This story originally appeared in the February 15, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone
She got her man. He was the cat they all were after and she got him! In the groupie’s place in the culture of rock and roll that makes her something. She was already something: She had already balled 17 (or 36 or 117) musicians — four (or 12 or 25) of them real stars, names everybody in the U.S. and England would know — but now her status was elevated again. She had scored with this cat the first night he was in town. She might get him for the whole weekend. He seemed to dig her, you know; you can’t always tell, but he did seem to. Wow!
A groupie is a chick who hangs out with bands and becoming a good one is not entirely a simple matter. Says Henri a now pregnant old-timer yenta of the San Francisco groupie circuit, “Being a groupie is a full time gig. Sort of like being a musician. You have two or three girl friends you hang out with and you stay as high and as intellectually enlightened as a group of musicians. You’ve got to, if you’re going to have anything to offer. Musicians should pay more attention to the good thing they’ve got going for them — groupies, I mean. After all, a groupie is a non-profit call girl. Like a Japanese Geisha in many ways, and a friend and a housekeeper and pretty much whatever the musician needs.”
“There are two kinds of groupies,” notes veteran trouper, guitarist Jimmy Page, “those who are like friends, like San Francisco girls; and those Los Angeles and New York girls who are making a religion of how many pop stars they can fuck. Groupies are a better ball, by and large, you know: they’ve had more experience and they’re willing to try more things. The sex angle is important. But no more important than girls who are also good friends and make you feel like family.”
Says Anna: “A girl is a groupie only if she has numerous relationships, like where they’d overlap within one group, which so often happens where a groupie will hit maybe three people, sleep with three people all in one night from the same group. From equipment man to who’s ever the most important. With the younger ones, that’s really like a desperate attempt at getting something out of the group, ins’ead of relying on her judgment for the one guy she did dig.”
Q: Does the name “groupie” bother you?
Anna: Oh, probably, because you see what most other groupies are into and you just don’t want to be associated with it. I mean, it’s just so basic with most chicks. They just know that person is on stage, they don’t know his name — or maybe they’ve read it — and they haven’t even taken the time to figure out if his guitar is a bass or lead. Well, like I’m lucky enough to know. Usually, unless I’m really wiped out, I can tell what’s happening up there. That’s why I don’t like the term groupie. It covers a very wide range of woman.
“Really being a groupie,” says one chick who is a groupie by the way she lives, if not by her own description, “is like borrowing a series of lives from people and thinking you can be them. It’s not something you can do. That’s why groupie chicks are so miserable. It’s a constant frustration, the groupie scene. Even when you’re balling some cat, you’re not balling him, and he’s not balling you, it’s really just two people on different planes with different needs and different fantasies.”
Q: What’s the appeal for a chick in groupie-ing?
Sally: In plastic terms — in sensual terms — where can you get more sensations? You get to ball, smoke dope, dress weird, be groovy, be around nothing but groovy people — all at once.
A fine little girl
She waits for me
She’s as plastic as she can be
She paints her face with plastic goo
And wrecks her hair with shampoo
Oh baby now —
You’re such a drag
—Frank Zappa, “Plastic People”
Star-fuckers are lowest on the totem pole of groupiedom, badly regarded by the other girls and musicians alike. Their designation says it all: they ball with the super stars of the pop world only so they can then say they balled Mr. H., Mr. D., Messrs. L., McC., H. and S., Mr. D., Br. B., Messrs. J., J., W., R. and W., Mr. M., Mr. B., and Mr. R. and Mr. M. for good measure. (No one claims to have made it with Mr. T. T.) It’s like notches in the star-fucker’s belt, like saving bubble gum trading cards. Groupies are such incredible name-droppers. It’s impossible to be sure how much is truth and how much is fantasy. You’ve got to be careful talking with a lot of groupies. The way they tell it, it always went their way — in their favor.
For star-fuckers, it’s a competitive thing that has very little to do with getting to know the musician; it’s the same instinct that motivates butterfly collectors: “OK, I got one of those, now I want one of these.” Recounted by Henri: “Groupies tend to hang together, whereas star-fuckers are usually social loners. A bunch of groupies will form a clique and discourage star-fuckers from being in the vicinity of the dressing rooms and hotel rooms as best they can. Star-fuckers have worlds of patience and will wait for hours to fuck their heroes.”
Star-fuckers are balling names, not people, and this basically inhuman quest is not lost upon the musicians, who tend, naturally enough, to think of themselves as people first and Symbols second, especially in bed. Star-fucking is the essential part of the Los Angeles scene, integral to New York, tangential with exceptions, to San Francisco.
Lacy: In Los Angeles they just hang around. They only want to be seen with a guy. They’re young girls and they don’t know what they want. They’ll hang out with a band where the guys are really gross, but, you know, he’s a star, so later you can go back to your friends and rap.
“Sure, some chicks are just star-fuckers,” says Country Joe McDonald, “But it doesn’t matter what their motivation is, you know. There’s these times when they come around after somethin’ and you’re after somethin’ too, so you get it together and everybody’s happy. Groupies are beautiful. They come to hear you play, they throw flowers and underpants, they give you kisses and love, they come to bed with you. They’re beautiful. We love groupies.”
