duplicitous femme fatale. By Sunday morning, I had found a new love!

Of course, college soon followed. I moved to Chicago and fell in love with punk rock, Joni Mitchell and feminist poets and didn’t go near a television for years. Eventually, one of the actresses, whom had appeared in one of my plays on women’s rights, invited me to the theater, one night. It was a musical version of Gilligan’s Island. It wasn’t the greatest show ever, but the musical numbers were cute– and Cathryn Hartt was in the cast –and she changed my life, once again! She was, actually, a perfect Ginger – and seeing her, live, on stage, is still one of my favorite theatrical experiences. (Hell, I was so close to the stage, I could even see where she had shaved her pits when she raised her arms. And that, of course, is theater magic, my friends, in all its glory! Theater magic!) Of course, I stuck around and had her sign my program –and, once I got home and back into my “real” life-you know, the sad one where she wasn’t aroun d, constantly, signing my theatrical mementos, I began to seek out all of her other films! There were, among others, Open House, an awkward, yet enjoyably bloody thriller starring Adrienne Barbeau, Creature from Black Lake, a quirky backwoods monster flick with Jack Elam and to balance it all out, for sweetness sake, there was a role as a stewardess in my childhood favorite, For the Love of Benji. I was hooked – Hartt, line and sinker! (Or Hartt, star, of slashers! – Whatever you prefer! And, while many of Hartt’s performances were featured and under-five roles, all enthusiastic and well crafted, she, also, had several major and supporting roles in the above mentioned Pink Motel, Open House and Creature from Black Lake.)

About two years later, I was down in Florida visiting my sister and I dragged her to an independent movie festival. I spoke to the director of the film we saw, briefly, afterwards, mentioning I was a theater person, based in Chicago. A gentleman, whom had a small role in the film, approached me, saying that his wife had done a show in Chicago. I turned around – and there she was! Cathryn Hartt!!! One of the coolest encounters in my life! My sister said that she never saw someone look so pleasantly surprised when I, delightedly, called out her name and began to rattle off her films. A couple of photographs and an exchange of numbers later, my sister drove me off into the starry, starry night, humming with bliss. Though, I returned to Florida, on numerous occasions, I never saw her again.

Hartt, still in the business, runs an acting studio in Texas, now. She never reached the height of fame of those equal to her in talent. In fact, the first time I met her I had blundered out the statement, ‘I just love bad B Movies!” She, amusedly, taken aback, replied, “But the actresses in them aren’t bad.” But, she has brightened – and will continue to brighten- my life and perhaps, that is the highest compliment that one can give a performer. Cathryn Hartt, you will – forever- reign, a star, to me!

Note: I performed the following poem at various poetry performance events in the mid-to-late 90’s in Chicago. It was, also, featured in my chapbook, Poems for Scream Queens (and other Illustrious Women).

Our family room’s

Small black and white TV

With raspy reception

 Became magical

On late weekend nights.

Watching it then

I was transported,

In all my awkward bespectacled ness

To the environments

Where I yearned to belong.

Places

Where I could, immediately,

Become sleek and smooth,

Discover potential as a hero

Or just emerge into normalcy-

As a true part of the gang.

It lifted me out

Of the small town

Where my dreams were curiosities

And deposited me in a land

Where I was a true star –

 A temporary paradise

Where I was surrounded by,

Could connect with

All those people,

Whom, onscreen,

Seemed so mystical,

So confidant

 And whom

Like the constellations

Twinkling, brightly, above me

Were so very

Far, far away.

(*Upon recalling watching her in late night classics like The Seduction and Pink Motel.)

Below, are reviews of Cathryn Hartt’s major and featured roles in films.

