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Requiem for a Cheerleader... The Passing of Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith

Folks, Harry here… I don’t expect many of you to understand the sadness I have over the passing of Rainbeaux Smith. For most of you she has a name you’ve never heard, a face you’ve never seen. She was never a star in the film sense of things, more of a satellite of the B film world.

I first knew Rainbeaux’s face from Brian DePalma’s wonderful cult Rock Musical PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE… She was the vacant pleasure eyed groupie in the audition bed of SWAN. She was lovely, blonde and simply an angel. There was a quality about her that always made her stand out from the other girls on that bed.

Next I saw her in CHEECH & CHONG’S UP IN SMOKE and NICE DREAMS as the laughing crazed lady from that first film and as another teeny tiny part in the other. Just a pretty face in a sea of hilarity.

Then in 1998, Quentin Tarantino had that film festival of his at the Dobie Theater here in Austin. On August 5th – “POMPOMS GONE AWRY” night commenced. Everybody I knew at the screening was excited to experience what we all called “Cheerleader Night”. A night of pure unadulterated Cheerleading Exploitation. I also knew nobody in the theater that had seen SWINGING CHEERLEADERS or REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS. We simply did not know what we were in for. He was wearing a green and white t-shirt with a globe-headed man wearing a business suit… a rather fun and culty looking outfit ending in a pair of blue Nikes. I remember what he said as though it were yesterday (albeit with the aide of Quint’s transcriptions of that night) how he introduced that audience of 200 or so to the glory that was Rainbeaux Smith:

“What Pam Grier was to Blaxploitation movies, what Bruce Lee was to Kung Fu movies, what Burt Reynolds was to Good Ol' Boy movies, Rainbeaux Smith was to Cheerleader movies. She is a very unique presence in movies. She truly has, without trying whatsoever, a Marilyn Monroe quality. She doesn't look like Marilyn Monroe at all, she just has that kind of vacantness. She's not so much acting as she is existing. Imagine Marilyn Monroe as kind of a '70s hippie junky then you kind of have Rainbeaux Smith.”

Since that glorious night of transcendent joy and pure happiness, I have explored and sought out the other work of Rainbeaux Smith… I own her performance in the bizarre film, LASERBLAST – yeah the one with those stop-motion David Allen animated shell-less turtles! I have it in 16mm, the only celluloid proof I have of her easy sensuality.

Then there’s all those softcore late seventies films that she ruled. SINDERELLA, GAME SHOW MODELS, SLUMBER PARTY ’57, THE POM POM GIRLS and of course VIDEO VIXENS where she played Twinkle Twat! The greatest sex name in film history.

In 1974 though she was quite wonderful in Jonathan Demme’s CAGED HEAT, technically… for me, his best film. CAGED HEAT is a wonderful, amazing Women in Prison film, and Rainbeaux Smith shines as a prisoner serving life for killing a man that was raping her friend. Problem was, the asshole was a Senator’s son and they hit her with 1st Degree Murder. She plays the role as a hopeless no-way out lady that is doomed to a long haul. She’s not looking for trouble, but the whole film her helpless nature really truly makes one feel protective of her. She’s great. Especially when she discovers what the doctor does at the clinic. She had a little lost girl quality that felt honest and real. Her real life was filled with tragedy and heart ache. She fell hard into drugs, spent two sessions in prison and was rumored to pop up in Australian Porn. Truly a case of another talent eaten up by the machine that attracts so many beautiful women, but really doesn’t honestly care about many of them.

Rainbeaux had the sort face that made you want good things for her. She was never up for any awards for performance. She never made a terribly big splash in film. However, if she caught your eye, held your gaze for even a minute, she stayed with ya. Tonight I watched a double feature of REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS and CAGED HEAT. There’s a handful of people I know in this world that I can talk to about Rainbeaux, I’m sure tomorrow… I’ll have a handful of those conversations.

