Richard "Bugs" Burnett's national column and blog on LGBTQ life and culture across Canada and around the world
Thursday, 28 July 2016
MISS PAMELA! LEGENDARY ROCK n ROLL SUPER GROUPIE PAMELA DES BARRES TELLS ALL
Des Barres' infamous memoirI’m With the Band: Confessions of Groupie was first published in 1987
Bugs' interview with Pamela Des Barres originally ran in Three Dollar Bill on Sept. 4, 2008
There was a time in 1950s America when pop stars called groupies Top 40 Fuckers."That’s what Dion’s wife told me," says author Pamela Des Barres, the 1960s beauty who found fame as the ultimate rock’n'roll groupie to the stars.
"I think groupies are misunderstood," says Des Barres. "They are judged as loose women. "Groupie" has become synonymous with "whore." But everybody is out having sex. It’s a double standard. You don’t even have to have sex. Some girls just want to hang out."
Des Barres is not finished. "I also think groupies are feminists of the highest order because we do what we want."
Des Barres says the term "groupie" wasn’t coined until 1967. That, of course, was the year of the Summer of Love, when an 18-year-old Des Barres got her first taste when she bumped into her friend’s Laurel Canyon next-door neighbour, Jim Morrison.
As Des Barres famously wrote in her explosive 1987 canon-creating tell-all,I’m With the Band: Confessions of Groupie("My friend Gene Simmons – and that’s all he was – told me I’d sell a lot more books if I used the word ‘confessions’ instead of ‘memoirs’!"), Jim Morrison looked like a Greek god.
"I was a virgin at the time and was holding onto my virginity!" Des Barres recalls. "But we did make out, did some heavy petting. He was a very poetic guy."
The ’60s also gave birth to the "Supergroupie" – kind of like the supermodel of the rock world – and the biggest of all was Des Barres, whose life influenced the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous.
"Supergroupies were girls who were taken on the road, actually ended marrying many of the guys, the ones you see in photos with them," Des Barres explains. "There were groupies all over the place but there weren’t many supergroupies. Linda Eastman [McCartney] and Yoko Ono were the queens!"
In 2008′s more isolated, insulated corporate world of rock, Des Barres says, "The supergroupies today are Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder. It started with Patti Hansen and Keith Richards, and Mick has dated lots of models.
"So now supergroupies are models, actors, strippers – though they’d never consider themselves to be groupies. It’s also easier for these people to meet each other because it’s harder now for a regular girl to break in."
Des Barres says there were gay and lesbian groupies too, though she can only name one gay male groupie. That’s because most gay rock stars are still closeted.
"It’s still a very macho community and [gays] are afraid of not getting work," says Des Barres. "It’s the way of the world, but thankfully it is shifting."
Back during Des Barres’ supergroupie heyday, rumours of Jim Morrison’s taste for men made the grapevine when he hung around Andy Warhol’s Factory crew.
Acclaimed rock biographer Stephen Davis documents, in his 2004 bio Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend, Morrison’s affair with a Hollywood hustler in June 1968. Davis writes that Morrison "reportedly had a fleeting relationship with a well-known male prostitute who worked along the strip. This hustler then tried to extort money by threatening to expose Jim’s secret sexual habits. Jim’s lawyer, Max Fink, arranged for a meeting between the hustler and an intermediary, who was a private detective and leg-breaker. The hustler was left bleeding and missing teeth in an alley behind a motel near the Los Angeles airport, and the blackmail attempt stopped."
Morrison’s Doors bandmate Ray Manzarek eviscerated me when I asked him once if Morrison was bisexual (and that, of course, is the problem with the closet: You only know what you see).
So I ask Des Barres her thoughts.
"I never witnessed him being bisexual, never even heard rumblings of it," Des Barres says. "[But] he was so fucking stoned I don’t think he even knew who he was with at a certain point in his life. He couldn’t even see. We’d see him staggering down the street and he’d fall down and nobody would even pick him up. He was in a bad way. But, yeah, he could’ve had experiences he didn’t remember!"
During her groupie years, Des Barres had relationships with Keith Moon ("I’d have to recuperate for two weeks after he left town, he was so outrageous!"), Mick Jagger ("He made androgyny acceptable") and Jimmy Page ("One night he gave me mescaline and didn’t take any so he could be in control").
Des Barres has spent the last 20 years legitimizing the groupie, notably in two of her other books, Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up and Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies, both re-released by Chicago Review Press this week.
And on Sept. 9, the original supergroupie, Miss Pamela, turns 60.
"I’m hosting a party and everyone I’ve ever met will be there! It’s gonna be a humdinger!" Des Barres laughs. "Everyone has to dress like it’s the 1960s. My invitation says, ‘Step into the ’60s with me.’ But I hope to grow older gracefully and joyfully and show others that it’s not so bad getting old."