Barbara Leigh was born in Ringgold, Georgia. Ringgold sits on the border of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and had a population of approximately 2000 at the time she was born.
Barbara Lived in Georgia until the age of 5 when she, her mother, and siblings moved to Miami, Florida where she grew up. At the age of 16 Miss Leigh visited her family in Georgia and Tennessee during her summer vacation, and met the first love of her life. She ended up staying to marry, and finished school while living with her Inlaws. Her husband was in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Cuba during the “Bay of Pigs”. Two years later her son, Gerry Haynes was born.
At the age of 19 Barbara and her family moved to Los Angeles, California. There she began to work as a nurse, raising her small son. She was soon divorced and settled into the life of a single mother.
One day a co-worker asked if she would like to visit Beverly Hills and go dancing at “The Other Place” a popular nightclub, which no longer exists. She was delighted, as it was her first night club experience ever. That evening lead singer Mark Devlin spotted her in the audience and came to her table after the show was finished. They began dating and shortly after that he had professional photographs taken of her which were later sold to Kodak Film. This was the beginning of her modeling career.
Miss Leigh later moved to New York City and modeled for the famous Ford agency, moving back to Los Angeles and embarking on an acting career. She was discovered at the popular night club “The Candy Store” by an agent who introduced her to “Ashley Famous”which has since become the now famous “International Creative Management”
Her agent Dick Clayton was well-known for discovering James Dean, amongst other major celebrities. It was a great break for Barbara to have been signed by him. She began to study acting with Charles Conrad, and also signed with Ashley Famous for commercials. Her first commercial effort was for Coca-Cola.
When she joined the Screen Actors Guild her married name Barbara Haynes had already been taken, bringing about the need for a change. One of her agents who happened to be reading that Vivian Leigh had died, abruptly blurted out to the whole office, “that’s it, Barbara Leigh!” Vivian Leigh died and Barbara Leigh was born.
Barbara went on to make nearly 50 commercials , several of which won awards for Best Commercial of the Year. She began making films and appearing in Television Movies, and was a regular on the TV series “Harry O” starring the late David Jansen. “David was kind, he’d share a scene with you and offer advice, which is rare in Hollywood”
She was seen walking on the beaches of Malibu by French director Roger Vadim, who is famous for discovering Bridgett Bardot. Running from his beachfront home, he asked if she would like to audition for the role of Jean, Rock Hudson’s wife in the movie “Pretty Maids All in A Row”. After the test Vadim was convinced that Miss Leigh was perfect for the part, and ended his search without auditioning any other actresses. Barbara found Hudson to be one of the nicest and most generous persons in Hollywood. “If he found out I was on the studio lot he’d come to visit regardless of which set I was on. Rock Hudson made me feel very special. He was a wonderful man, and I miss him alot.”
Roger Vadim took Barbara on her first trip to Paris. “Being in Paris with Roger was like being in Paris with the King, because everyone knew him. He was stopped constantly for autographs.” Miss Leigh went on to say, “He was a wild man and we had great fun, but what impressed me most about him is that he was such a loving father.” Barbara was offered a part starring opposite Bridget Bardot but she was homesick for America. Thinking Vadim would hold the part for her, she opted to go home for a visit, and lost it. C’est La Vie!
Of all Barbara’s films she loved working on “Junior Bonner” the most. Being cast in the female lead opposite Steve McQueen was exciting, and working with the controversial director Sam Peckinpah was an unforgettable experience. Barbara met Mr. McQueen during the casting of the film and began dating him before shooting started. Miss Leigh has written in depth about her love affair with McQueen in her recent book, “The King, McQueen and The Love Machine.”
During this period of her life Barbara also dated the President of MGM Studios, legendary Jim Aubrey AKA “The Smiling Cobra” and “The Love Machine”. Jacqueline Susanne’s bestselling book, “The Love Machine”, was based on Mr. Aubrey’s life, and was later made into a movie. Jim Aubrey introduced Miss Leigh to Elvis Presley during one of his shows at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, and shortly afterward, Elvis and Barbara began dating. Barbara was thrilled to accompany him on a number of his tours. She dated the King for several years, and they remained close friends until his tragic death.
Barbara’s biggest break came in 1975, when she was cast to play the most important role of her life, “Vampirella” for Hammer Films in England. This was a dream come true, because as a child Barbara had two passions. One was Dracula, and the other was the culture of Egypt, which she has studied her entire life, making her an amateur Egyptologist. In a worldwide search, Michael Carreras of Hammer Films ended up in Hollywood, eventually casting Barbara as the perfect Vampirella. She was signed to a six picture deal. However, the project was never completed changing her career forever.
After the Vampirella project folded in 1978, Barbara married a New York lawyer and retired from the business, heart broken that she never fulfilled her dream to play the one character that meant so much to her. It wouldn’t be until the 90’s that the Vampirella character came back into Barbara’s life. She is now, and will always be remembered, as the first and “Original Vampirella” to legions of Vampirella fans.
Miss Leigh has modeled around the world, gracing the covers of dozens of magazines, and has fan clubs as far away as Yugoslavia. She attended Antioch College West in Los Angeles from 1976 through 1978, majoring in psychology, and studied Commercial Real Estate Development at New York University from 1981 through 1982. She is licensed in real estate in and Los Angeles.
The Chiller Theatre Convention which is held annually in New Jersey, located Barbara and brought her there in April 1995. Hundreds of fans showed up, many of whom had seen her back in 1975 at the Famous Monster Convention which was held in New York City with Peter Cushing, Forrest Ackerman, James Warren and Michael Carreras (Hammer Films).
Today Barbara appears at selected autograph conventions, where she displays the original Vampirella costume and jewelry which were made for her by the famed Western Costume.
Miss Leigh currently works for Playboy magazine, and has done two celebrity pictorials (may ’73, Jan.’77). She is best friends with Marilyn Grabowski, West Coast Photo Editor and Vice President to Playboy, and has great respect for Hugh Hefner and the magazine in general. Barbara works with animal rescue as a hobby and writes in her spare time. She is also generous in civic and community activities, and volunteers her time to the AIDS Health Care Foundation, as well as the Starlight Foundation.
Barbara has recently written a biography entitled “The King, McQueen and The Love Machine”, with the help of well-known autobiographer Marshall Terrill, who wrote the best-selling biography “Steve McQueen”. The book is about Barbara’s life and details the excitement, passion and heartache of her extraordinary romantic relationships with Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen and Jim Aubrey.