SAN FRANCISCO—Kandi Barbour, star of such notable adult films as Screwples (Caballero Home Video, 1979), The Budding of Brie (VCA, 1980) and Neon Nights (Command Video, 1981), reportedly died in late January in San Francisco at age 55. She was reportedly homeless at the time.
When contacted by AVN, a representative from the San Francisco coroner’s office stated that nobody by the name Linda Jean Smith (Barbour's real name) had been found dead within the last week; however, he also indicated that attempts were being made by investigators to reach next of kin for an unnamed individual whom AVN believes could be Barbour, since at least one golden-age director had received a call from that office seeking information on Barbour's relatives. The spokesperson said that out of respect for the family, investigators must exhaust all possibilities for reaching next of kin before releasing any information about the individual.
Born in 1956 and originally from Kansas, Barbour was a popular actress during porn's golden age, appearing in 42 adult movies, several softcore releases and at least 20 hardcore compilations. The majority of her work appeared between 1978 and 1981, though she gave her final XXX performance in 1987 in X-Effect, directed by Ron Jeremy. She was perhaps best known as the poster girl for Cecil Howard's landmark '81 film, Neon Nights, which was named by AVN as one of the 101 greatest adult videos of all time.
According to the , Barbour was first discovered by photographer Diana Hardy and had appeared in "virtually every men's magazine by the mid-1970s." Other sources say that she also appeared in several mainstream ads, notably for K-tel International, which sold compilations of popular music, and was rumored to have appeared in some mainstream TV series, including Magnum P.I., which was shot in Hawaii where Barbour lived for a time.
Barbour's other notable credits include Chuck Vincent's Bon Appetit (Video-X-Pix, 1980), Richard Mahler's Pink Ladies (VCA, 1980) and Warren Evans' Pandora's Mirror (Caballero, 1981). A complete list of her films can be found .
In 2009, Barbour was inducted into the Pioneers branch of the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO) Hall of Fame.
"She never worked for me," said golden age director Carter Stevens, who said he had provided some information to the San Francisco Coroner's Office, "but it knocked me for a loop when I got that call. I guess they found me because I had written something about Kandi on the internet a couple of years ago. She lived in my house for a while when we had 'Carter's Home for Wayward Women.' She lived in my loft for about three months. I never charged her rent, but I did charge her a $200 deposit on telephone because she was the type who would literally call up California to find out what time it was there. She was just a bit scatterbrained. But also, she would walk around with thousands of dollars worth of uncashed checks in her purse. She did all this modeling work besides porn; she did a lot of work for advertisers like K-tel music, those TV commercials. She did a lot of modeling work because of her face, and she never cashed the checks until she needed money; then she'd reach in her purse and pull out a check and have somebody cash it for her."
According to Stevens, after leaving his house, Barbour lived with Stevens' production manager, Curt Cressler, for two years in Los Angeles.
"When I went out to California to make Tinseltown (1979), my apartment was across the courtyard from them," he recalled, "and so she used to come down and hang out with me a lot when I was home."
Attempts to contact Cressler for comment were unsuccessful.
"The last time I saw her—actually, my wife saw her—was in Hawaii," Stevens continued. "This goes back 22 years. She was living above the , which was a very famous strip club in Honolulu. She was living above the club and working there, and as my wife says, she had a drinking problem. She had gained a lot of weight and was living in a muumuu and never took it off. She did have some mental problems, even at that point. She had this dysmorphic body image. She had this thing about her nose being crooked; was always talking about having her nose fixed. There was of course nothing wrong with her nose."
Steve Morowitz of Distribpix, which owns several of Barbour's titles, including Sizzle and Centerfold Fever, was also taken aback at the news of her death.
"She was very striking," he recalled, "and out of a hundred classic porn stars, she's certainly one I could name without having to look at anything to refresh my memory. It's sad—it's always sad when we lose one of the classic performers."
Check back with AVN for further information on Barbour's demise.
Pictured: Barbour's Neon Nights poster.