A new Rock Doc from VH1 puts Pamela Des Barres, the self-proclaimed “world’s most famous groupie,” behind the wheel on a quest to interview the Supergroupies of decades past.
Des Barres, now 62, claims to have had affairs with Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Keith Moon, and many more rock icons. She’s written four books about her rock star trysts and love affairs. The latest, Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies (2007), compiled interviews with other groupies and inspired the new documentary.
Although Des Barres acknowledges that she “put the ‘sex’ in ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” she contends that groupies were an important part of the scene in the 60s and 70s, and mostly just loved the music.
“Any good groupie loves the music so much it’s part of the bloodstream,” Des Barres says in the documentary, whose title (Let’s Spend the Night Together: Confessions of Rock’s Greatest Groupies) was adapted from her book. “I remember once sitting on Jimmy Page’s amplifier at the Forum and just merging with it all, and actually getting a taste of what it was like…These girls wanted to be with the bands that made their hearts and souls and their entire bodies feel that good.”
It’s quips like this that reinforce the theory that Pamela Des Barres was the inspiration for Penny Lane, the primary groupie character in Almost Famous, the quintessential rock and roll movie based on young Cameron Crowe’s real-life experiences touring with Led Zeppelin. Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson) defends herself and her friends in the film, asserting: “We are not groupies. Groupies sleep with rockstars because they want to be near someone famous. We’re here because of the music. We are BandAids…We inspire the music.”
Then again, it’s this aversion to the term “groupie” that Des Barres is trying to dispell.
“I’m actually setting out to reclaim the word ‘groupie,’” she says. “It’s become a tawdry, naughty word. It’s been stretched all over the place, and I just want to take it back. I want to show how these girls were an integral part of the scene and share their incredible stories.”
The documentary features interviews with a number of groupies, but my favorites were the unexpected sit-downs with two queens of cult classics: Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) and Tura Satana, one of the stars of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). Although destined to be famous in their own right later in life, the pair were groupies in their youth, and Ms. Satana bagged the most famous rock star of all: Elvis Presley.
Satana met Elvis on the beach when she was only 17 years old. “I saw those gorgeous blue eyes and I just fell in love.” In the documentary, she shares how she taught Elvis to kiss and even claims to have taught him the shimmy that powered so many of his controversial dance moves.
Peterson, on the other hand, managed to maintain her virginity throughout her time as a groupie, despite her infamous cleavage and heavy make-out sessions with Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page.
Other documentary highlights include Laura “Lightning” Mattix’s tale of losing her virginity to David Bowie, a tour of Cynthia Plaster Caster’s replicas of rock star penises, Michelle Orerman’s description of what it was like to bone Steven Tyler in high school and love Robert Plant for a lifetime, Catherine James’s fond memories of Mick Jagger, and a particularly crass segment with Sweet Connie Hamzy, the girl (now grandma) who inspired the opening verses of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band.”
This foray into television may be just the beginning for Des Barres and her pro-groupie movement. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Des Barres confirmed that negotiations are underway for a HBO series based on her life: “I’ve been trying to get I’m With the Band on the screen for 25 years. It’s set in Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip in the late ’60s. Zooey Deschanel is set to play me…It’s gonna happen. It’s just taking longer than we hoped.”
Let’s Spend the Night Together premiered on December 15th. Check VH1 listings for future air dates.Almost Famous, BandAids, Catherine James, Cynthia Plaster Caster, David Bowie, Elvira, Elvis Presley, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Grand Funk Railroad, groupies, HBO series, I'm With the Band, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Kate Hudson, Keith Moon, Laura "Lightning" Mattix, Led Zeppelin, Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies, Let's Spend the Night Together: Confessions of Rock's Greatest Groupies, Michelle Orerman, Mick Jagger, Pamela Des Barres, Penny Lane, Robert Plant, Rolling Stone, Steven Tyler, supergroupies, Sweet Connie Hamzy, The GTOs, Tura Satana, VH1, VH1 Rock Doc, We're An American Band, Zooey Deschanel