Creature From Black Lake. 1976. IMDB lists this as Cathryn Hartt’s, then using the name Catherine McClenny, first major film appearance. She has a nice co-starring role, appearing in two important scenes, as Eve, a goofily rambunctious, incredibly awkward, back-woods Louisianan waitress. Hartt employs a true sense of physical awareness and comic timing, something she uses to great advantage in most of her film roles. As for the movie, itself, -this is a grainy, pleasant, low budget affair with a true sense of atmosphere and a low key Southern charm. Two college researchers, from Chicago, head out into the swampy wilds to track down a mythical creature. Of course, none of the townspeople want to talk about the creature – at least on record or without monetary bribing. Jack Elam shows up as a blus tering drunk who lost his trapping partner to the creature and Dub Taylor gives a naturally comic turn as an old timer who experienced the creature’s wraith on several occasions. Dennis Fimple, as the bumbling student and John David Carson (Empire of the Ants, Pretty Maids All in a Row), as his smart-ass partner-in-crime, play, nicely, off of one another –and their final confrontation with the creature, while not exactly horrifying, is intense and well-acted by the two of them. This is, ultimately, low radar, enjoyable drive-in movie fare and, as for aficionados of the Bigfoot myth and Southern Swamp features – well, they just may have found a winner.

Futureworld. 1976. Hartt, still billed as Catherine McClenny, has one line as a secretary, “You’re late,” that she delivers with enough amused disdain to lead, Peter Fonda, that you can tell the whole history of their relationship in those two words. Plus –she looks fantastic! Otherwise, this sci-fi thriller and sequel to 1973’s Westworld, is a slow moving, if not un-enjoyable adventure tale. Of course, the effects are far outdated and the plot, involving a plan to take over the world by evil robotic duplicates, might seem slightly unoriginal now, but that is time’s effect for you, and Fonda (also of Spasms, Trilogy of the Dead and the Irene Cara-Tatum O’Neal flick, Certain Fury) and Blythe Danner make a cute, if unlikely coupling –kind of like Sam and Diane from Ch eers about 10 years ahead of their time. It is also neat to see the sophisticated and highly regarded Danner (whose other genre credits include an episode of Tales from the Crypt, the 1978 t-v movie –He Knows You’re Alone – a childhood favorite of mine- and her 1972 film debut, the truly bizarre – To Kill A Clown) run, shoot guns and confront her evil double. The Rockford FilesStuart Margolin gives the best performance as an eccentric mechanic whom has developed a friendly relationship with one of the older robots from the first film. I kept hoping that robot –whose face is just a mass of electronics- would turn out to be Yul Brynner, the original robot bad-guy from Westworld. Alas, he shows up, only, in flashbacks and in a baffling dream dance sequence with Danner. And while that might not rival his exchange with Deborah Kerr in The King in I, it sure is amusing to watch.

For the Love of Benji. 1977. This was one of my favorite films as a kid! In fact, I still have my Benji and Tiffany plastic dolls, as a favorite childhood keepsake – though one of them is missing a leg and the Greek background that came with them is long gone. Years later, this is still quite a cute and charming adventure – and the Grecian scenery is amazing. Even if you don’t have kids or nieces or nephews, this might be a charming nostalgia trip – and I still think Benji is one of the cutest dogs –ever!!! Genre vet, Ed Nelson (The Boneyard, A Bucket of Blood, Night of the Blood Beast and Brain Eaters) goes all bad and nasty here, chasing Benji and girlfriend dog, Tiffany, throughout Greece, looking for a gold medallion he smuggled into Athens with our favorite furry friend. Hartt , still billed as McClenny, has little to do here except act friendly and professional as a stewardess who helps Benji and friends board the plane to Greece. Still, its great to have her as a part of one of my kiddy favorites, only, I just hope the poor dear landed some extra compensation pay for the god-awful character uniform that she had to act in. It would have rendered even Laurence Olivier immobile and speechless.

