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Why The Projectionist From American Horror Stories: Drive In Looks So Familiar

"American Horror Stories: Drive In," the third episode of FX on Hulu's "American Horror Story" spin-off anthology, is a loving tribute to horror cinema history. It's packed full of references to classic movies and notable people and events, from William Castle's "The Tingler" to the terrifying subliminal images in "The Exorcist," and nostalgic for the experience of going to the drive-in theater –- even though things go very wrong at this particular drive-in.

The episode revolves around a supposedly cursed movie called "Rabbit Rabbit," which had one screening in 1986 that seemingly caused everyone who saw the movie to turn into a homicidal maniac. The movie is getting a special one-night-only revival screening at the local drive-in, and a young man named Chad (Rhenzy Feliz) gets tickets to take his girlfriend Kelley (Madison Bailey), hoping that the movie will bring them closer together through fear. He gets more fear than he bargained for when it turns out the curse is real.

In keeping with the episode's reverence for horror history, one of its roles is filled by a bona fide scream queen. The seen-it-all projectionist at the drive-in is played by horror legend Adrienne Barbeau. Here's where you've seen her before.

Adrienne Barbeau made her TV debut back in '72

Barbeau first came to prominence in the 1970s on the sitcom "Maude," a spin-off of the groundbreaking series "All in the Family." Barbeau plays Carol Traynor, the daughter of Bea Arthur's title character, Maude Findlay. Carol is a young divorcée with a son named Phillip. They live with Maude and her fourth husband, Walter Findlay (Bill Macy). Carol is a liberated woman who is not afraid to speak her mind, which often brings her into conflict with her mother, who also is not afraid to speak her mind. Barbeau was a cast member on the show for the entirety of its run from 1972 to 1978.

Barbeau has spoken fondly of her time working with Bea Arthur, the legendary comic actress who also starred in "The Golden Girls." "She was fantastic and, you know, I realized years later how much I took it for granted because it was my first experience on television," Barbeau told Dread Central. "I just assumed that everyone was as giving as she was, as professional as she was, that everyone who was doing a TV show showed up knowing their lines and showed up on time and was willing to say to the writers, 'I think this line was funnier if Adie had said it or Conrad had said it or Bill had said it.' I mean, she was just the best, she was the best, very funny."

She became a horror icon in 1980

After her time on "Maude," Barbeau's career was redefined when she took a lead role in her then-husband John Carpenter's 1980 film "The Fog," which was her first film appearance. She plays Stevie Wayne, a radio DJ who broadcasts from an old lighthouse. Her town comes under attack from the vengeful spirits of sailors who were murdered by the town's founders one hundred years earlier, and she has to help broadcast warnings to others and fight the ghosts off. Most of her scenes take place in the lighthouse, including her climactic battle with the revenants.

In a 1980 interview with Roger Ebert, Barbeau said that after "Maude," she wanted to avoid being typecast as a comedic actress, and she hoped "The Fog" would help people see her as more versatile. The good news is that it worked in helping her stop being thought of as primarily a comic actress. The bad news is that it made her almost exclusively thought of as a horror actress –- which isn't actually particularly bad news at all, because she's an icon, and how many people can say that?

She worked with Carpenter, one of the greatest horror, action, and sci-fi directors of all time, on a few occasions over the course of their marriage (they split in 1984), appearing in his films "Escape from New York" and "The Thing," in the latter as the voice of a computer.

Barbeau escaped from New York

"Escape from New York" came out in 1981. The action classic is set in a postapocalyptic Manhattan that has been turned into a prison colony and stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a criminal who gets enlisted to rescue the President from kidnappers. Barbeau plays Maggie, a hardened, vengeful prisoner who helps Snake on his mission.

Maggie was a female action hero at a time when female action heroes were very rare, but Barbeau didn't think of her as a trailblazing character when making the film, she recently told Variety in an interview commemorating the film's 40th anniversary.

"I never thought of her that way," Barbeau said. "I first worked with John on the TV movie 'Someone's Watching Me' in 1978, so I knew from the beginning that the type of women's roles he wrote were the Howard Hawks women, as he called them. They were the kind of characters Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn often played. Strong, assertive, take-no-prisoners types of women, so it never crossed my mind that Maggie was unique. But then again, I've always played strong women, whether on television, in movies, or on stage" (Barbeau originated the role of Rizzo in "Grease" on Broadway, which earned her a Tony nomination in 1972).

She is a creepy legend

The movie that solidified Barbeau's status as a scream queen forever was 1982's "Creepshow," the cult favorite anthology film collaboration between horror legends George Romero and Stephen King. Barbeau appears in the segment "The Crate" as Wilma, the nagging wife of a professor named Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook), who uses the monster in the titular mysterious wooden box under the stairs to get rid of her. Unwinnable describes her as an unsung and unintentional feminist hero.

"I guess my favorite memory was just a general memory of getting to meet George and his wife at the time, Christine Romero, and falling in love with them," Barbeau told Daily Dead about what she remembers about working on "Creepshow." "I was surprised to learn he was not that much older than I was, because George was like my dad. He was just such a great teddy bear of a man and I just loved him. What do I remember from the specific filming? Well, I fell in love with Pittsburgh, too. We shot it there, and I just had a great time."

She made a cameo appearance in the first season of Shudder's "Creepshow" anthology series revival, paying tribute to her legacy.