Actually, it could have ended rather quickly. Her career, that is. At the very least, it wasn't an auspicious start for the woman who would go on to help define some of the best of 1970's and 1980's comedy and horror. Belinda Balaski had told, both, her agent and the casting director that she couldn't ride a motorcycle. Nonetheless, she found herself on the set that very first day with a slightly perturbed director who expected her to ride - and well. A crew member took her aside and taught her all he could. Still the bike kept going down, taking her with it! "I was terrified!" she recalls. Finally, they got enough footage to make the scene work - and after that things went smoothly on the set of that episodic - The F.B.I. (1974) - and into the long stretch for Balaski whose career continued (and continues)into the decades and across all mediums.

Of course, her resilience isn't surprising. "My father was Lester Balaski," a prize winning jockey who traveled the circuit - as did Belinda and her family. Henceforth, "every 3 months I was in a rotating succession of schools." Because of her father's popularity, this rotation included spending time with her family's acquaintances such as Betty Grable and Jimmy Durante. "I didn't know who Jimmy Durante was. I just know every time he saw me he'd say, there's my best friend!" Balaski got upset the first time she saw Durante on television and realized that she'd have to share her friend with millions of viewers. "He was my best friend," she protests, good humored.

Another celebrity friend, actress Heather MacRae (singer Gordon MacRae's daughter) introduced Belinda to the cult film, Little Shop of Horrors in college. "I loved it," states Balaski. A good thing, too, since she would go onto appear in so many defining cult films herself.

The Werewolf of Woodstock (1975), a television film about a farmer hit by electricity and gone beastly, allowed Belinda to do her "Fay Wray thing" with The Mod Squad's Tige Andrews as the titular character. Tige was a "nice guy, a dear man," but "miserable in the suit" that he was required to wear. Werewolf, a virtual celebrity kin fest, also featured MacRae's sister, Meredith, Dennis Weaver's son Rob, Andrew Stevens (offspring of Stella, naturally) and was scripted by Hank Saroyan, William Saroyan's nephew. (William Saroyan, just in case clarification is needed, won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Time of Your Life and an Academy Award for Human Comedy.) "As a theater person at heart, I was just thrilled about working with William Saroyan's nephew," enthuses Belinda.

More significant than being attacked by teddy bear sized rats, Food of the Gods (1976) allowed Balaski easy airport access long after the production ended. " I used my pregnancy pad for years. It was fabulous for moving ahead in lines!" Recommended to play the pregnant Rita for the AIP film by the "enigmatic, hardworking" Marjoe Gortner after their sojourn together in Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, Belinda had a fabulous time on Vancouver's secluded Bowen Island where the movie was filmed - particularly with its amazing cast. In down time, screen legend Ida Lupino would perform a cabaret act while Ralph Meeker played piano. Balaski roomed with the very sweet, very English Pamela Franklin whom she was in "awe" with from films like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Innocents. Belinda's co-star Tom Stovell showed her the original version of the Silkwood script that he was just beginning to shop around. (The film, of course, was eventually produced in 1983 to great success with Meryl Streep. "I called him up to congratulate him. He had gotten television offers over the years, but he held out for something better. It just shows you what persistence can do!") Interestingly, the gray and rainy quality needed for The Food of the Gods was almost destroyed, daily, by snow. So, director Bert Gordon had to blow torch the snow away. Eventually the secluded nature of the island began to wear on people and Lupino who was supposed to survive through the end of the film wrote her own death scene. She presented it to Gordon and insisted that he film it. Still, Balaski has nothing but fond memories. "Take me anywhere! I will make the best out of everything!"

This generous attitude coupled with Balaski's zesty spiritedness is what allows her image to endure long after the celluloid imprint flickers away. She is so giving, in fact, that when she mentions that no one photographed her better than The Howling's cinematographer, John Hora, she almost retracts the statement afraid that she might not be giving Joe Dante, the film\rquote s director, his due. This innate goodness is most apparent when she talks with pride about her acting students or about her sister's children, whom she helped raise. Yet, she has a rebellious nature- best exemplified by her rock n roll roots. (Balaski is a top photographer who covered many of the prestigious benefit concerts in the 70's and 80's including the MUSE concerts and the Alliance for Survival events.) This duality made her a perfect match for the unusual, exciting movies she helped make famous.

In the "delightful" action filled Cannonball! (1976), directed by comedic maestro Paul Bartel (Private Parts, Eating Raoul), Belinda got to"ride around with Bobby Carradine" and unknowingly first made the acquaintance of future, frequent collaborator Dante. Dante, unrecognizably, played "Kid," a small extremely comedic role in the film. "He was hilarious. Nobody knew who he was. We all thought he was just some greasy car guy."