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 3, 2002, 5:20 a.m. CST

    australian porn? that's the worst kind!

    by tommy5tone

    hey, i live down under, so i can say that. ya know, i wouldn't know rainbeaux smith if she wandered nude through the set of 'stuart little 3', but i remember reading her name during my exhaustive research into '70s B-flicks and thinking "now that's a cool-sounding hippie handle". since then, she's kinda been the embodiment of one cool-ass era, if you ask me. hope she's swimming nude in an endless 1974 malibu summer of the lord, where the reefer is plentiful, the red wine flowing and the sex casual, friendly and no-questions-asked - RIP cheryl.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 7:26 a.m. CST

    Love's labor lost

    by steerpoke

    She was a tragic beauty and will be missed.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 8:12 a.m. CST

    What happened to her?

    by Gabesz

    I saw her in Massacre At Central Hugh. She was a real beauty. Wish she had a happy life.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Shame on you Harry, ...

    by Otter

    ...for not including any pictures of the beautiful Miss Smith; it's the LEAST you could have done as a proper tribute to this lovely lady.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 12:29 p.m. CST

    A snapper in the kingdom?

    by Lance Turk

    Best porno ever.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Father Geek remembers Rainbeaux ...

    by fathergeek

    Rainbeaux Smith was to me the QUEEN of the Drive-in theater... in the closing days of that wonderful institution. Caged Heat and all those wonderful Cheerleading flicks... great fun cinema. She crossed over into all the other Drive-In genres as well: Blaxplotation's epic DRUM for one; Horror's PARASITE, MASSACRE @ CENTRAL HIGH, and THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN; the CHEECH & CHONG comedies; PHANTHOM OF THE PARADISE... Yeah, Rainbeaux Smith simply ruled the Outdoor Cinema in the late 70's and early 80's... but she DID venture into a few "A" list films from time to time too... 80's MELVIN & HOWARD, and 75's great nuevo noir FAREWELL MY LOVELY with Robert Mitchum are a couple. She didn't deserve to be chewed-up by the Tinseltown meat-grinder that consumes sooooo many dreamy eyed starlets, but then who does. Rest easy Rainbeaux... you've earned it.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 1:58 p.m. CST

    I guess she was happiest on screen ...

    by Creamery Butter

    Rainbeaux Smith was amazing, and Pom Pom Girls is a sublime wonder. I found an obit written by a friend of hers, from http://mhvf.net/forum/cult/posts/15168.html Cheryl Smith was born on June 6, 1955, in Los Angeles. Her mother was also an entertainer and, following the divorce of her parents when she was 7 or 8, she moved with her Mom to an apartment in Hollywood, just south of Sunset Boulevard and east of La Brea. As such, she literally grew up as a child of the Sunset Strip. She hung out at the famed music clubs of the era, playing drums with several groups and noted performers, including Joan Jett. In fact, her stage name -- Rainbeaux -- was derived from (and reportedly given to her by the staff at) the famous Rainbow Room because of her constant presence there. Through contacts made at the club, she made the jump from the Sunset scene into films, appearing in her first movie in 1971 when she was just 15. She went on to appear in more than 30 movies, most of which are listed below, attaining cult stardom for her camp portrayals in several cheerleader, horror and women-in-prison films. (She was also a talented artist and painter, later earning money while in prison by designing elaborate tattoos for fellow inmates.) Her relationship with a well-known musician (reportedly a member of Eric Burden & the Animals) led to the birth of a son, Justin, in early 1976 -- as well as a severe heroin addiction, which she battled for the remainder of her life. Her drug problems eventually ended her career, left her literally living on the streets near LA's famed MacArthur Park, prompted two prison terms and resulted in the development of hepatitis, complications of which led to her death on October 25, 2002.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 2:07 p.m. CST

    What is really sad is...

    by Aquafresh

    ... that when Katryn (sp)? Cartlidge died suddenly a few weeks ago, there was nothing about it on this site. Now there was a real screen prescence. But anyway, I do love Phantom of the Paradise, but honestly can't recall the person in question. May she rest in peace.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Additional information

    by bongjuice

    Can be found at http://www.mhvf.net/forum/cult/posts/15168.html

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Lemora, Lady Dracula

    by sinople

    RIP Rainbeaux. I will always remember you as that singing angel in Lemora.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 3:12 p.m. CST

