I was born Barbara Ann Kish in Ringgold, Georgia, a small charming southern town that borders Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our tiny town has a lot of Civil War history and is also famous for its Red Brick Court House where young lovers were often discreetly married, including yours truly. Ringgold is a place where the hustle and bustle of city life dissolve into a serene peace of mind, a place where everyone knows their neighbor… a town not forgotten, but a town where time is trapped in a bottle.
Click to View More Personal pictures loved the farm life on my grandfather's farm, the animals, and delicious vegetable gardens and grapevines. Sadly, my mother moved us children, six in total, to Miami, Florida, when I was almost five. More than that, it was traumatic. I missed the farm, my animals, my friends, and my granny's wonderful cooking. I never felt like I had a home after that, not until "Water Lee" in Water Mill, Long Island, but that is another story…The love I felt for the farm animals taught me to love all animals equally. I have made it my life's passion to help rescue and find homes for the homeless cats that run free in the Los Angeles area.
I grew up in several Baptist Children and foster homes. My favorite residence was with Reverend Luther and Mary Keyes, who wanted to adopt me, but my mother would not allow it… she loved me. Even though she was not able to care for us children, she never gave us up. Reverend Luther was the only father figure I can remember. He was the pastor of Miami's largest Baptist church and a great help to my mother getting us into the Baptist-sponsored children's home system. From time to time, my mother would get married and reclaim us, but it never worked out, and we were sent to new foster homes.
I spent my summers as a teen in Tennessee. While visiting my sister Jean, who was married and living in Chattanooga, I met my future husband, 15, I was a child bride. He was a Marine stationed in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs. I lived with his parents, a wonderful religious family, for two years, until my husband was released from the Marine Corps. Our son was born at age 17, at 19 we moved to Los Angeles and were soon divorced. I settled into a single parent living with my two-year-old son, Gerry. I stayed in Los Angeles – just my son and me – and I worked hard to survive. I had no family, no friends, and no support… it was a long hard road getting there. I have no regrets. I'm proud of myself for making it against all odds…it was the beginning of my new life.
Click to View More Modeling Pictures It was hard being a single mother at 19, but I was blessed to have worked for a doctor who taught me everything I needed to know to be a doctor's assistant. One day a co-worker asked if I wanted to go to a popular Beverly Hills nightclub called The Other Place. It was my first time in a club – I hadn't ever had a drink. It was exciting, and it changed my life. The lead singer in the band performing at the club that night, Mark Devlin, took an interest in me and soon started dating. Mark thought I should be modeling, so he had professional pictures taken of me, which led to a career shift,… another life-altering change.
My first modeling job was for Kodak Film; this started my modeling career in print, TV commercials, and films. I later moved to New York City and signed with the famous Ford Modeling Agency. I lived there for two years, but I missed LA and the sunny weather.
I joined the Ashley Famous Agency, which is better known today as ICM – International Creative Management. My agent was the legendary agent Dick Clayton, well known for his roster of movie star clients. Through Dick and Ashley Famous, I appeared in approximately 50 commercials with several winning awards; featured in small TV parts then later co-starred in major movies. I was a semi-regular actress in a TV series with David Jansen "Harry O" as his sexy bikini-clad neighbor next door running in and out of his life. The TV series was shot in Malibu in a small beach shack. David was a lot of fun, and we played a lot of backgammon in between scenes; I still have that backgammon board and continue to play the game today. David taught me a lot, as did Steve McQueen, my Junior Bonner co-star. Both actors never appeared to be acting... masters of the art.
French director, Roger Vadim, known for discovering Brigitte Bardot and later marrying Jane Fonda, spotted me walking on the beaches of Malibu. He approached me for a part in the movie he was casting and filming in LA called Pretty Maids All in a Row. Roger cast me to play Rock Hudson's wife, Jean. I loved working with Rock, who was a true gentleman and the kindest of all actors. He shared of himself and also showed patience with me, an ingenue. Vadim took me to Paris, where he lived like a rock star in his country; we were stopped constantly for his autograph. Vadim offered me a part in his next movie, Don Juan (If Don Juan Were a Woman) – starring Brigitte Bardot. I loved Paris but missed the US and my boyfriend, Jim Aubrey, president of MGM Studios, so I passed on the part. In hindsight, I have often wondered if I had made the right choice. When the movie was a flop, it made me feel a little better. The experience, however, might have been great – I will always wonder.