A couple years later, Belinda went into an audition for Piranha (1978), a now classic horror flick about chemically murderous fish, and Dante, director of the feature, mentioned that they had worked together previously. "I freaked! I make it a point of remembering everyone I work with and I had no idea." Memory refreshed, Balaski found herself hired, but without a scene with Paul Bartel who was, also, in the cast. "We really wanted to work together, so I wrote a scene. Joe read it and agreed to film it." Producer Roger Corman's visit to the dailies brought one command, "More Blood!" in reference to Betsy, Belinda's character's underwater death scene. Belinda agreed to a re-shoot on two conditions. "They had put gaffer's tape with the fishes attached with fishing wire all over my body and then I struggled with the piranha, underwater, like they were attacking me. It was all fine until they took off the tape! So, I agreed to do it again if they got me a body suit and gave me the screen credit I wanted. They agreed!"

After Piranha, Belinda began working with Dante frequently. Dante who had always wanted a repertory company found complimentary souls in people such as Balaski, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller and others whom he also used frequently. In fact, Balaski so connected in The Howling (1981), Dante's classic werewolf tale, that she and co-star Dennis Duggan were featured on the French version of the poster. "I have it!" she exclaims. When told that she and Duggan have a great onscreen chemistry she reacts with grateful pride. "You can't always believe what you see. It's called "acting" for a reason."

Belinda wound up in Dante's surprise hit, Gremlins (1984), on a seeming sudden whim. "Joe called me up one night and asked me to the set the next day to" improv" with Polly Holliday!" Nervous about working with someone of (sitcom and theater veteran) Holliday's caliber, Balaski went into overdrive and wrote 14 scenes in one night. "Joe read the first one, said it was fine, sent it to Polly to add her input and that's what we filmed."

Balaski is surprised that her Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) scene is even on the DVD version of the film. "It was supposed to be a theatrical thing. The audience was supposed to believe the film was breaking down and look over their shoulders at the projection booth. It was supposed to be like the Gremlins were taking over the projection booth of the theater. I don't know how that can work in someone's home."

Perhaps Belinda\rquote s proudest moment in a Joe Dante film is her contribution to Amazon Women on the Moon (1987). Once again, she was in scripting mode as she and Robert Picardo wrote their opening scene for a funeral home skit. Nervous about working with comedians like Steve Allen and Rip Taylor, in the funeral roast segment that followed, she, also, added her own "Thank you, Merv!" to gain some control from Allen who introduced her. She was nervous about adding this since Dante was filming, non-stop, with three cameras. Things went so well, though, that they kept adding jokes to her routine.

Balaski continued to work with Dante throughout the 90\rquote s in projects such as his "most personal project" Matinee where he was "truly beginning to find his voice"e and his TV productions such as Eerie, Indiana and Runaway Daughters. She, also, continued her legendary run of television episodics including Baywatch, F.B.I.: The Untold Stories and Father Dowling Mysteries. In fact, she has discovered that much of her fan mail has come from people who remember her not only from her films but from her guest starring roles on Simon and Simon, Vegas, and Charlie's Angels where she played Sue Cantrell, the lounge singer who never sang. "I would have," she says, " but that was never part of the deal!" Some of her personal favorites are Mrs. R's Daughter with Cloris Leachman, Proud Men with Peter Strauss and Charlton Heston, Death Scream (in which she played the title role) and two Emmy Award winning After School Specials; The Runaway and Are You My Mother?

In 1995, Belinda received a surprise as she was called into a meeting with "film buf" Paul Chart. It was for his bizarre road film American Perfekt\. "He knew my career better than I did. I left so charmed I would have paid to work for him!" She joined an incredible cast including Amanda Plummer, Fairuza Balk, Robert Forster and David Thewlis to bring Chart's story to life.

In recent years, Balaski has devoted her time to running BB's Kid's Acting School and raising her beautiful daughter. She has always been drawn to children and when speaking of her co-stars made special note of Shannon Collins, the "beautiful blonde girl" she worked with in Piranha. "I just had a great time with her. I have always been drawn to children and they have always been drawn to me." Encouraged by a friend, Belinda began by teaching one class and eventually was running her own program.

Now, as her daughter finishes college, she has had headshots printed for the first time in years and is planning to start auditioning again. Fascinated by performers like Carol Lynley (Bunny Lake is Missing) and Tuesday Weld (Pretty Poison) , she is hoping more young directors like Chart might be interested in using her in thrillers of a more psychological bent.

She is, also, in the process of considering doing several books. One would focus on her movie work in the 70's and 80's. Another would be a book of scenes she's been writing over the years for her classes. She is also considering publishing a photography book based around the series of benefit concerts that she shot in the 70's and 80's, complemented by a book of sunsets & waterfalls from places she\rquote s hiked. This busy lady also has several scripts in the works that she claims are "rising from the depths of my computer". Of course, all would be welcomed by her loyal fans. Fans this generous, soulful woman truly deserves.