Whenever Joan E. Vadeboncoeur reviewed a movie at a private press screening, she brought her own ashtray and chain-smoked through the entire film.
She was a character, every bit as colorful as those she wrote about. She knew who she was, and you could take it or leave it. But she also had a soft side, one that endeared her to her colleagues and sources alike.
"She was a veritable treasure trove of information and she knew every television, theater motion picture and media celebrity to ever emerge from this burg," said Frank Malfitano, who worked with her on the 1986 Syracuse tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen and on the early-1990s Walk of Stars outside the Landmark Theatre.
The leading critic of films and theater at the Syracuse Newspapers since 1954, Vadeboncoeur sported kids' socks with images of rabbits or offbeat stripe patterns. Whenever she reviewed a stage play, she'd be up out of her seat and out the door before the curtain call.
Her affinity for cigarettes - having out-lived its politically correctness in recent years - was celebrated nonetheless by "Joanie's Smoke Break," a clever series of video interviews shot by Post-Standard feature writer Hart Seely.
Vadeboncoeur died Jan. 4 at her Cazenovia home. She was 78.
"I found her enthusiastic, encouraging and helpful with publicizing our events at the Catherine Cummings Theatre at Cazenovia College," said Sylvia Needel, of the college's office of communication. "I will miss her assistance and guidance tremendously."
For everyday readers of the Herald-Journal and later the Post-Standard, Vadeboncoeur was an icon of entertainment.
"I've followed her reviews all my life - what longevity," exclaimed Bob Alexander, a 50-something artist and accordionist from South Onondaga. "Often they would be the smartest reviews anywhere."
For performers, she was a solicitous supporter.
"When I was at Le Moyne [College]," remembers actress Siobhan Fallan Hogan, who was raised in Cazenovia, "We used to think, 'Joan Vadeboncoeur's coming!' And it was like Walter Kerr coming from the New York Times ... She was a fair, fair critic. It didn't matter that I was from Cazenovia. If I didn't do a good job, she'd write it. She was fair. She was honest. She was hilarious."