Since rock’s beginnings, there have been groupies. These chosen few women who bed, but not often wed, the musicians of their dreams are almost as much a part of music history as the musicians themselves.
Pamela Des Barres, the world’s foremost supergroupie, here offers an all-access backstage pass to the world of rock stars and the women who love them. Having had her own affairs with legends such as Keith Moon and Jimmy Pageas documented in her bestselling memoir I’m with the BandPamela now turns the spotlight onto other women who have found their way into the hearts and bedrooms of some of the world’s greatest musicians. In Let’s Spend the Night Together, she tells, in their own words, the stories of these amazing women who went way beyond the one-night stand.
Here you’ll get to know 24 outrageous groupies, including
· Tura Satana, Miss Japan Beautiful, who taught Elvis how to dance and gave him lessons in lovemaking
· Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who tangled with Tom Jones in Sin City
· Soulful Miss Mercy, who discovered that not only does the rest of the world listen to Al Green while making loveso does Al Green
· Cynthia Plaster Caster, who redefined art and made history when Jimi Hendrix plunged his member into her plaster mold
· The mysterious Miss B, who reveals Kurt Cobain’s penchant for lip gloss and pantyhose
· and over a dozen more
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Lets Spend the Night Together
Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
By Pamela Des Barres
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2007 Pamela Des Barres
All rights reserved.
Miss Japan Beautiful and the King
* * *
When I was barely old enough to discern the dusky difference between the sexes, I dreamed about Elvis. His perfect greasy quiff, smoky cheekbones, and rebellious insouciance defined a generation's desire and made a certain skinny, preteen Valley girl thrill with delight. Years before puberty caught me between the legs, Elvis's unfettered carnal purity gave me a spine-shiver of my destiny. The unsullied wickedness of his wail roused lurking, tamped-down wantonness and created a slippery peephole in immaculate '50s squaredom all over the world. He loosened the screws on the earth's axis, and then greased it up good with pomade.
And the way he danced! Who knew human hips could gyrate like that? I have one of those old-fashioned flip books that shows Elvis revolving across the stage in his gold jacket, his knees at odd angles, his pelvis thrusting forward, arms outstretched, eyes half-closed, sweat glistening danger. Did moving that way just come naturally to the country boy truck driver? I always assumed Elvis came out of the womb with a brand new kind of rhythm. But that was before I met the astonishing Tura Satana — the doll who taught Elvis to dance, onstage and between the sheets.
Back in the '50s when Elvis came into power, the media kept its collective nose out of celeb bedrooms, so we could only imagine what the King got up to under the covers. Years later when word leaked out that he liked to watch two lovelies go at it wearing nothing but white cotton panties, the titillation factor went into high glee. Even at his polyester sideshow Vegas peak, Elvis continued to entrance the masses (and misses), and rumor had it that he dallied with many a fortunate showgirl.
When I decided it was about time music muses got their due and began the search for the formidable damsels featured in this tome, my dream was to begin with Elvis. It did begin with Elvis, after all ...
Ask and ye shall receive, sayeth the Lord. Before I even got the word out that I wanted to meet a babe who had bedded the King, my good pal artist/songwriter Allee Willis invited me to a poolside bash for the cast of Russ Meyer's 1970 cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Allee always attracts an avant eclectic crew. She's sold millions of records (the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance," and "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire), and her uncommon paintings grace the walls of the grooviest L.A. homes. Among the middle-aged campy darlings gathered around the pool in Allee's superbly '50s backyard was the buxom, ravenhaired bombshell Tura Satana — the star of another Meyer film, the riotous feminist opus Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
I was enjoying a boisterous chat with the absurdly ample Kitten Natividad when I noticed my ex, Michael, deep in conversation with Tura. He caught my eye, giving me a look that said, "Get your ass over here NOW!" Michael introduced us, announcing that Tura once held the title of "Miss Japan Beautiful" and had been voted by those in the know as "one of America's Ten Best Undressed" along with burlesque legends Lili St. Cyr and Tempest Storm. How could I not be impressed? I figured the lady must be somewhere in her mid-sixties, and I was inspired instantly by her saucy, free-spirited attitude. Slightly more zaftig than in her Kill days, she wore her weight well, decked out in a low-cut black ensemble with shiny hair down to her ass. Loads of black eyeliner, glossed frosty lips.