Seniors. 1978. I am usually up for anything, exploitation-wise, but this t-and-a offering is actually pretty flat (and I’m not referring to bosoms, but jokes!) and poorly done. Dennis Quaid and Jeffrey Byron (Early 1980’s 3-D Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn and vampire soap, Port Charles) are graduating college students whom hatch a plan to stay on campus by pretending to be sexual researchers conducting a survey-experiment, charting the liberated female’s fantasies and desires. Hartt, still McClenny, is one of the many girls who volunteers for the project. She has one of the better moments, as a kinky college girl, named Diane, who “struggles” to free herself from a set of ropes, while tied to a bed- and this scenario and Hartt’s appeal and talent help make her stand out as more than just one in an ocean of women in this weak comedy. In a way, I suppose, it is all pretty harmless, except for the role played by Priscilla Barnes (Three’s Company, Blood on the Back Lot). Barnes’ character speaks not a word, as she cleans, cooks and services Quaid and the others, as their devoted and long suffering housemaid or, as in the words of one of the guys, she is “a nympho who loves to cook and clean.” .If Barnes’ character had some kind of oomph or personality – something the actress has plenty of- and some dialogue, perhaps, this would have not proven so damning. But she is just a blank and vacant cipher – another joke, among many, in this film, that just doesn’t come off correctly. (Anyhow, if you want to see for yourself, it is available, currently on DVD, for a penny – plus shipping- on Amazon.com.)

The Seduction. 1982. I enjoyed this guilty pleasure more on this viewing than on any other previous viewing and while there are some enjoyable moments– this could have been a true cult classic and, sadly, falls short. Morgan Fairchild does show restraint and skill with material that could have gone way over the top with another actress. Too bad the material she is given goes pretty much nowhere at all, though. This film is meandering and oddly paced, when it should have been gleefully attacked and committed to by its director and producers. (In fact, this could have been the early 80’s Showgirls of stalker films, but, sadly – no cigar.) Things happen with no true build-up or steady flow of suspense. Even when things start to get good, like when Fairchild begins to turn the tables on her attacker , the momentum is quickly dropped and lethargy takes, quickly, over again. Still, as stated, previously, Fairchild shows a strong subtlety and, the always reliable, Colleen Camp livens things up as her brassy best friend. Even Andrew Stevens, known more for his incredible body than his incredible acting, is fairly convincing – and cast against type- as the slippery psycho after Fairchild. And there are enough goofily kinky moments –like the hot tub sex scene where Fairchild and Michael Sarrazin, lustfully mush their cheeks together in lieu of kissing, Wendy Smith Howard’s emotional histrionics when her crush, Stevens, rejects her or when Fairchild taunts Stevens, in the film’s final moments, to “f--k” her – to travel down this path, at least once. As for genre vets, the eagerly adorable Kevin Brophy (Hell Night and the Lucan TV series) makes a nice supporting turn -and Cathryn Hartt, the main point of this review, appears on movie screens for the first time with the Hartt moniker, and has a nice moment where she flirts, as the last billed “Teleprompter Girl”, with Stevens’ squirrelly mad man.

Pink Motel. 1983. This is how t-an-a exploitation should be done. Its cute, quick and the vignette style keeps things interesting. The script, is sophomoric, often, of course, but while this is no California Suite, the eclectic and talented cast commit to their material as if it were Neil Simon’s best and that keeps this baby from drowning on numerous occasions. Phyllis Diller (The Boneyard, Maniac) and Slim Pickens are entertaining and bring some Old Hollywood pizzazz, as they play the bridge between the segments, the owners of the “Pink Motel” where everything takes place. The couples who check into the hotel are two teenage sweethearts about to lose their virginity, two adulterers, an impotent football star and his date and two “swingers” with dates that they have picked up at a party. Hartt, at her most gorgeous, is part of the last equation. She and her main co-star, Christopher S. Nelson, do everything possible with their material, and with perfect comic timing, make some unoriginal jokes shine. Nelson is not afraid to make an ass out of himself – in more ways than one – and Hartt, given her most screen time in an wide ranging career, is a beautiful scene partner, reacting to and commenting on his actions, so that the audience knows that she thinks he is a buffoon, but he never catches on. The segment ends with an amusing twist that shows that the men, whom appeared to be controlling the situation, were not so dominant, after all. Perhaps, there was not enough depth or extreme sexuality to make this a cult classic like Porky’s or The Last American Virgin - but this is still a step above most late night cable programming and deserves to be better known than it is.