Anna: I’m very aggressive. I don’t think anything of waiting for them to come out on stage and grabbing their arms or copping a feel and telling them what I want. Why shouldn’t you? Why play those little games? Like, if they dig you and dig what you’re into, they’ll say, groovy, come on. And backstage you go and turn on with them and …
Your friends they are making
A pop star or two — every evening
You know that scene backwards
They just can’t see the patterns
They’re weaving …
And you sit in your one room
A little brought down in London
Coffee on, milk gone
Such a sad light and fading
Yourself you touch; but not too much
You hear it’s degrading…
You are lonely —
Well you are but a young girl
Working your way through the phonies
—Donovan, “Young Girl Blues”
Groupies may tend to think of themselves as unselfish vehicles of love, but those who’ve studied the groupie ethos see them otherwise. “They treat sex the same way an accountant treats his new Buick,” says Los Angeles Free Clinic psychologist Gerald Rochman — “as a status symbol.” The whole thing can be seen in a homosexual perspective, to the extent the chick is balling rock stars simply to be able to brag to her girlfriends.
In some cases, this may be coupled with negative feelings toward both the musician and his success. “They may,” says Rochman, “feel anger or envy, and by sleeping with these fellows they’re showing the gods have clay feet.”
Groupie slang (which derives from rock talk!) might seem to bear this out by its violent undertone. When a groupie talks about sleeping with somebody, she will often say she hit him — a term which derives from gangster talk. When the Mafia hits a cat, he’s dead.
Even among friends, like Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Sally Mann, who hangs out with the band, an air of (mock) brutality comes naturally. Jorma stood at the head of the stairs at Airplane House speaking with some people and Sally, at the foot, was giving him some hassle about something. “You better watch it little girl,” he said, flicking open a switchblade, “or I’ll carve my initials in your backside.” “Then I’d always know who did it,” she laughed. “Then everybody would know,” Jorma replied.
“Within a certain subculture in San Francisco,” says Dr. David Smith, head of the Haight Ashbury Medical Clinic, “rock is the basic art form. The musicians are the high priests of the community. Janis Joplin is the high priestess. The structure of the community is mediated through the art form and all activities revolve around the bands. Now, sex is no big deal within the community,” the psycho-pharmacologist stresses, “it’s just part of the whole sharing process. They share food, houses, drugs, houses, money, sex. If it were a sex cult thing, the rest of it wouldn’t exist — the whole structure of the community.
“It’s the same as straight culture, in a way, where the bankers are attractive to young girls. They’ve got the money and the power. In this community, rock musicians occupy that role.”
Anna: Groupies are mainly concerned with themselves and the images they’re giving off to their friends … When it started, it was like an ego thing, where if I could really get into a group that came to town, I thought my friends would really think I was really groovy and far-out for someone like that to notice me. It was a challenge — of course, it was a challenge. But that wears off. That’s one of the first things that wears off.
Being a groupie is not nothing but laughs; it is, in some ways at least, a Life of Pain.
One San Francisco groupie (she didn’t want her name used, so call her Victoria) serves as a good example of one thing that can happen when you go around balling a different cat every week-end, three or four times. You wind up — she wound up — pregnant and, nine months later found herself enduring the pain of the maternity ward. Her baby boy is now two.
“God, I was in love with that cat,” says Victoria of the father. “In fact, I still am. His whole life revolves around music. He’s got no time for a kid. I haven’t put any demands on him. I was 15 when David was born and I wanted to keep him. But never again would I keep a child. Never again have a child out of wed-lock. Oh, you don’t know how hard it is when you’ve got a kid and you’ve got to earn a living and you’re 15. I’ve done it all myself. You find your family isn’t too sympathetic when they learn the details. I feel sorry for any other chick who gets herself into this kind of a scene.” Victoria frowned a little, shut her huge blue eyes and added, more softly, “It’s awful but I’ll put on a certain record and one of those songs comes on — and I just break into tears and cry like a baby.”
The way she says this, Victoria is clearly feeling sorry for herself, but she says it without expression or inflection — as if she’s lived it too long to get excited about it; but she does want other chicks to know. “First I get mad and say, That motherfucker, and then I bawl and bawl.
“I was 14 when I first started balling guys. Jumped in with both feet. I didn’t know what I was doing. Somebody gave me some birth control pills and I would just take one or two before I was going to ball.” The result of it, Victoria feels, is that she never had a teen-age. “I never went to a football game or a prom. Not once. There’s a whole life that I missed.”
I can see that you’re fifteen years old
I don’t want your I.D.
I can see that you’re
So far from home — but
That’s no hangin’ matter
It’s no capital crime
Oh yeah, you’re a stray, stray cat
Come to scratch my back
You’re a stray, stray cat
Betcha mama don’t know you can scream like that
I betcha mama don’t know you can spread like that …
I bet yer mama dunno ya can scratch like that
I bet yer mama don’t know you can bite like that
Say you got a friend and she’s wilder than you?
Why dontcha bring her upstairsIf she’s so wild that she can join in too
It’s no hangin’ matter …
—Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, “Stray Cat Blues”
Groupies are hardly a new phenomenon. And they are not new to the rock and roll scene either, as any dozen stories about the Beatles you care to believe will easily show, let alone the stories of Elvis Presley and, say Natalie Wood. But as the scene changes, so do the girls. Two years ago in San Francisco, the girls who hung out backstage and traveled en caravan with the Grateful Dead were not only young, they were also very hip, very attractive and very womanly. They aren’t groupies anymore, today they’re somebody’s old lady.
Today’s girls stand at the edge, not quite young teenagers in from the city and not quite hippie chicks either. The winds will take them away, too, but right here and now they are the debutantes of the dressing rooms, clustered in pairs every weekend as life unfolds for them. And who knows where the time goes?
There is little agreement as to who is and who is not a groupie. There are even male groupies — by no means as numerous as female groupies, but still a factor on the scene. They travel with the bands because they dig the music and they dig the musicians and want to be part of the scene. Some spend considerable amounts of money on the musicians, whom they regard as friends.
