Wednesday’s Bookmobile Has The Story Of Claudia Jennings!
She was an Actress and Model who starred in some of the best “drive-in” movies of the 70’s – but as you will see from Wednesday’s Bookmobile, she was so much more than “Gator Bait.”
With the film “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” opening soon, this story seems appropriate – as it’s a REAL Hollywood tale of the 70’s.
Author Eric J. Karell tells the story of Claudia Jennings, who starred in classic cult films like “Deathsport”, and knew lots of Hollywood’s power elite – like the “King Of Late Night” Johnny Carson.
The best part is that Karell had complete access to Caludia’s family and friends, and the book is filled with candid stories of life as a Hollywood star in the 70’s – and you hear from many of her co-workers as well…it’s a terrific look at making it in Tinseltown…
Claudia Jennings started as a model – and soon was featured in Playboy, and she quickly became one of the “Queens Of Cult Cinema.”
While her roles included cult gems like “Deathsport”, she also acted in some of the best films of the 70’s, like “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.
Author Karell tells her story with candor and respect – highlighting her professional career achievements while not avoiding some of the more tumultuous aspects of her personal life.
I reached out to the Author and he sent me this note explaining why he wanted to tell her story:
“I wrote the book in order to dispel many of the misconceptions about her life and career. I was also concerned she and her legacy were being forgotten by both the movie going public and cult cineates.”
I’m glad he did, because the book is fascinating: extremely well written and researched, and much more than just her life story – it’s the story of Hollywood in the 70’s.
Among Claudia’s many films was this “B” movie classic:
“Gator Bait” was Jennings at her best. Written by Beverly Sebastian specifically for Claudia, the entire film was shot in ten days. As Karell writes in his book:
“Claudia shows off her physical skills nicely, perching on a tree branch, hopping silently through the bayou and, in a spectacular tour de force, driving a speed boat with her foot while blasting away with a shotgun.”
Talk about classic “drive-in” movie mayhem!
Jennings also starred in a number of other great exploitation films of the 70’s:
However, Jennings had a career that far surpassed drive-in action films. As Karell points out in the book:
“An often-overlooked aspect of Caludia’s resume is her work on television. She made frequent appearances on such shows as “The Brady Bunch”, “Cannon” and “The F.B.I.” It may not seem that important an achievement, but television has been the springboard for many future A-list Hollywood movie stars such as Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Will and scores of others.”
The book is a love story to Claudia Jennings, but it’s also candid – such as this story about Jennings’ appearance on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. Jennings had been involved with the Host years before, and the book tells what happened the morning after her appearance on the show to promote her new movie “Deathsport”:
“The doorbell rang, and a deliveryman had this huge gift box for Claudia. She tore it open and there were three hundred pairs of sexy panties from a shop called Trashy Lingerie. Inside was a note from Johnn Carson: ‘Thanks for doing the show. I love you, see you at the beach house later, as usual.'”
She was building a powerful resume across all kinds of entertainment – and then tragedy struck.
Just 29 years old, Jennings was killed in a car crash near Malibu…a shocking and sudden end to a great career – and fascinating woman.
The book is well worth reading – bravo to Author Eric J. Karell for keeping her legacy alive!
Here is a story I posted a few years back and looks more closely at her film career:
You can find the book on Amazon!
Categories: 70's Cinema, Action Films, Art, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Exploitation films, Film Fight Club, Great Films, Grindhouse, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Movies, Obscure Movies, Pop Culture, Revenge Movies, Talent/Celebrities