Deadly Illusion. 1987. This fast paced, slightly confusing, action adventure isn’t one of writer/director, Larry Cohen’s, best, but there is still enough swift moving thrills to make it a pleasant afternoon’s diversion. Billy Dee Williams has a ball as walking weapon and lady-killer, Hamberger, and Vanity, appearing as his partner in crime, is cutely spunky and fun. - I love, love, love Vanity! Her performance in Memories of Murder with Nancy Allen is really and truly chilling. Check it out! – Anyhow, Morgan Fairchild, unlike her above-reviewed role in The Seduction, is back in bitch territory and truly having a great time being hideous. (But not quite as hideous as the curly black wig she sports, occasionally, in this action adven ture. I must say, it does not become this glamorous lady and when Williams tells her she looks just as good with it off as on, you can here the sound of jaws dropping across America!!) Cathyrn Hartt, in one of her three films that year, drops in to play the glamorous country pone from Cosmopolitan magazine. Mistaking Williams for Reggie Jackson, Hartt is, essentially, playing a more sophisticated version of Eve, the waitress from The Creature from Black Lake, and she has a ball. In an interesting note, Hartt is not credited in the final scroll, and while her role is small, it is much larger than the one she had in The Seduction, where she did receive credit.

Flicks. 1987. I just found out about this vignette comedy that, also, features Pamela Sue Martin. It supposedly makes fun of commercials, Saturday morning cartoons and genre films. I plan to check it out, ASAP, and will, hopefully, weigh in with opinions at a later date.

Open House. 1987. This is a kind of grim, back of the lot type feature, but with genre veterans galore and an almost pornographic take on violence – it is one of my favorites in the Cathryn Hartt oeuvre. Pretty real estate agents are being slaughtered in vicious ways and poor real estate mogul, Adrienne Barbeau, and her boyfriend, radio shrink Joseph Bottoms (Blind Date, The Black Hole), try to find out who is doing it and why. Besides, Barbeau and Bottoms’ roles, there is little character development and most of the agents are introduced, for the first time, upon entering the houses where they will soon might their demises. Still, there is something about the over-the-top nastiness of this enterprise that appeals to me and there is enough gruesomeness in the death scenes to satisfy most gore hounds. Scott Thompson Baker (Rest in Pieces) comes to a vividly, bloody end and 70’s starlet, Tiffany Bolling (Kingdom of the Spiders, The Wild Party, Visions), also, makes an appearance. Hartt, meanwhile, plays Melody, one of the surviving agents, who in her enthusiasm to make a sale bungles her way through language and cultural barriers. She is comedic relief, and once again, makes very nice work of it. Her reaction shots, upon finding a murdered agent in the bathroom, are when the filmmakers, truly, begin their delightful excessiveness, also. Her lo oks of horror are shown from every angle in juicy and melodramatic flare, and for any actress, a better genre film finale – even in a movie as badly enjoyable as this one - would be mighty hard to come by.

(Note: Hartt, also, lists Logan’s Run on her bio. I believe that she is an extra in that sci- fi classic, though, try as I might, I cannot locate her among the vast throngs of people in that cast. If you want to check out the rest of her films – Creature from Black Lake, Futureworld, The Seduction, Pink Motel, Deadly Illusion, Flicks and Open House are available, still, on VHS- mostly, used, on Amazon.Com. Seniors, as mentioned above, For the Love of Benji and Logans Run – wherever she may be- are all available on DVD.)