Though the musicians usually put up with male groupies, they generally regard them as fools. (Male groupies often succeed in palming themselves off as part of the band’s entourage — one claims to be Jim Morrison’s brother — thereby scoring with groupies from city to city. So clearly there’s sometimes something besides companionship in it for them.)
The problem with male groupies is that like the girls they want to be a part of what’s happening, but unlike the girls they have nothing immediate or obvious to offer. Thus, you can pretty much rate a male groupie by what it is that he uses as a vaginal substitute.
The most obvious ploy is merely helpfulness, such as chauffeuring services, getting records at record stores or helping with clothes at clothes stores. It’s the old bat boy routine, maybe one day they’ll get to carry one all the way to home plate.
Undoubtedly homosexuality is a part of the picture, and there are the usual tales and “true stories” about this one and that one, and even, you know … but if homosexuality is a significant factor, it is one of the least publicized. Then again, look around you at the next concert you attend at Fillmore West or East, sometimes fully 90 percent of the audience is male, and they aren’t screaming either.
One classic type (there are many classic types) is Owsley Stanley III, the middle-aged manufacturer of the early supplies of LSD. True Owsley Tales are too numerous and too ephemeral to repeat, but the well-known facts are that he has kept whole groups, like the Grateful Dead, for months at a time. The Dead’s appetite for girls is the equal of their appetite for dope.
For Owsley, it is not how many stars he’s fucked, but how many he has turned on. He’ll spend days trying to locate someone, using drugs as his entree. When George Harrison spent a week in Los Angeles two summers ago, Owsley was on the phone with everyone in town who might give him the phone number up there on Blue Jay Way. And Owsley did get there too, but unfortunately that was during the Maharishi scare, and LSD was not quite George’s ticket at that point.
Ashley Kozak, then Donovan’s manager, remembers that Owsley was trying to reach Donovan who was doing concerts in town, and called him at his room in the Fairmont Hotel. “Hello, Mr. Kozak,” Owsley is reported to have said, “My name is Owsley.” That didn’t ring any bells, so Owsley went on to describe himself to Mr. Kozak in these words: “I’m the LSD Millionaire.”
Unfortunately, that was after Donovan had been busted, and dope wasn’t exactly his cup of tea either. Nonetheless, Owsley is the most successful male groupie as he has the next best thing to sex, and the truth is that Owsley knows just about everybody. In fact, Owsley may not be a groupie in the strictest sense; his quest after pop stars may be a part of his LSD crusade. On the other hand, the girls of rock rate Owsley as very stiff competition, and that says a bushel and a peck.
Sunset Strip’s Rodney Bingenheimer (the semi-legendary “Mayor of Sunset Strip”) is another category unto himself. It was Rodney in his 5-foot-2 majesty who leaped out onstage at the Shrine Christmas show, tugged off his Santa beard, and proclaimed: “I’ll let you ball Ringo Starr — but you have to ball me first.” Rodney, 22, is a groupie at least in the sense that he hangs out with every group that hits town, then tells everybody about hanging out with the group. Listen to the people that he says have been to his pint-sized apartment behind the Hullaballoo: George Harrison, the Beach Boys, Mickey Dolenz, the Five Americans, Three Dog Night, Chet Helms and Stone Pony Linda Ronstadt — well, yeah, there’s only a couple of the real biggies (biggies is the Sunset Strip word Rodney and his pals favor). But that’s not all there is to Rodney, dig. He used to be a stand-in for Davy Jones of the Monkees, and he still gets an allowance from Sonny Bono.
His proximity to the scene is such — and his esteem high enough — that Rodney pulls his share of groupies (groupie chicks, that is) and worries enough about the consequences that he goes to the health clinic on San Vincente regularly to be certain he hasn’t picked up a dose. “There’s clap,” says Rodney Bingenheimer, “because the groupies catch it from the guys who stand out on the street selling downers. They don’t have any money for downers so they ball the guys. And then they give it to the musicians.”
Rodney and Owsley are reasonably benign figures, but some of the male hangers-on are both weird and menacing. As tender of the Jefferson Airplane’s door, it falls upon Sally Mann to chase away people the band doesn’t want to see. She sees every manner of groupie, including the male variety.
“A lot of weird dudes come here and say, like, hello, we’d like to come in and play guitar and get high. And how do I know who they are? You should be nice but tell them, look, this is somebody’s home and they need privacy. But it’s weird. Some of them look like Mafia. And there’s one cat comes running through the whole place uncontrollably. It’s kind of frightening.”
There are other male groupies of course, some of them even musicians. Like so many other people in this tale, they are groupies only in a limited sense; the pejorative sense of the word “groupie” applies only lightly; primarily, they are social butterflies.
“We’re all groupies sometimes,” says Steve Miller. “When Eric Clayton was in town, I went to see him but I was so awed I was just like a groupie. I just stood around and couldn’t say anything. He seemed so, uh, important.”
The “pop people” are numerous and where someone with a legitimate function becomes a groupie is a loose assessment at best. A person like Los Angeleno Alan Pariser can be seen as either. He backed the original parties to the Monterey Pop Festival with several thousand dollars and earned a role there as producer; he also produced some noteworthy benefits for the Sunset Strip rioters. Headquartered in the Hollywood hills, he dabbles in many projects, yet takes his strength and ethic from the pop world. He is a friend of Eric Clapton’s and George Harrison’s and John Phillips’ and who is really to say?
