Firestarter's Premiere Was a Critical Fizzle, but Bangor, Maine Loved Drew Barrymore's Light Touch

UPDATED 05/28/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/28/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

The folks of Bangor, Maine might have been forgiven for asking, "Where's the fire?" They hadn't seen the small city so heated up since the 1911 blaze that burned the old logging town to the ground. Here was Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis staging a world premiere of his film Firestarter in honor of Maine's own horror author Stephen King, 36, who wrote the best-selling novel about a little girl with fire in her eyes. The tiny flamegrower in the movie is 9-year-old Drew Barrymore, who played the star to the hilt in Bangor. She stepped out of a stretch limo wearing a flaming red triple-flounced taffeta dress and signed autographs until her hand got numb. High spot of the trip, Drew later told her mother, Ildiko Jaid, was the chance to spend time with Stephen King and his family at their 25-room Victorian house, where she ate "the best French toast ever."

As for King, he was just happy the occasion didn't end in one of his patented disasters. "I have the most outrageous fears," King confessed. "To me, if the theater doesn't catch on fire, the night is a success."

Critics have given Firestarter lukewarm notices (see review, page 12), but the premiere bash was a sellout. King donated the $11,000 proceeds to a popular consumer group called Northeast COMBAT.

Although the party was billed as black tie, plenty of guests showed up in sweaters and jeans. Explained Dr. Doug Cowan, "Anyone in Bangor who's wearing a sport coat is in black tie." Accustomed to the pyrotechnics of a big-city premiere, De Laurentiis felt a little out of place at the subdued gathering. "Usually, there's more noise, music, lights," he noted. Dino's sense of geography is a bit different too. According to King, the first time the mogul landed at the local airport he said, "So, this is Bangor, Maine! Is in New Hampshire, yes?"

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