Click to View More Movie Pictures My favorite movie was Junior Bonner, which starred Steve McQueen, the hottest male movie star. Playing his leading lady in the movie was exciting, and an unforgettable experience was working with the film's director, bad-boy Sam Peckinpah. I met Steve during the casting for the movie. I was not Sam's first choice but did win the part of "Charmagne" through good fortune. The actress chosen for the part had to decline after an illness, and Steve fought for me to win that part. We were having an affair documented in my book The King, McQueen and the Love Machine, co-written with author Marshall Terrill, well known for his celebrity biographies. The rest of that saga is history, documented in my book and a first-of-its-kind audiobook. Both are featured and available on Amazon.com. It was during this time that my boyfriend Jim Aubrey introduced me to Elvis Presley as MGM Studios was producing a feature film about him, the seminal documentary Elvis, That's the Way it Is. This was a monumental time in my development as a human being, knowing very little about sophistication and being exposed to life beyond the velvet rope. I was, however, a quick study. I learned fast that it was either keep up or get left behind… As glamorous as this time was in my life with dating three famous exciting men, it was not the most exciting time for me – those years came later when I was married to Joe Lewis, and Peter Schmidt but that, is another story.
Click to View More Vampirella Pictures One of the most exciting times and events in my acting/modeling life was being cast to play "Vampirella" for Hammer Films of England. Vampirella was a comic book character owned by Jim Warren, Harris Comics, and published in NYC. This was a dream come true for me… to be cast in any Hammer film was beyond my comprehension. I grew up adoring Dracula, vampires, and Dr. Van Helsing, who put Dracula back in his grave. Peter Cushing, a British actor and one of the finest ever to play in Hammer Films, is a British legend; he was my hero. Peter was cast to play "Pendragon," Vampirella's sidekick. I was living my dream but soon that dream dissolved into reality, the real world. After a worldwide search held by Hammer Films and Michael Carreras to find Vampirella, Michael took me to NYC, where we attended one of the Famous Monster Conventions where Vampirella was presented full-body costume. It was the first time a live person was shown wearing the tiny famous red costume. The audience went wild. I had a blast sharing the costume and my body, which Warren Comics immortalized on eight of its Vampirella covers, to the young audience and Vampirella fans. Due to many reasons, the movie never happened. It broke my heart; the six picture deal was shattered… I moved back to LA. My dreams of playing Vampirella were now gone and reality, again, set in. I was tired of the ups and downs and heartaches of the business. Many people have suffered the same feelings.
In 1973 I met Karate Champion, Joe Lewis, through our then acting agent, Dick Clayton, when he took me to see Joe fight for the world heavy-weight karate championship. Joe and I were married on the cliffs of Canyon DeChelly, on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Chin Le, AZ - July, 25, 1975. Joe was the romantic love of my life but we were young, and Hollywood took its toll on our marriage. We did remain friends until his death. There's not a day that goes by I don't think of Joe. He was a country boy at heart as I am a country girl at heart.
I retired in 1979 from acting/Hollywood, moved to NYC and, 1984 married the lawyer who represented me in the lawsuit against Warren Comics.
I've modeled around the world; appeared on many magazine covers, starred in major movies and on TV, and appeared in two celebrity Playboy issues. After 17 years as Assistant Photo Editor, I loved being a part of Playboy Enterprises Inc.
Our lives are relatively short. What we put into this world, we will receive in kind. I see that from living it. The great lesson I have learned is that we are all born to suffer, to feel happiness, but it is how we deal and share with others and God's creatures on this planet that makes us the person we are. I hope I make a difference in others' lives. I believe that I am a good person who loves life and shares what I can with anyone who has an open heart and loves life.
My son passed in 1994; I think of him every day. But I know he is with me, and I am confident that one day I will see him again. I've remarried 2 years ago, moved to Florida where I grew up mostly. And, if I can live my remaining years with Simplicity and Humility I'm blessed.
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