Pogo, as he calls himself, is a New York boy of 17 who has patterned his whole life-style after Jim Morrison and obviously has spent much time practicing his poses in front of a mirror. His outfit is black leather, his hair pure Morrison. He once flew to Los Angeles to catch the Doors at the Hollywood Bowl, crashed the afternoon practice session, said four words to Morrison (“Hello, how are you?”), got back one (“Fine”), talked a while to Morrison’s girl, and got thrown out. He saw the concert from a hilltop a half-mile away, got busted by the police, and sent back to New York via a free ticket because he was a juvenile. While in jail, he refused to cut his hair. All in all, he considered the trip an outstanding success.
Pogo is a high school dropout, a bright kid who once tried to wade through T. S. Eliot to teach himself something about poetry because he couldn’t understand Bob Dylan’s lyrics. Unable to make it with either Elliot or Dylan, he settled on Morrison. Mick Jagger is another favorite. The only girl he seems interested in is Janis Joplin. He once attended a party that she was at, held her hand for a while, soul-kissed her twice, and was ecstatic about it for weeks.
He lives from place to place in the East Village, prides himself on never having any money or paying for anything (“crashing a concert is the only way”), and has ambitions of starting a group, writing songs, etc. His destructive life-style is set up so that if he doesn’t become the superstar he hopes to be, there’s nothing left but oblivion.
Pogo tells this story, among many: “Big Brother and the Holding Company were playing at the Fillmore East. I had all intentions of seeing all of the shows. They were all sold out before the doors opened, so I couldn’t buy a ticket. I had no intention of buying one anyway, even if I had the money. Part of the whole build-up is trying to sneak in. We found a side door open and made it in that way. We were good and stoned by the time it all began. “Janis walked out, and everyone went wild. Her hair was so beautiful as it was thrown all over. She looked about 19. She dances around so beautifully that you can’t stop from getting up and dancing yourself. I felt as though she were singing to me personally. She got me so sexually aroused — the way Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison do. but without the guilt. “It wasn’t the shame that held me back — it was the cops. She did ‘Ball and Chain,’ and it made me feel sad and happy at the same time — you know, that deep, beautiful feeling that you just can’t explain in words. After the first show, we waited outside to see Janis when she came out. I didn’t know what to say, so I just looked.
“But my friend couldn’t resist. He gave her a kiss and kept repeating, ‘I love you … you’re beautiful,’ and Janis smiled and gave him a kiss back. After the second show, we decided to sneak backstage. They were having a big champagne party, and Janis was there. I had to speak to her. My friend and I got drunk on the champagne and played with the little five- and six-year-old people in the pile of confetti. “I’m basically shy and don’t talk much, so I didn’t talk much. I just played friendly mind games with her. After the party, at about seven in the morning, Janis was leaving, and my friend and I decided to leave with her. We met her outside and said goodbye. She just stood there and smiled. So my friend gave her a kiss, and I asked if I could, too. She nodded. And so I did, very self-consciously, thinking, ‘Should I use my tongue or not?’
Later, we talked about it for about three hours — about how nice the kiss was and that I got to kiss her with my tongue. We couldn’t sleep so we stayed up all the next day and waited for the show that night. We snuck in again, but I got kicked out. I started begging money on the streets so that I could buy a ticket for the final show. I got just enough money, but they wouldn’t sell me a ticket. So I said, ‘Fuck you,’ and walked in anyway. They called me back, but I ducked into the crowd. “We’re about ready to go to Frisco. We wrote all over the walls, ‘Janis Is Sex,’ ‘Janis Is Love,’ ‘Janis Is Big Brother.’ We stole the picture that was on the front of the Fillmore and put it on our wall.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a job that puts you in ballrooms and clubs primarily. One girl reporter for a Detroit underground paper has it worked out pretty neatly. “I thought — I really thought — we were going to her place to do an interview,” says Canned Heat’s Bob Hite. “But first she seduced me, then she interviewed me.” The significance of this is that rock bands need all the publicity the media can give them (especially, in a peculiar way, the underground press) and therefore this chick is in position to work something like blackmail as she adds names to her list of achievements.
Hip tailor ladies (like L.A.’s Genie the Tailor and S.F.’s Anna) who make on-stage attire for bands also have an inside track. Genie the Tailor parlayed a commission to do a shirt for Jack Bruce into a trip to San Francisco with Cream, and then wrote about her adventure in one of the fan magazines — leaving out all the best parts, unless it was a terribly dull trip. As Genie tells it, the highpoint came when a bellboy at the hotel in San Francisco handed her a birthday cupcake with a single tiny candle in it, and a note, reading: “To a tailor on her birthday from a blue shirt named Jack and Eric and Ginger with love.’ Most chicks expect a bit more direct expression of love.
Similarly, Chris (Sunshine) Brooks knows dozens of musicians from her work, operating the San Francisco office of a rock publicity agency (and from earlier, when she used to sing with jazz bands as Sunshine). At 29, with her sweet face and full-to-matronly figure, many English musicians affectionately call her “Mum.” “I am a mother-confessor to some of the guys,” she admits. Indeed, Sunshine is a mother, with twin five-year-olds from one marriage (she’s been married twice) that didn’t work out. Few groupies have been as active as long as Sunshine, who originally started with jazz players. Now she is the senior partner in a group of five girls — herself, Karen, Judy Wong and The Twins (not her children, but a pair of 21-year-old sisters) — who travel as a pack in quest of rock bands. Says Sunshine: “I know I’m not beautiful, but I’m not self-conscious, either, and often I can get something going where the other girls would sort of hang back and wait for it to happen. I’m the front-runner.”
Sunshine is both a groupie and more than a groupie. Some of the girls of rock — girls who are very much part of the scene — everybody knows them — never were groupies in the strict sense, but are, somehow, cut of the same fabric. Like Trixie the girl bass player, and Dusty the girl recording engineer.
