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Linnea Quigley
Davenport native Linnea Quigley overcame her shyness in high school to become the “queen of scream.”

Linnea Quigley laughs to think that an oh-so-shy Bettendorf High School girl could turn into a high-decibel, screaming, flesh-baring B-movie horror queen.

"I was so shy," recalls Quigley, who attended Garfield Elementary and Sudlow Middle schools in her native Davenport. "I didn't move my mouth, didn't sing in glee club or anything like that, didn't do any plays. I was terribly, terribly shy."

But that all changed when Barbara Linnea Quigley (known as Barb while she lived in the Quad-Cities) moved to Los Angeles shortly after her high school graduation in 1976, when her father - Dr. William Quigley, former dean of education and executive vice president at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport - left to take over the school's California campus, taking his wife Dorothy and their only child with him.

"The bright lights of Hollywood was a major shock," she said in a telephone interview from Florida, where she's lived for the past several years.

Quigley reinvented herself, working at Jack LaLanne's health spa and meeting models who dabbled in movies by doing work as extras.

"When you're in an environment where everybody sees you in a certain way, you act in a certain way," she said of her metamorphosis. "I just got brave and did it."

She began auditioning for movies, and for casting directors.

"They say every actor lies on their resume, but I really had to lie on my resume," she said.

Quigley found she had a talent that fit well into horror movies.

"I was able to scream real well since I practiced with my girlfriends when were younger, watching the late-night horror (movies) and those shows," she recalled. "Just in the privacy of our own homes, we were pretending we were monsters and victims and things."

Since 1976, according to the Internet Movie Database, or IMDB, she has made more than 100 films and DVDs, some with titles such as "Zombiegeddon," "Corpses Are Forever," "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" and "Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama."

But her highest-profile role, and commercially most successful movie, was "Return of the Living Dead," which was released 25 years ago this Halloween. It was a major-studio zombie movie in which she played Trash, a punk-rocker whose most famous scene had her doing a striptease in a cemetery.

"I loved that part," she said. "It was a fun, unlike-me part and I loved it."

Her long, blonde hair gave way to a short, red, punky ‘do.

Joe Bob Briggs, a film critic best known for his expertise in monster and zombie movies, calls "Return" one of the Top 10 cult hits of the ‘80s, as well as "one of the greatest face-eating, guts-spewers of all time" and "the standard by which all zombie comedies are judged."

Briggs, in introductions and interviews with Quigley on the former TNT cable series "MonsterVision," refers to Quigley's character as a "man-killing, demon-possessed punk goddess" and calls the actress "the No. 1 scream queen in the world."

Quigley said "Return of the Living Dead" - which was re-released on Blu-Ray disc last month - gave her the biggest break of her career.

"People suddenly took notice, and they looked so, so differently at me," she said.

She also learned and performed with the Groundlings, a famous improvisation troupe in L.A., alongside future stars who included Will Ferrell.

Her roles changed as well.

"I went from being the victim to the one who was being the aggressor," Quigley said. "Most of the roles I get today are that sort of thing.

"When you're the victim, you get killed off and you're not the strong woman. That was a major thing to change to that," she added.

With more than 30 years onscreen, Quigley has seen the types of roles she plays change in another way.

"I've gone through the range from the 16-year-old (character) to now playing a grandmother, which is really weird," the 52-year-old said. "It took me back a little. The mother (role) was hard enough."

Quigley said she enjoys the zombie movies for the tongue-in-cheek way they're performed.

"Most of them are comedy, with horror, like ‘Return of the Living Dead,' not just gore and horror," she said.

Shooting low-budget movies is a different world, she said, with no trailers for the performers and no limits on work time that would end a day any too quickly.

"It's fun to do," she said. "It's like a family working together for a while. We all become real close and you get to play these fun characters."

It also brings uncertainty, she said, including a job offer that fell through recently.

"They couldn't come through with the money" to pay her, she said. "That happens. Sometimes it comes down to the wire and then something can happen."

 

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