Adrienne Barbeau, star of ‘Maude,’ radiates at 77 after giving birth to twins at 51

More than 50 years since she played the sassy and brassy Rizzo in Broadway’s hit musical Grease, Adrienne Barbeau is still an in-demand actor, showing young Hollywood a few things about endurance.

Adrienne Barbeau, close-up; circa 1970; New York. (Photo by Art Zelin/Getty Images)

Barbeau, a native Californian, parlayed her stage beginnings as part of the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof (1968) with Bette Midler and Bea Arthur. After her impressive performance as Hodel, Barbeau returned to Broadway as part of the original cast of Grease, that 50 years later is still adored by both young and old audiences.

Connecting again with Hollywood legend Bea Arthur, as the title character, Barbeau played the glamorous divorced daughter of Maude, in the TV sitcom of the same name.

In her first TV role, Barbeau said she really looked up to Arthur, who was 86 when she died of lung cancer.

Adrienne Barbeau and John Carpenter circa 1980. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/IMAGES/Getty Images)

“Oh, I loved Bea,” said Barbeau about her TV mom. “I’d never done TV, so I took for granted how professional and giving she was….And there are still times when I hear Bea’s delivery coming out of my mouth. I learned so much about comedy from her.”

After Maude ended in 1978, Barbeau appeared in several TV shows, like Eight is Enough, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

Holding a portfolio that includes 25 theater productions and more than 450 screen roles, including a recurring role on HBO’s Emmy-winning series Carnivale (2003 to 2005), and on the soap opera General Hospital (2010 to 2011), Barbeau recently said she doesn’t think of herself in “terms of fame.”

“Sometimes when I’m calling the cable company, I hope the scheduler will recognize my name so I won’t have to wait a week to get my WiFi fixed,” Barbeau quipped. “But mostly what I revel in is the fact that I’ve been able to earn a living doing something I love from the time I was eighteen years old; and I’m still doing it and still loving it just as much.”

Adrienne Barbeau during Adrienne Barbeau & Husband Billy Van Zandt Became Proud Parents of Twin Sons Walker Steven Barbeau Van Zandt & William Dalton Barbeau Van Zandt at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

The 1970s and 1980s were pivotal for the young star, who in 1978 had a leading role in Someone’s Watching Me! a made-for-TV film written and directed by the deity of horror, John Carpenter, whom she married in 1979.

While she was with Carpenter, she had starring roles in Carpenter’s The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981) and then 1982’s The Thing. She also played in Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing (1982) and the comedy Cannonball Run, with Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore and Burt Reynolds, whom she had a fling with in the mid 1970s.

The iconic scream queen, who turns 78 on June 11, had her first child, Cody, with Carpenter in 1984, which was followed by their separation.

Making a bold move, Barbeau took a break from acting to raise her son.

“My career has always taken second place to being a mom,” Barbeau said in an interview with Closer Weekly. “When I had Cody, I made a deliberate decision that there were certain jobs I could not take.”

Wikipedia Commons / Leslie Gottlieb

In 1991, she performed in the off-Broadway production Drop Dead! A play co-authored by Billy Van Zandt, whom she was married from 1992 to 2018.

In 1997, Barbeau was up for her most challenging role yet, birthing twins at 51 and becoming a supermom.

After trying five years to have a child with Van Zandt–12 years younger–and failed fertility techniques, Barbeau finally got pregnant and gave Cody two younger siblings.

In 1999, Barbeau spoke of her two-year-old identical twins, William Dalton and Walker Steven, “I haven’t slept through the night since they were born. You get used to the exhaustion. And my husband is an enormous help.” Responding to any concerns of raising a child in her 50s, she added, “physically, I wasn’t concerned at all.”

According to the New York Post, Barbeau was one of only 144 American women over 50 who had babies in 1997.

“People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh, you’re my hero!’ and I was very careful about that. I would tell them, ‘Don’t take me as an example!’ We went through hell to get this to happen.”

Despite saying she would “do it all again,” Barbeau offers some sage advice: “If someone is postponing having children because they think it can be achieved at 50, my advice is: Don’t postpone,” she said. “We were the exception to the rule.”

Flickr / 5of7

While raising her twins, the award-winning stage actor expanded her skills with writing, and in 2006, she published her first book “There are Worse Things I Can Do,” an ode to a song performed by Rizzo in Grease.

Her career on screen and stage is still going strong. In addition to lending her voice to animated and video game characters, she can be seen in AJ and the Queen with drag superstar Rupaul, American Horror Stories, an anthology spin-off to the original, and is working on two films in pre-production, Pitch-Fork and Kindling.

Her sons are all grown up. Cody is a musician, who’s worked on soundtracks for numerous films, most notably co-composing the score for the remake of Firestarter (2022). According to Walker’s Instagram, he designs clothing, and William is following big brother Cody’s steps as a musician.

Adrienne Barbeau attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” at Goya Studios on November 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Growing up with Adrienne Barbeau on TV and in film was such a treat! The iconic scream queen has quite a storied career and it’s incredible that she was able to balance her busy work schedule with raising three sons! What are your favorite TV or film roles played by Barbeau?