Dusty Street used to be an FM rock engineer (at KMPX before the S.F. station had its strike and went through all those changes), and now, at 22, is learning to become a recording engineer with Mercury Records. She already has served on served sessions — Harvey Mandel’s Cristo Redentor and a demo tape for Johnny Winter, most notably — and says she’s in it because she digs the music, not so she can ball musicians. “Musicians impress me primarily as minds, as creative forces. What I love is good, solid music that makes you feel. But I don’t hang out with musicians.” Trained in radio-TV at San Francisco State, Dusty went to KMPX because there was a gig open. “Everybody thought the girl engineers were balling everybody,” she laughs. “That was so funny because it never happened.” She did get love poems from one male listener, nearly every day. And at KMPX she acquired the nicknames “Dusty Superchick,” in honor of her tall, comely figure and the roses in her cheeks; and “Lusty Treat,” in honor of something (real or fantasized) else. Do musicians hit on her now, after recording sessions? “Oh, when I was first learning sometimes,” says Dusty, “but now it’s more like a business relationship, like: how can we make this thing sound best. They’re all very sweet to me.”
Regional pride is a major factor in contemporary American life and accounts for such classic rock and roll statements as:
Well, East Coast girls are really hip
I dig the clothes they wear
And Southern girls with the way they talk
hey knock me out when I’m down there
And Northern girls with the way they kiss
They keep their boyfriends warm at night
I wish they all could be — California
I wish they all could be — California
I wish they all could be California girls …
—Brian Wilson, “California Girls”
The fact is that there are differences between groupies according to what part of the country you’re in. When you talk about weird scenes, you are talking about Los Angeles and the Mothers and Frank Zappa. The Mothers are the first name that comes to mind when you ask an L.A. groupie which band is the most sexually oriented or bizzarre. Indeed, Zappa’s reputation, as one musician puts it, is that he supports “all the freaks of Los Angeles.”
“Our band is not exactly the kind of band where chicks jump up onstage during a performance,” says Zappa. “And the kind of chicks we pull are kinda weird — by weird I mean the 12 and 13 year olds that Don Preston was dragging across international boundaries in Europe. I personally am not troubled with groupies, but the other guys in the band seem to get a little action after the hop.”
There are various kinds of groupies and Zappa, an ever-astute observer of the scene, sees them in terms of cities. “New York groupies,” says Zappa, “are basically New York chicks. They’re snobbish and uptight — they think they’re big. San Francisco groupies are OK, but they think there’s nothing happening outside San Francisco. L.A. groupies are without doubt the best — the most aggressive and the best fucks, and the only drawback is the incredibly high rate of venereal disease.”
Every band that travels carries either Cuprex or A-200 to kill the crabs groupies lay on them. “It’s sort of take your choice,” Zappa says. “Cuprex burns something awful; it’ll take the skin right off. But A-200 smells something fierce.”
Sunshine: It’s insane. L.A. Chicks will tell you, like, all I care about is fucking and money. All those Hollywood freaks. They have more money than other groupies. Their parents have more money. They get all the material comforts.
Judy: Down in Los Angeles, I’ve actually seen it happen where a chick will go up to a guy and say, “I’m over 18, I’m clean, let’s fuck.” Imagine that! It’s got nothing to do with a personal relationship. “Let’s fuck.” Imagine!
The Mothers got love that’ll
Drive you mad
They’re ravin’ ’bout the
Way we do
No need to feel lonely
No need to feel sad
If we ever got a hold on you
Nature’s been good to
This here band
Don’t think we’re shy
Send us up some little groupies
And we’ll tape their hands
And rock ’em till they swill and cry
We can love ya till you
Have a heart attack
You best believe that’s true
We’ll bite your neck
Till you don’t know what to do
You know I got a little
Motherly love for you honey — Yeah-h-h-h
You know it doesn’t
Bother me at all
That you’re only eighteen years old
Cause I got a little
Motherly love for you babe —
—Zappa, “Motherly Love”
“Very rare that chicks hit on me,” says Zappa. “I think they’re afraid of me.” At this thought, Zappa flashes the merest — only the merest — small smile. “I would just like to take this opportunity to announce to the groupies of this country that I am am a very pleasant fellow, so don’t be afraid.” As the sat on a flight of stairs backstage at Winterland in San Francisco, fifteen or twenty young girls approached Zappa, not to hit on him, but to tell him they dug the Mothers, him, and the set the band had just completed. Zappa signed autographs, conversed real friendly-like, and was in his every manner the soul of propriety and courtliness. Nevertheless, each of the chicks approached warily, as if ready to make a break for the door, should the goateed lion spring at them.
Zappa used to live in a Topanga Canyon commune with six chicks. “What it was is that I moved in with them instead of paying rent someplace else. It was a happy situation for everybody.” But now he’s a married man and lives alone with his wife and baby daughter, Moon Unit. (There is a guest house out back, however, where Pamela Zarubica, alias Suzy Creamcheese, resides.)
During their five-month stay in New York, the Mothers were dogged day and night by groupies. They would follow exactly 15 paces behind the band. Really young chicks — Cindy, Annie, Janell and Rozzy — aged 13 to 15. Zappa thought it was far-out. “They really surprised us. They had really groovy minds. More imagination than I’ve ever seen in girls so young.” But sometimes a mite vicious. “I have a tape of a 14-year-old going through a fantasy where she was going to kill my pregnant wife so she could get me. It’s a little scary, but it’s actually very flattering, too.”
