Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Girls of Grindhouse: Brigitte Lahaie

Brigitte Lahaie is unique among the Girls of Grindhouse who have been posted thus far because she started out doing porn before switching to exploitation and cult films.

Brigitte Van Meerhaegue was born in the town of Tourcoing in northern France on October 12th, 1955 to strict middle-class parents.  After graduating from high school, she and her sister decided to leave the nest for the excitement of city life in Paris.  Initially, money was tight and in order to pay the bills while she pursued a career in modeling, she was forced to take a job in a shoe shop.  After answering an advertisement for aspiring young models, Brigitte found herself on the set of a pornographic movie which intrigued her and awakened her repressed, rebellious nature.  Seduced by this newly discovered counterculture of free expression and sexuality she began acting in some of these hardcore films, and even though this foray into pornography was in many ways a form of rebellion against her strict upbringing, Brigitte changed her name from Van Meerhaegue to Lahaie out of respect for her family.

Between 1976 and 1980 she performed in nearly 50 adult films including Perversion of a Young Bride (1977), Three French Hotties (1977), I'm Yours to Take (1978), I Am a Beautiful Bitch (1978) Two At Once (1978) and in 1976 she starred in a porno called Vibrations Sensuelle which was directed by exploitation and horror director Jean Rollin.  Although porn wasn't his thing he did occasionally direct hardcore films to pay the bills.  Lahaie and Rollin became good friends and he promised to put her in one of his legitimate, non-porn films one day.  She didn't believe him.

During this time Brigitte lived her life off-screen in a manner similar to the characters she played on-screen.  It was a time of partying, sexual exploration and indulgence; a rebellion against the repression and conformity of her youth.  When she wasn't getting it on for the cameras, she was fucking her way through the Paris nightlife.

Rollin kept his promise.  In 1978 he cast her in his non-pornographic "zombie" film The Grapes of Death and later in Fascination (1979), The Night of the Hunted (1980), and The Escapees (1981).  And while she was all kinds of naked in these films (Rollin was a director/writer of exploitation and erotica, after all) she began to see herself as a legitimate actress and others did as well.

She caught the eye of legendary smut auteur Jess Franco who began to showcase her in his own exploitation and erotica films; first in the hardcore Je Brule De Partout in 1978 and then in non-fucking roles nearly ten years later in Dark Mission: Flowers of Evil (1988) with Christopher Lee and Christopher Mitchum, and the ultra-violent Eurotrash Faceless in 1987.

By 1980 Brigitte had stopped performing in hardcore films but continued to bare it all in softcore, exploitation and horror films from this point on.  Along with Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, Christopher Lee and Christopher Mitchum she has worked with Erwin Dietrich, Telly Savalas, Caroline Munro and Uma Thurman since quitting porn. 

Radio and publishing would be the next media in which Brigitte would make a name for herself.   In 1987 she became the host of a radio talk show where she offered her opinions and advice about sexual problem that the listeners were experiencing.  She also wrote an autobiography entitled ‘Moi, La Scandaleus’ which became a hit.  It was so successful that she next wrote a novel, and then another.  Now in addition to her film career she is sought after as a radio and television personality, and author.

Her porn days were not completely over, though.  In 2001 she returned to the world of hardcore porn but this time she was behind the camera instead of in front of it.  She directed, wrote and produced Ma Sexualite de A a X.  

Today she continues to work in the television and film industry, but Brigitte spends most of her time assisting the French people with their sexual problems on her radio talk show.