"There's something else you should know about the lovely Ms. Satana," Michael said with a gleam in his baby blues, but just then Allee beckoned us to join the fun at the yum-laden buffet table. Several Beyond Dolls were gleefully comparing notes about the size of various actors' members. A showbiz wingding was described in which three Hollywood heroes unzipped and displayed their merchandise on the table for measurement. Since I had often heard one of that evening's participants, Milton Berle, was loaded in that department, I was surprised to discover that a certain A-list film actor came up the winner that night. The Dolls began a rousing competition of their own, shouting out names of the lucky dogs that had shared their various boudoirs. I got into the spirit of things and blurted a couple of my own pertinent headliners. But when Tura slowly licked her lips and growled "Elvis Presley," everybody at the table knew they were licked as well. I looked heavenward through the velvety Valley smog and said a silent thank you, Jesus.
Tura was intrigued by my latest project and warmly welcomed my proposed interview. Since she had dallied with the King, I told her she'd have chapter one all to herself. I had thought about finding a gal who'd romanced Sinatra, but even though he was a master crooner, he wasn't a rock star. At this news, Tura grinned wickedly. "Too bad. I could have been chapters one and two!" Be still my eternal groupie heart!
As the final kicker, Tura opened a notebook and handed me an eight-by-ten '50s photo of herself as Miss Japan Beautiful. In stark-raving black and white, she leans into the camera, smoldering, sequined pasties poised just so. Her unbelievably steamy, come-hither geisha beauty must have raked thousands of male libidos over the red-hot coals. "I was unique on the burlesque circuit," she purred. "Orientals weren't supposed be busty like I was."
Tura was in L.A. staying with her manager, Siouxzan Perry, for a few days (she handles all the Russ Meyer Dolls and Dandies), and I was invited to her trippy Topanga Canyon pad the following night for bourbon-soaked chicken and a trip down Tura's momentous Memory Lane.
After dinner, Siouxzan leads us to a cozy, quiet den where we recline on pillows under a massive Pussycat poster of Tura's menacing self as the vampy Varla. We drink a few glasses of red wine in the candlelight, and the conversation flows with the merlot. Tura's story is astounding, dolls, and I advise you to keep a wide-open mind. Just sit back and go with the glow.
I learned that she didn't live on Easy Street as a kid. In fact, a lot of her childhood was spent behind double barbed wire. During World War II, the young Tura did time with her father and brother in Manzanar, a Japanese relocation camp outside Lone Pine, California. She remembers soldiers with dogs paroling the tents and Quonset huts. Each one housed at least ten confused, displaced families, and any food they ate they had to grow themselves. Tura's mother, an American Indian, was left behind. "She came to the fence, but she wasn't allowed to touch it," Tura recalls. "If she did, she wound up with a baton across the knuckles." The humiliation and horror made Tura's father more determined to be recognized as an American citizen. "When we finally got out of there, he refused to speak Japanese. We weren't even taught our own language at home."
Things got tougher back on Chicago's west side. Tura wasn't even ten years old when she was raped by a gang of five guys, one of whom turned out to be the cousin of the cop who came when she crawled out of the alleyway. A judge was paid off, and Tura wound up in reform school "for tempting those boys into raping me. I was classified a juvenile delinquent." After the rape, Tura couldn't stand to be touched by anybody, not even her parents. She assumed a tough stance, soon heading a rowdy girl gang, and found herself fending off "slant-eye" insults with her fists and her wit. "We patrolled the neighborhood to keep that kind of thing from happening to anybody else." Because of her resilient nature, the hideous experience gave Tura an enigmatic edginess that somehow became part of her charm. Despite all these difficulties, her down-deep dream was to sing and dance.
Tura regales me with tales of her circus performer mom, who taught her how to hula to her favorite tune. "The 'Hawaiian War Chant' was really fast; that's how I learned to do some of my shimmies and moves." Tura stands and wriggles her hips around with remarkable grace and aplomb. "Mom loved Hawaiian music, those drums and electric guitars. You automatically want to move to it."
At fourteen Tura looked years older and worked as a cigarette girl at the Trocadero, the Sunset Strip celeb hang where all the "famous personages" wanted to be the first to show her a good time. Every man Tura came in contact with was bowled over, but she still couldn't stand to be touched. With Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Cheyenne Indian blood pumping through her, Tura's exoticness made her quite an enticing treat. "Asians just weren't built like I was," she reminds me. By the early '50s, when she sashayed around in her peekaboo skirt, offering "cigars, cigarettes, cigarillos" to the likes of Martin and Lewis, the Troc had become a faded dream, and Tura moved on.
