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LAist interviews Miss Pamela Des Barres
Pamela Des Barres, of Frank Zappa's girl group, The GTOs, gained national attention with her first memoir, I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. This best-seller was followed by Take Another Little Piece of My heart: A Groupie Grows Up and Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon. Des Barres also teaches writing classes, performs wedding ceremonies, and according to her website, can even be hired out for the weekend as a (purely platonic) galpal for 2,500 dollars.
Her newest book, Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies is based on interviews Des Barres conducted with self-proclaimed groupies, rock wives, and a multitude of others who simply defy categorization. Divided into 24 self-contained chapters, the book is a fun and easy read. It focuses on the musical inspiration these muses provided, but does not spare the sordid details either. Here are the stories we have been waiting to hear - what was the deal with Patty D'Arbanville and Cat Stephens? Did Tura Satana of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! fame really teach Elvis to dance?
Next Thursday night at Book Soup, Pamela Des Barres will be reading from Let's Spend the Night Together. She will be joined by Cassandra Peterson, Gail Zappa, Pleasant Gehman, Miss Mercy, and a number of other women who are featured in the book. LAist caught up with Miss Pamela last Saturday and got this killer interview.
LAist: So, I just got the book last week, and I was looking at the first chapter on Tura Satana…is that what gave you the idea for the book, talking to her? Or had you already been developing that idea?
Pamela Des Barres: Oh, no. I had the idea already, and it was kind of magical how that happened. Because I was wanting someone who had been with Elvis. I wanted to start the book with someone who had slept with Elvis. That was real important to me because he was my first, you know, that’s what got me into rock and roll - and for many other people, I’m sure.
It was just sort of magical, because I went to a party for a friend of mine, and she was actually having it for all of the Russ Meyer girls.
(More after the jump!)
That must have been amazing, meeting all of them.
Yeah, it was. It was pretty great.
So my ex-husband came to that party, and he came over to me. He said, "You're not gonna believe this, you have to come over and and talk to Tura Satana." And she just told me, "Yeah, I slept with Elvis, I slept with Frank Sinatra, I slept with Tony Bennett." She went on and on and on. I said, "Oh my God, I've got to interview you for the new book!" And she was totally open to it. So, that was great.
I email with Tura Satana and I was telling her she should have a kick-ass weekend camp. She said she would teach me boxing moves.
You should do that with her! Like a rock star camp. You should have a rad chick camp, like where you go learn how to fight and do your make-up and be rad.
Yeah, I have my own business. I'm always trying to come up with ways to make a buck. And now I marry people, I teach writing classes. I do all kinds of things.
Are you in a specific church?
Well, No, it's just Unitarian. It's a very open-minded, obviously, church. I do pagan weddings, I do rock and roll weddings. I do whatever is required.
That's so cool. That must be so exciting.
While you know, they're brief. What I have discovered is that they shouldn't be over ten minutes long.
Have you had anyone take you up on the $2500 weekend?
No. Isn't that ridiculous?
Because it would be the best book. Take every bad blind date you ever had and stretch it over a weekend. You would probably have the weirdest stories.
Oh God, it would just be so fun, it should be filmed. If anyone ever actually takes me up on it, we will film the whole thing. And I do writing seminars. I'll do weekends, I've done those in Vegas and Austin already, where I go spend a weekend and just teach writing classes.
I was really impressed that in your writing, you have this really seamless transition between your narration and quotation. Once you've done the first part, where you talk about your impressions, you don't put anything judgemental in. You let them tell their story.
Exactly. That's what I wanted to do.
Even when they say some really weird stuff, you don't even flinch. You just let it go.
Are you talking about Sweet Connie, for instance?
Even though I wove myself through it, because I know a lot of these people, I try to just let them speak for themselves without any judgement from myself at all.
Some of the younger girls, I don't know what it is, but their stories seem sadder to me. And I'm wondering if it's that all women, even if you're dating plumbers, get hurt by men. So the older women have dealt with it and processed it and with the younger girls, the pain is still raw.
Yeah, yeah, That could be it. ...I mean, they're not all sad. But with Tina she's one of the sweetest girls of all, and now she has another baby. I feel sorry for her.
That was the specific one. But the one who does the art on the internet...
That's art - like the Plaster Casters. It's so empowering and artistic.
They're all doing what they want to do, whether you feel happy for them or sad for them. I just don't want people judging them. And I hope that doesn't happen. I've had some really raw, mean...
Not the reviews, but like Amazon...
I saw that thing on Amazon! Like, "...if these women are so great, why did men use them?"
A MAN wrote that. Its always a man who writes that. I've got to go on there and say something about that.
Usually, I mean, a true groupie loves the music. That's why she's there or he in Pleather's case, that's why. They love the music.
You just found one male groupie? Or did you have other interviews?
No, I didn't really find another one.
Did the GTOs have groupies?
Not really. We just had guys we hung out with... WE were such groupies, we just wanted to be with musicians. Maybe we did but I didn't notice. I was too busy looking for Mick Jagger, or hanging out with Led Zeppelin.
I have a question about Keith Moon. In the first book you talk about him cross-dressing ...was the cross dressing something he was doing to be amusing, as a lark, or do you think it was an actual fetish?
No, it wasn't a fetish! It was just part of his dressing up. He just loved to escape himself, you know, he loved to be all kinds of other people.
He was something else, that's for darn sure.
I don't think anybody ever saw his sensitive side that you portray.
I'm glad. I hope it came across.
It did. It was beautiful.
So...umm. You're reading at Book Soup next week?
Yes. Thursday, July 19, at 7pm. Cherry Vanilla, (Miss) Mercy, Cassandra (Peterson), Gail Zappa, Lori Maddox, Pleasant Gehman... it's gonna be really fun. Last time, you couldn't get in, but it's in the bigger room this time, so that's good! They're all gonna read their own stuff which is going to be just a kick!
Book Soup 8818 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood CA 90069 (310) 659-3110