Saturday, March 31, 2012
Spotlight on Barbara Mills
As a well respected sexploitation actress, in 2010 Barbara Mills reflected on her history in adult pictures with an air of indifference and bemusement. She is best known for her exceptional thespian work in The Love Garden (1971), Blue Money (1972) and Gabriella, Gabriella first released in 1972.
Shortly after turning seventeen toward the late sixties Barbara left her home in Massachusetts and ventured to Venice Beach, California. Eventually, she established permanent roots there, along with her husband of more than forty years, Frank Mills. Drawn to its bohemian vibe and idiosyncratic lifestyle, Mills flourished in the relaxed beach community and continued to develop her artistic skills while accepting occasional work doing nude modeling and acting. Augmented by her long brunette mane and classic appeal, beautiful Barbara considered her employment in adult films a stepping stone that enabled her to pay the bills so she could focus on her primary love, painting.
At fifty-nine years old on December 15, 2010, Barbara Caron Mills passed away peacefully at her 'spa' home in Koh Samui surrounded by Frank and her loved ones. I interviewed Barbara in the summer of 2010 while she and Frank were visiting their daughter Carly in Venice, CA.
With beguiling charm, Barbara fondly reminisced about her life and years in adult entertainment and valued the charm of the era in which she worked. The following is a short excerpt from our interview which appears in Barbara's chapter in Golden Goddesses titled 'Eat, Read, Live.'
“Venice Beach has really always been an artistic community ever since its conception. Being that most of the streets were canals when they first built the city and then it was the Gay nineties and the Roaring twenties, and bathing beauties and muscle beaches started. It was crazy. There were a lot of poets: Ginsberg and Laura Lee Zanghetti lived down here and it evolved, but it has always stayed bohemian. So it’s a very comfortable place to live. It’s cold sometimes with the wind coming in off of the Pacific, but other than that, it’s a good place to be.”
“In the beginning, I worked at Woolworth’s behind the soda fountain. It was horrible. I was just a messed up kid and I knew I had to go back to Massachusetts. I told my mother I wanted to come back. She was worried about me even though she let me go and we decided I was going to go to hairdressing school, so that’s what I did.”
I was back at home until my mother died in March. At that point, things got crazy. My grandparents were too old to take care of us. We were very close to my grandparents [my mother’s parents]. My father’s parents died young, when I was a baby, so I never really got to know them. My aunt and uncle were almost at the point of being too old to take care of us at the time, so they hired a housekeeper.
“I met my husband Frank in 1969. Shortly after my mother died, I came out here and met him. He tried to meet me in Massachusetts; he was from Massachusetts too. He came back to Massachusetts to his brother’s high school reunion. Our mutual friend thought we’d be perfect together so Frank called me on the phone, and he sounded so pompous, you know. He did imbue me for a few years with ideas and some lofty intentions, but now he was in California trying to get into the film business. I didn’t want him to come to my dinky little town just to meet me. I ended up moving in next door to him three months later.
I looked at him and I said, ‘God damn, he looks like John Lennon.’
“Frank got me work and he got me an agent. One of his neighbors, I forget her name, got me into modeling. I did quite well strictly modeling – and then came the Sexploitation films. It all started when the United States was allowed to show X-rated films, which was around 1968; right when I started. Hal Guthu was my agent’s name. He was a sweetheart. The last time I actually saw Hal was in 1972.”
“I thought Chain Gang Women (1971) was really funny because it’s not my voice. They dubbed it. It was Christmas time and we had plans to go back to Massachusetts to visit our families so it has someone else’s voice and it’s really funny.”
“Actually, sometimes I can remember things from back then and sometimes I can’t. I didn’t willingly hold onto any memories. There are some things in my past where I say, ‘I’ve got to remember this and I do.’ It was a job, after all. It wasn’t a career move; it wasn’t an art form per se. It was a job and it paid well and it left time for living. I enjoyed the people. And it wasn’t sexual.
I wasn’t crazy – I was completely nude in my film appearances but no penetration, no genitalia and no oral sex. That would have been stupid. If you’re going to sell it, you might as well keep your anonymity. They never tried to get me to do more.”
“When I remember my former work in films, I believe we left behind a really free spirit. We weren’t condemned for what we did. We were sometimes greatly appreciated for our work. It was interesting. It was an innocent time, it wasn’t considered real.”