She tried all kinds of entertainment jobs before landing a "legit" Spanish dancer gig (amusing, considering her heritage), which would catapult her into a surprising new realm. When her boss suggested she remove her La Cucaracha clothes for a sub-stantial hike in salary, Tura's career as "Miss Japan Beautiful" began. Back in 1954, $125 a week was a lot of dough. "At first it was scary," she admits, "but when I saw the looks of appreciation on some of the guy's faces in the audience, it made me feel very special."
More wine is poured and I ask what made her act different from others on the circuit. "I made my audience participants in my routine; I talked to them, played with them, made jokes with them. I said 'OK, where have you got your hands right now?'" There must have been a lot of action going on under the tables, because Tura soon became a hothouse staple on the burlesque scene across the country. Although she was still a bit wary, she soon warmed up to her new means of self-expression, because "the men in audience wanted to adore you."
Long before the yucky debacle of crotch-in-the-face lap dancing, strippers left a lot to the rampant imagination. Burlesque was an exquisite art form in the '50s, and Tura's costumes were elaborately beaded, highly embellished Asian rhapsodies, which brought a man's inherent geisha-girl fantasies to the eyepopping surface. She gracefully balanced ornamented headdresses, stroked long Japanese swords, and slowly slipped out of her hand-painted kimonos. Her prop Buddha rested in his velvet-lined case, and his hands burst into flames when she brushed against his upturned palms.
The family atmosphere of the "Burly-Q" circuit helped Tura unlearn the bad habits she picked up in reform school. Her fellow dancers completely accepted her mixed-up heritage, and it soothed her injured soul. It was a good job. She was taken care of, and nobody messed with her. But because of her nightmare childhood experiences, Tura began to drink heavily. "The minute a guy touched me, I'd deck him. My automatic reflex was to go on the defensive and strike out blindly. I took up drinking and I was damn near an alcoholic, downing maybe two or three fifths a day." It took a long time before Tura could be touched without flinching. "People on the circuit cared and made me feel like I was family, so I listened when they told me drinking would make me old and dumb very fast. The gals I worked with helped me face what happened. I did a deep cleansing of my mind, and I was a lot better off." Due to the nurturing Tura received from her newfound family, she gradually began to accept affection from her many suitors, and was free to become even more daring, enthralling men and women alike with her peerless stage presence.
"My audience knew I enjoyed fooling around with them, and there was always one who yelled, 'Oh, I wish you were my mother!' and I'd say, 'Yeah, and you'd still be a breast baby, wouldn't ya?'" Tura's specialty was tassel twirling. She could make those sequined mini-cups that covered paradise spin every which way but loose. "It came to me naturally," she insists with pride. "During my routine, my boobs would automatically move with the rest of my body. I had good muscle control, everything got moving and the tassels started twirling!" Tura was the only person in the universe who could twirl tassels lying flat on her back. And twirl them in opposite directions! She could also stop the whirling tassels, change direction, stop again, and spin 'em the other way! "When I twirled my tassels I'd say, 'Someday I'm gonna fly if I can get enough RPMs!'" It must have been quite a salacious spectacle. The sailors blushed and stammered when she twirled their peaked white hats round and round on her creamy globes. "I had so much fun with those navy men. I'd slide up to the end of the stage on my knees and say, 'OK, who's first?'" There were those who looked down their highfalutin noses, believing that Tura was nothing but a plaything for men. "It was the other way around," she insists. "Men were my playthings."
It was after a wild night of tassel twirling for agog sailors in Biloxi, Mississippi, that Tura made the acquaintance of a certain blossoming rock and roll singer. "I was a big draw that night," she recalls with delight. Oftentimes it took the teenage girl hours to unwind after dishing out damp dreams to horny strangers. On this early morning, she was cooling down by walking along the sand outside the club. "I was unwinding on the beach and this good-looking guy came walking up to me, and I said, 'Nice night, isn't it?' 'Yes it is, ma'am.' 'Ma'am?' I was only sixteen years old and I'd never been called 'ma'am' before. I'd been fibbing about my age, everybody thought I was nineteen. He said, 'What are you doing out here so late at night?' I told him I was trying to unwind, and he said 'You too?'" The young couple walked slowly along the beach, then sat on the sand, talking 'til the sun came up. "He said he did a show up the road apiece, but I didn't know who he was. Once I took a look at those eyes of his, aahhh...." Tura has always had a weakness for blue eyes. "I looked at his eyes and thought, 'Oh God, this one's a keeper.'" Later she realized she'd never even asked his name.