Zappa may wind up the ultimate historian of the groupies (whom he sees as freedom fighters at the avant garde of the Sexual Revolution that is sweeping Western Civilization). He’s got hours of interview and conversation with groupies on tape, plus all the diaries of the GTOs, plus all the diaries of the Plaster Casters, plus several other diaries and hundreds of letters and photos; and he’s already gotten the whole thing together into a book to be called The Groupie Papers. The manuscript is already in the hands of the publishing company Stein & Day, although Zappa still has heard no reaction from them. “They asked me to write a political book,” he says. “I couldn’t get into that, and I had a January 1st deadline. So I did the groupie book. I wonder what their first impression was.” Stein & Day is a high quality and pretty straight house.
Some of the tape may appear on the Mothers’ next LP, or maybe the one after that. “I’m not sure the public is ready for that yet, and some of the girls are under-age,” says Zappa, “so there’s the ethical problem.” His tapes contain the whole groupie rap: comments on various rockstars’ (“cockstars,” Zappa calls ’em) penis length and diameter, hairiness, body smell, duration of intercourse, number of orgasms by him, number of orgasms by her, type of drug preferred, etc., etc.
It pays to make a favorable impression. “Groupies are very influential on the record market because they know so many people,” Zappa notes. “If you’re a hit with the groupies, you’ll sell 15,000 records in L.A. alone.”
Zappa himself couldn’t believe it when he first heard about the Plaster Casters. “It was the most fantastic thing I ever heard,” he recalls. He is now their sponsor, as the girls put it — or advisor, as he puts it. “I appreciate what they’re doing, both artistically and sociologically. Sociologically it’s really heavy. I’m their advisor to see that they’re not mistreated.” Artistically, Zappa thinks the Plaster Casters’ works compare favorably with, say, neon sculpture.
“Pop stars are idolized the same way General Grant was. People put up statues to honor war heroes. The Plaster Casters do the same thing for pop stars. What they’re doing is making statues of the essential part of the stars. It’s the same motivation as making statues of Grant.”
Zappa grants that the Plaster Casters are not without their own element of comedy. “I find a sense of humor lacking in pop music generally,” he says. “All these people take themselves so seriously. They should be able to laugh at themselves. The Plaster Casters help you do that.” Considering all his admiration for the girls it is perhaps odd that Zappa has not been cast himself. “They asked me, of course,” he says, “but it just wasn’t for me.”
The incidence of lesbianism between groupies is high, Zappa finds. “Very high,” he says, “and they think nothing of it. They prefer homosexual or bisexual boys. Soft, effeminate boys. It’s good that they can be bi-sexual. It shows they’re adapting to their needs. If it feels good, do it! With a dog, with a ketchup bottle, anyway at all it’s groovy.”
“It’s amazing what you run into on the road,” Zappa says. “These chicks are ready for anything. They’ll give head” — oral intercourse — “without thinking about it, anyplace: backstage in the dressing room, out in the street, anyplace, any time. And they’re ready for anything.
“I think pop music has done more for oral intercourse than anything else that ever happened, and vice versa.
“And it’s good for the girls. Eventually most of them are going to get married to regular workers — office workers, factory workers, just regular guys. These guys are lucky to be getting girls like these, girls who have attained some level of sexual adventurousness. It’s good for the whole country. These guys will be happier, they’ll do their jobs better, and the economy will reflect it. Everybody will be happier.”
In short: A happy nation sucks.
The absolute antithesis in group image to the Mothers is another L.A. band: those “loveable synthetic TV mop-tops” (as Mike Nesmith himself describes them), the Monkees. And yet … and yes, it’s hard to believe … the Monkees figure fairly prominently in the tales of L.A. groupies. There are stories of orgies, of fantastic week-ends, the same kind of stories that are told about most bands.
Monkee Mike Nesmith says he doesn’t know where the stories come from, because, “actually our contacts with those people are very, very limited, and growing more so by the day.” Whether this is a Monkee public relations attempt to keep the group’s name pristine is open to speculation. But Nesmith seems entirely candid when he says: “It’s not that we’d mind, but the underground has completely shunned us, and that means the whole Monkee scene is anthema to the chicks who hang around bands.”
Nesmith, who’s 26, sounds altogether wistful as he explains where the Monkees are really at. “We wind up with the 11-year-olds who don’t get along with Mommy and Daddy. At first we rejected them, but then you come to see how they identify with the band. They’re not articulate. We speak for them in a way beyond semantics. I mean, I love Jimi Hendrix’ music. It’s a very powerful statement of what Jimi is. Chicks hear Jimi and they’ve got to ball him. They hear us and what they hear in us is themselves. We’re a reflection. There’s no need to ball us when they can take the record home and it’s like balling themselves every 20 minutes.”
To think that any groupies should ever fantasize over the Monkees is almost more than Nesmith can conceive. “It’s flattering, I guess, in a weird sort of way. But I don’t know what they see in us.”
The fantasies are broadening into the culture and cutting through age lines, and groupies are getting younger and younger. The Grateful Dead have in their collection a letter an 8-year-old girl wrote to Jerry Garcia: “I want to know all about you. I want to know what kind of woman you prefer. I want to fuck with you when I get to San Francisco.” The Dead’s secretary wrote the mini-groupie that Garcia had an old lady for the time being, and advised patience.
Some musicians make a game of guessing what kind of women their band members will choose. Now that Jimmy Page is making his first U. S. tour with Led Zeppelin, does he find more or less groupies than on the eight tours he did with the Yardbirds and others? “Well,” he says, “by now, I’ve got friends I look up, or they call me, in nearly every city. But the other boys in the band who’ve not been here before — I kind of prepare mental lists in my mind to try to predict who they’ll pair off with. I know which chicks are going to come out and the kind of fellows they go for, and I know the taste of the guys in the band, and so I try to make my predictions, girl by girl. I can come pretty close.”