    H.O.T.S III (aka Revenge of the Cheerleaders)

    by deathwish6

    I live in the U.K and for some time have had the pleasure to obtain every copy of H.O.T.S 3 (aka Revenge of the Cheerleaders) I can find. Stars alongside a Young David Hasslehof (pre Knight rider). It is truly one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Haslehof plays a character called Bonner, and does the funniest dance you'll ever see. This film is available from every boot sale in the land, and plenty of cahrity shops to. As for she's great in this and H.O.T.S 2 (both 2 & 3 are nothing to do with the original H.O.T.S film, just renamed cheerleader films).

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 3:33 p.m. CST

    Photo?

    by Gillam50

    Wht can't you post a pic. of these obscure people so we who are not anal retentive can know who you are peaching about!!!!

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 7:05 p.m. CST

    Cheryl....

    by delicreep

    How sad. I was recently hoping she was going to pop in a film or two in the near future. I remember combing the net for information on Ms. Smith, finding very little with the exception of a bit about how she retured early for health reasons (drugs and the resultant hep C). Hopefully, more information about her life will surface over the next few weeks. For me, her ultimate role was Lila Lee in Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural. Her absolutely angelic--and frankly fuckable--presence elevated the film, for the simple fact that such characteristics were exactly what the character required. Lemora is one of the best vampire films ever made, a perfect blend of sexual awakening and horror. Without Cheryl, it would have been a lesser film. Not much else to say, really. If there's a heaven, it might just have its first true angel.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 8:32 p.m. CST

    I think I speak for all of us here when I say...

    by MyNameDoesn'tFit

    ...what? No mention of her swirling ass? Nice tribute, anyway.

  • Nov. 3, 2002, 8:58 p.m. CST

    Not to be rude.....

    by Lady_Hyde

    .....but I felt kinda ill thinking about that "Girl on Girl" scene in POTP. (Shudder) Anyway, it's a tragedy when someone dies and may both rest in peace. (I loved "Laugh-In" as well.)

  • Nov. 4, 2002, 12:19 a.m. CST

    Farewell to an angel

    by deadboy1313

    I remember the first movie I saw her in.....the Incredible Melting Man. She lit up the screen and made the movie worthwhile. I haven't seen many of her other movies, but hopefully I'll be able to find some of them. She was a truly beautiful woman and was one of the first classic B-movie scream queens.

  • Nov. 4, 2002, 4:09 a.m. CST

    Some pics of Ms. Smith

    by travisc

    Articles with some pictures. http://www.carfax-abbey.com/ActorSearchResults.cfm?ActorVar=774 http://www.offoffoff.com/film/2001/lemora.php3 http://www.thelurker.com/features/lemora.htm

  • Nov. 4, 2002, 4:11 a.m. CST

    Re: Some pics

    by travisc

    I was really hoping for better formatting than that. Sorry.

  • Nov. 9, 2002, 2:33 p.m. CST

    Cheryl Smith tribute

    by oldgeezer

    You can find a tribute to Rainbeaux at: http://einsiders.com/features/columns/thesaddeathofcherylsmith.php

  • Dec. 20, 2002, 6:55 p.m. CST

    Goodbye Cheryl

    by finvarra

    I first remember seeing Cheryl in Revenge of the Cheerleaders (in which her character was noticably pregnant--I've always assumed she really was). Those who comment on her as "not a good actress" really miss the point--she was a presence--enigmatic, ethereal, almost ghostly at times. She is, as others have commented, at her best in Lemora a Child's Tale of the Supernatural (the preferred title I believe), easily the best barely-known vampire ever made, and close to the best vampire ever made period. In Lemora she perfectly projects a persona of naive innocence, really putting the kabash on the "bad actress" accusations (in how many other films was she really seriously called upon to "act" anyway?--more's the pity). I am more than a little saddened to learn of her passing, and I'm sure those who will remember her will be more than a "handful", even if Lenard Maltin has no idea who she is.