Brightly Coloured Rainbeaux – Remembering Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith (1955 – 2012)

Posted in Remember by - October 18, 2013
Brightly Coloured Rainbeaux – Remembering Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith (1955 – 2012)

Fragile and often sad looking, the lovely Cheryl Smith often played parts whose characters appeared vulnerable and lonely. In a career lasting just 12 years, Cheryl’s roles varied from B-movies to sexploitation, to the occasional mainstream hit.

Born Cheryl Lynn Smith on June 6th 1955, she was later nicknamed ‘Rainbeaux’ due to being a regular at the popular musicians haunt The L.A Rainbow Club.

Cheryl began as a drummer for Joan Jett in the group ‘L.A Girls’, and it was around this time that a friend of her mother’s suggested Smith for a short film; ‘The Birth of Aphrodite’ in 1971. This led to a bit part in that same years’ ‘Evil Kneivel’, before being cast as the lead in the now cult vampire flick ‘Lemora: A Childs Tale of the Supernatural’ (1973). Rainbeaux gave a hauntingly beautiful performance as the innocent Lila Lee, who is lured away from the church by the mysterious vampire Lemora (hypnotically played by Lesley Gilb). The following year Smith appeared in what is perhaps her most popular movie, ‘Caged Heat’, one of the best of the overpopulated Women-In-Prison films of the 1970’s. Shot in just four weeks, this early Jonathan Demme picture had a cast to die for and included a host of genre favourites – Barbara Steele, Erica Gavin, Roberta Collins and even future porn queen Desiree Cousteau (though if you can spot her, you’ve done better than me!). Rainbeaux gives a touching, heartfelt performance as the vulnerable Lavelle, trying to get along with her tough and sometimes psychotic inmates.

Co-starring in a couple of Cheerleader pictures, plus the odd horror outing, (including the pretty good ‘Massacre at central High’ in 1976), her roles would often require nudity. One such picture was the bizarre soft core musical ‘The Other Cinderella’ (1977), directed by prolific character actor Michael Pataki. Rainbeaux played the title role and was at times funny, cute and even sang along to what are actually rather catchy tunes. Sy Richardson must get special mention for stealing the show as the Fairy Godmother!

Rainbeaux auditioned for and would have made a great Iris in Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’, and unfortunately all of her scenes were cut from the cult 1978 movie ‘The Driver’, later to director Walter Hill’s regret. She did have some success in more mainstream films, such as Robert Aldrich’s 1977 ‘The Choirboys’ and Jonathan Demme’s  1980 Oscar winner ‘Melvin and Howard’.

After appearing in an episode of ‘Hart to Hart’ in 1981, plus an uncredited part as Veronica Lake in the Steve Martin comedy ‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid’ (1982), Rainbeaux vanished from the scene in 1983 after one more low budget movie (‘Independence Day’).

Unfortunately Rainbeaux had a lengthy battle with heroin, and in the 80s she was arrested several times for drug-related offences, and imprisoned twice. Later, after being released she would find herself hospitalized for problems relating to her addiction.

Sadly, Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith died of complications from hepatitis on October 25th 2002, she was only 47. A one-of-a-kind cult star, she left behind a son, Justin, and a very colorful career.

Favourite Movie: Caged Heat
Favourite Performance: The Other Cinderella

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