Jimmy Page thinks New York has the best looking groupies, but that San Francisco’s are the most friendly, the most inclined toward developing personal relations in depth with the musicians. “You take each as they come, though,” he says. “And they’re all over the world. We even found them in Singapore.”
The groupies Steve Miller has known since he arrived in San Francisco two years ago nearly all have babies now, he notes — not to say he’s the father. This is attributable, Miller thinks, to the fact that “for most of these girls there’s something missing in their lives — they want more love and affection than they had gotten at home. I think that’s why they want to have kids. They could get abortions, but they don’t.”
It is not unusual for a whole week-end to pass in San Francisco, with a musician and a chick never going to bed together once, though they are together constantly nearly every hour. (Two well-known San Francisco girls started into the groupie scene at the age of 18 and were virgins — they say — until a year ago, at age 20. They are, it should be noted, atypical.)
It’s over to Sausalito, up Mount Tamalpais, shopping at the Town Squire, lunch at Enrico’s, dinner at Connie’s, walk the Golden Gate Bridge, fly kites in the park. This may be one reason why musicians think it a groovy city, but think of other cities as more exciting.
Most San Francisco girls have a job of their own and are self-sufficient, like London girls. They have their own homes and get into the kind of cooking that is a sure way to a man’s belly.
Not every S. F. girl is excited about the current scene in that city, however.
Lacy: The San Francisco scene seems so dead, you know? For a while I was thinking maybe it’s me, maybe I’m burnt out. But the people don’t applaud at the clubs and it isn’t as exciting as it was, like when the Avalon was the hangout and I worked there.
Though it’s an infrequent thing in San Francisco, open balling is taken as a matter of course in Los Angeles. Take, for instance, the time Dinea and Sue arrived at the home of a member of a famous and successful band which imitated the Beatles and within an hour had arranged a picturesque orgy on Mr. T’s living room floor, playing to an audience of four. The next day, after a complicated series of intertwinings, involving, at one point or another, all the other house guests, Dinea capped off the week-end in a guest bedroom with Mr. McG., just the two of them, alone at last. Later, as she and Sue departed, she voiced speculation aloud as to why they’d not been invited back. They erred not in having put on a good show, but in having gone at it too hard. They left everybody at T’s house exhausted.
It can go to similar extremes in New York — like, for instance, the time two groupies fought it out for then-Yardbird Jimmy Page. Each was determined that she was going to have him. So they fought, fist, tooth and nail, until one finally and bloodily was declared victor. Page wasn’t there, but when he heard of it later, he said, “I guess that’s one way to settle a conflict.”
“That New York scene offends me as a female,” says one groupie who’s traveled the country and beyond. “They come on so strong. They go up to the stage and try to grab a foot or something or just say, ‘You really, um, do it to me, let’s go to my place and ball.’ It’s downright disgusting. I downright feel sorry for musicians who have to put up with it.”
“You look for certain things in certain towns,” explains Jimmy Page. “Chicago, for example, is notorious for sort of two things at once — balling two chicks, or three — in combination acts.”
Chicago’s Plaster Casters hooked up with Jimmy Page one time, but couldn’t manage to cast him. Page was willing — “I thought it would be a laugh” — and ready when the Casters showed up at his hotel room. The girls discovered though, that they’d forgotten an essential rubber-base ingredient, and were unable to get Page’s likeness.
“They are the most unlikely looking people,” Page reports. “One of them looks like a dentist’s receptionist, and they go about it very business-like, laying out their equipment and tools. It’s as if they’re cooking up a steak with some strange sauces or something. It’s obviously not a normal sort of thing, but it’s fun.” His introduction was when one of them handed him a card saying, simply, “Life Made Model of Hampton Wick.” (Hampton Wick being British slang for penis.) Page also feels sure the Plaster Casters were responsible for hoisting signs at Chicago Civic Auditorium with the one-word message, “Wank.” That’s British slang for masturbate, “and it broke us up; we fell apart laughing.”
In contrast Steve Miller found his experiences with the Plaster Casters entirely unpleasant. “They came after me,” he says, “when we were in Chicago, and I knew about them before — and I thought it sounded like it might be a groovy thing to do. But then I met these chicks and they’re sick. They’re such grim, sick people. They look like medieval mental cases. They’re just little girls who are absolutely nowhere, man. If they were groovy it would be one thing, but the way they go about it it’s sort of fanatic sickness, really a cheap, trashy trip. When it came down to the nitty gritty and I saw what these chicks are really into I just told them I wasn’t interested.”
Small town chicks tend to be less aggressive than their big-city sisters. They come backstage to meet the musician and ask if he’d like to come to a party on strength of the idea that he makes good music, therefore he might be worth knowing. “Down in Texas, when we were there,” Steve Miller says of his recent tour, “we met some really fine girls — real, basic, down-to-earth people. Like San Francisco girls, except a lot of them live on farms. We had some of the best times we had on the tour in Texas and in small towns because they were the real people.”
The Beatles, the Stones and Dylan occupy important positions in the fantasies and lusts of the groupies (though, surprisingly, Dylan’s name doesn’t come up very often — somehow he’s thought beyond aspiration). But it is Jimi Hendrix who is regarded as the Best Score. He is the most accessible of all the top stars, for one thing. (How does a girl get at the Beatles?) And there’s all that super-black karma attached to his name. And Hendrix is usually ready for whatever little thing turns up. There’s no record of his ever having let down any little lady he found worthy.
