When did you first learn that Warner Brothers filed a lawsuit against Girdler and AIP? What was your reaction to the suit?
I don't remember when I first learned about the lawsuit. I believe it was during the time I started writing my first draft of Inside Black Hollywood. In some ways it was a very frustrating time for me. I had broken up with Monte Kay because he didn't want me to write Inside Black Hollywood. Perhaps I read about the lawsuit in The Hollywood Reporter or Variety. However, I never knew William Girdler was the one involved in the lawsuit.
I don't remember who told me that Warner Brothers won the lawsuit. That Sam Arkoff didn't care because he had already made a ton of money off of Abby. Also, that no one knew why Sam Arkoff didn't fight the Warner Brothers lawsuit.
I believe Linda Blair and The Exorcist people wanted to be the leader of the possession films. Abby was fierce competition.
You've said that Abby is your favorite performance. How did you envision the character of Abby?
Abby gave me the opportunity to play three different characters. An educated Baptist minister's wife, a liberated sex-craving woman, and an egotistical demon.
I envisioned "Abby" the way I played her. Actually, I partied a wee bit while I was in Louisville - so it was easy for me to play the bar scene.
In fact, someone working with William Girdler took me to an after-hours place - like a speakeasy. The interesting thing that night was to watch the intimacy of black and white patrons in the wee hours of the morning.
Yet during the day, it was 1974 Bible Belt Louisville with its taboo racial lines. I always believed that's why they loved Lana Turner and Juanita Moore in Imitation of Life so much. The Louisville natives sneaked around - perhaps that's why African American people are different shades of black.
(CLICK HERE to see Abby kick Austin Stoker's ass in a funky Louisville bar. Mpeg movie: 670 KB.)
Some young critics complain that Abby is riddled with offensive racial stereotypes. What's your take?
Abby racial stereotypes?? Impossible. Abby is a fun 1970s black film! It's no more racially stereotyped than Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel in I Love Lucy. Or the 1970s All In The Family.
Were you pleased to see Abby hit it big at the box office? What do you think of the movie's new cult popularity?
I was overwhelmed with joy about the mega success of Abby. I was dating Monte Kay. When I walked into his bedroom quarters of his Hollywood Hills mansion (I had just arrived from New Orleans), Monte had this wonderful smile on his face. He hugged me warmly and said softly, "You did it - you won big time." We celebrated Abby with our own special party for us.
I absolutely love Abby. I'm so glad she has found a home in France as well as the US. Abby has a Lazarus soul. Now that Abby has been resurrected, she can enjoy a wide international audience again. I would love to see Abby re-released in video stores everywhere.
It's amazing that it took the Europeans and "hippie" white Americans to save the Blues.
It's truly amazing that the Europeans - and wonderful people like yourself - are saving Abby.
Is anyone interested in adding Carol Speed and Patricia Breen comments to Abby and re-releasing it? There's definitely an audience. Like I said, Abby has a Lazarus soul.
Hmmm ... that sounds like a SMASHING idea!!!