They didn't meet again until nine months later when the twenty-one-year-old arrived backstage at Chicago's Follies Theatre with the owner. "Do you remember me?" Elvis asked. "Biloxi," Tura said, smiling. "I didn't know your name then, but yes, I remember Biloxi." Turned out Elvis did see Tura's show in Biloxi, and he enjoyed her Follies routine as well. When he wondered how she moved the way she did, Tura told him her routine was based on martial arts. "He asked if I could teach him," she recalls with a throaty chuckle. "I told him, 'Martial arts is not only a disciplinary art form, it also teaches you control,' and he said, 'Well, you sure got control!'" He wanted to know how she did the slide and the splits at the same time. How she did the shimmy, how she shook all over. He was quite intrigued. The enamored singer then jokingly asked Miss Japan Beautiful if she could teach him how to twirl the tassels. "I said, 'No, honey. I can't teach you how to spin two tassels, but I can teach you how to spin one!'" Elvis grinned, "Well, that might be a novelty."
Elvis may have been shaking up the planet, but even back in '56 he had the Colonel's minders watching his every move. Obviously smitten, he wanted to be alone with Tura. He somehow managed to sidestep his two furtive sidekicks and take her to breakfast at an all-night diner. "He had the aura — you knew he was going to go places. I was drawn to him mostly by his smile," Tura says wistfully. "And that Southern drawl could make your knees melt. Back then he was so down to earth, so natural. He had the magnetism; he drew women right and left. He was a natural attraction."
Elvis was able to slip away from his protectors two more nights in a row, but the third evening they parked outside Tura's family home, waiting while Elvis enjoyed his first Japanese meal, cooked by Tura's daddy. "The Colonel and those two guys thought that was the last of it, but anytime he could get away and sneak out of his room, I would meet him at a hotel or at my friend's house."
On the first couple of dates, Elvis gave Tura "wet kisses on the cheek," which she thought was sweet, but when he got to her mouth and gave her a "wet fish" kiss, she felt it was her duty to teach the boy one of life's most important lessons.
"No, no, no, you don't kiss a girl like that."
"None of the girls have complained before."
"Well, maybe they didn't know what they were doing either."
"What do you mean? I don't know how to kiss?" "That's what I'm tellin' ya, you don't know how to kiss."
And she literally showed him how to do it.
OK. Deep breath. I have heard a few fantastical claims to fame before, but this one takes the entire bakery full of three-tiered cakes. You mean those Love-Me-Tender lips needed assistance?
She assured the bewildered, slightly chagrined Elvis that he didn't have to hold his lips so tight. "I didn't do a French kiss at first, I wanted to show him the beginnings of it. Then when he felt my tongue going around his lips, he went 'Mmmm,' and he opened his mouth and I showed him how to French kiss. 'Oooh, I like that!' And he went on from there. Once I showed him the difference between how he was kissing and how I kissed, he said, 'Oh God, that feels so good.' When I said, 'Yeah, it feels good all over too,' his eyes lit up."
Excerpted from Lets Spend the Night Together by Pamela Des Barres. Copyright © 2007 Pamela Des Barres. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Tura Satana Miss Japan Beautiful and the King,
Cherry Vanilla The Happiest Broken Heart,
Gail Zappa Love at First Sight,
My Lady D'Arbanville,
The Elusive Miss James,
Cynthia Plaster Caster Kicks,
Dee Dee Keel Hey Little Girl, You Wanna Come on the Bus?,
Miss Mercy's Blues Shock Treatment,
Michele Overman Love in Her Eyes and Flowers in Her Hair,
Cassandra Peterson The Virgin Groupie,
Lori Lightning Absolute Beginners,
Sweet Connie There's Only One Way to Rock,
Gayle O'Connor Crazy, Crazy Nights,
Margaret Moser and the Texas Blondes Slow Dazzle,
Pleasant Gehman Flesh for Fantasy,
Bebe Buell A Chat Regarding the Infamous G Word,
Patti and Lisa Dangerous but Worth the Risk,
Miss B Come as You Are,
Pleather The Male Groupie,
Lexa Vonn and the Plastics User Friendly,
Sarah Madison Miss You in a Heartbeat,
Tina King In So Deep,
Amanda Milius Let Me Stand Next to Your Flower,
Static Beth Size Queen of the Stars,
Epilogue: Cameron Crowe Almost Famous,