Forty years after mesmerizing moviegoers with her unforgettable, head spinning performance in “The Exorcist,” Linda Blair is using her celebrity to draw attention to a problem that has haunted her for years: the lack of good homes for abused and abandoned dogs.
“Pet overpopulation in America is at a full-blown crisis,” Blair said Sunday at a fundraiser in New York State for her animal rescue organization, the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation. “We’re begging people to adopt and foster.”
Blair will appear at the Chiller Theatre Expo this Friday through Sunday at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel, where she hopes that fans come away with a passion for animal adoption along with autographs and photos.
"'The Exorcist’ is a fantastic movie and it has given me a platform that allows me to talk about these issues,” Blair said at the fundraiser hosted by Dark Forest Creations Fear Festival at the Burn Brae Mansion, a haunted bed-and-breakfast in Glen Spey, N.Y. “Let the animals benefit from my work.”
“The Exorcist” is routinely referred to by fans and critics as the scariest movie in the history of American cinema.
“The difference between 'The Exorcist' and other horror movies of the time, and what made it so scary, is that 'The Exorcist' is a theological thriller,” said Blair, 53. “The novel and the film were produced with the highest integrity and with the most advanced technology available at that time.
“The film’s creators accomplished things that seemed impossible and produced a product that has withstood the test of time.”
A lifelong animal lover, Blair formed the non-profit WorldHeart Foundation in 2003. She had previously worked with several large animal rescue organizations before striking out on her own.
“I felt that the large groups were not accomplishing what people expected them to do with their donations,” Blair said. “The funds from WorldHeart go directly to animal care.”
Today Blair lives on a two-and-a-half acre property in California that is licensed for temporary homes for 100 dogs. She personally performs home checks for potential adoptive families. “I’m not just a spokesperson or a figurehead,” Blair said. “This is my life.”
She said she has an especially soft spot in her heart for pit bulls. In 1994, Blair said she was extremely depressed following the death of her mother and, later, two of her dogs.
“My pit bull Sonny followed me home one day and he changed my life forever,” she said. “Pit bulls have a reputation as being vicious animals, but they are not born that way. Many have been severely abused. But they are the most sensitive dogs you’ll ever meet.”
While animals have taken precedence in her life over acting, Blair said she is still very much in the Halloween spirit. She is promoting Reader’s Digest’s new “Be Afraid of the Dark” horror movie and music collection; a portion of the sales benefits the WorldHeart Foundation.
“This is a great time of year,” Blair said. “I love Chiller Theatre, meeting fans and letting them know about what I’m doing now.”
IF YOU GO: Chiller Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel, 199 Smith Road: Friday, 6 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $25. For more information, including a full list of guests, visit www.chillertheatre.com or call 973-515-2000.