paul kyriazi, author, feature film director, motivational speaker.

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Directing Barbara Leigh

Paul Kyriazi directs Barbara Leigh

The King's and McQueen's Girlfriend

There is a scene in my audio-book Rock Star Rising that I had to cast. In a flashback, a lead character, Jimmy goes to Las Vegas to see Elvis on stage. He inadvertently gets on the customized bus for another rock star named Shane. The bus starts up and heads for Las Angeles with a full blown party going on. One of the passengers, Liz a sexy and free woman, talks with Jimmy and then gets her and Jimmy into a bizarre situation. Okay, now how do I cast this? With the other parts, even though this is an audio-book and you can't see them, I wanted to have the listener still relate to the image of the person. For example, James Darren playing the rock star Shane. George Chakiris, playing a Puerto Rican gangster. Russ Tamblyn, a youthful handsome wise-cracker in West Side Story and The Haunting, playing the same in this story. And so on.

So to play the part of Liz, the sexy rock 'n roll party girl, who comes to Vegas with a one rock star to see another, Elvis, I choose Barbara Leigh. And here's why: Barbara started off making 50 TV commercials and then became a regular on the Harry O series starring David Jansen. Next came the role of Rock Hudson's wife in Pretty Maids All in a Row. During the casting for Sam Pechinpah's Jr. Bonner, Barbara began dating Steve McQueen, while still dating the head of MGM studios, Jim Aubrey. Jacqueline Susanne's novel, The Love Machine, and the film adapted from it, were based on Aubrey's life. Aubrey took her to see Elvis in Vegas and shortly after, she started dating Elvis as well.

All of this is documented in her book, The King, McQeen, and the Love Machine. I had read her book and found it to be in the top four autobiographies I've ever read. Those being the ones by Kirk Douglas, Sidney Poitier, and Dezi Arnaz. So with a background like that, and still a favorite at celebrity shows because of being the original Vamperilla ever cast, (even though the six picture deal folded), who better to play the hip, wild, on the music scene Liz in the Rock Star Rising.

For her party scene on the rock star's bus, I recorded it with all the actors overlapping their voices, giving it a live "just happening" feel to it. It took a couple of takes to get into the flow of it, with Barbara volunteering to pitch the actor who suddenly and surprisingly gets hit with a needle full of heroin. His surprise yells on every take sounded completely realistic and painful. But he didn't look like he minded during the 4 takes. As the saying goes, "A pinch from Barbara Leigh is better than a kiss from Bruce Lee".

Barbara was great and fun to work with. I was lucky to get her in the project, as she leads a busy Hollywood life, working for Playboy magazine, entertaining fans at various movie and comic conventions,and involved in numerous charities such as Animal Rescue, the Star Light Foundation and The Aids Healthcare Foundation. If you like Hollywood stories, or are a fan of Steve McQueen's or Elvis', Barbara's autobiography should be on your list.


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