To Hendrix, groupies are an essential part of the picture. “I only remember a city,” he says, “by its chicks. Instead of saying ‘We’re part of the love scene,’ they’re actually doing it. They take you around, they wash your socks and try to make you feel nice while you’re in town because they know they can’t have you forever. Used to be the soldiers who were the gallant ones, riding into town, drinking the wine and taking the girls. Now it’s the musician.”
Chicks want nothing more than to be remembered by Hendrix.
Anna: There’s nothing I’d like more than to ball Jimi Hendrix. But my relationship started with one of the other guys [in The Experience], and I want him to come back. I don’t want to lose the relationship I’ve got going.
Inevitably, a whole legend of Jimi Hendrix As Satyr has evolved, compounded of twice and thrice told tales that get more astounding — and dubious — with every new hearing. Here is one of those as recounted by Henri (and it could be called “The Tale of Jimi Hendrix and The Seven Groupies”). “One time the dressing room was full of star-fuckers, at a party for Hendrix. He balled seven different chicks in the space of three hours. Each chick knew what was happening but it didn’t seem to matter. He was Jimi Hendrix.”
Anna: Hendrix is aware — that’s all you can say about Hendrix — he’s really aware of what turns people on. He knows how to handle that guitar — he just about balls it. It’s a very sexual thing. It’s such a trip for him and he gets it across to other people. His gyrations are … that’s just him — that’s Jimi! He’s doing it because he knows it turns on people. And he turns himself on.
But when a rock musician reaches a certain stature, not everybody he runs into turns him on. Those are the chicks Hendrix addresses in his “Crosstown Traffic” …
All you do is slow me down
I’m trying to get on the other side of town
I’m not the only soul who’s been accused of hit and run
Tire tracks all across your back
I can see you had your fun
But uh darlin cant you see
My signal turn from green to red
An’ with you I can see
A traffic jam straight up ahead
Q: Is there a status thing like maybe a chick would say she balled the equipment manager for Jimi Hendrix? Would that be a thing she could tell her friends?
Anna: I don’t think so. I’d never say it. [Laughs.] First of all, I’d know his name. [Laughs.] Which is Jerry.
Q: But do you gain status among your friends for having been involved with the stars?
A: Possibly. Oh yeah. That it would be groovy to know them. Well, most of my girlfriends are into the same scene. They’ve been involved with a few …
Groupies are a phenomenon of the road for most musicians. When they are at home they stick with their old ladies, or a handful of chicks who are special to them, anyway. “Where I live, in Kent, I have no contact with groupies whatsoever,” says Jeff Beck. “They have this nasty kind of cunning way of seeping inside your scene and into your life, when really you don’t know them at all. I mean it’s one thing when you’re traveling, but at home — never.” Beck lives with a model named Celia, one of the best known in England, a girl somewhat older than him. Celia saw Beck on TV one time and spread the word, as he tells it, that she’d like to ball him. That was two years ago, while she was still with the Yardbirds. They’ve lived happily ever after.
“Groupies all think you’ve got money,” says Beck, who, on his most recent tour, lost a $30 pair of sunglasses to a Los Angeles chick. “She just fucked off with them and I never saw her again. They’re like that. You’ve got to watch everything you own.” He’s had nearly a dozen lace shirts stolen.
After seven tours of the U. S. Beck is weary of the American girls of rock. “There’s none of them comparable to British chicks. American girls are all the same. They try to be what they think you’d like, sort of, but they all act the same. It’s like they’re all stamped out of the same mold. Every English girl is different. They’re themselves. They might seem supercool on the outside, but when you get to know one — well, there are some incredible surprises.” Beck does like L.A. groupies for the starlet kind of glamor they radiate — “they’re exciting” — and for the way L.A. parties at fancy homes evolve “just from sort of two people sitting around into fantastic scenes.” New York chicks are too obvious, too overbearing for him. He finds San Francisco dull.
“These groupies, you know — they’ve never got anything to say for themselves. They just hover about. You never meet one who’s got both a head and a body. If they’ve got a body, there’s nothing in the head, and vice versa. I’ve seen ’em all and it’s depressing. Groupies use groups, man — groupies use groups — not the reverse, the way it might look. It’s all for their own egos. It’s got very little — very, very, very little — to do with giving or sharing, so far as they’re concerned. It’s maddening, really. It’s why I cannot wait, cannot wait, to get home.”
Steve Miller disagrees.
“Some groupies are kinda burning themselves out, they live so fast and hard, but there’s a beauty in that that you don’t find in normal people,” Miller says. “They’re a little unusual because they don’t want any lengthy relationships with other people, but I don’t want them myself, so I get along with groupies fine. A lot of groupie chicks are stone cold crazy, but they’re good lays. It’s true they’re on a whole fantasy trip — and maybe they never really see you through the fantasy — but that’s groovy. Most rock and roll people are on a fantasy trip anyway, so it’s natural that musicians and groupies are drawn together. They’re the same kind of people.
“The sexual thing is really it, you know. I don’t have an old lady, so I’ve always got my eyes open. All single people are always looking to get laid, anyway.”
An unorthodox ethic — by middle-class standards — prevails in the relationship between many musicians and their old ladies. Unorthodox but practical and firmly adhered to. Bob Hite, Canned Heat’s rotund lead singer, lives by it. “When I’m home here in Los Angeles,” he says, “I don’t have anything to do with these groupie chicks. I got an old lady I don’t want to lose, and I stick with her. But when you’re on the road, you’re gonna get laid, right? My old lady understands that and it’s cool as far as she’s concerned — while I’m on the road.
“And when you’re on the road you got to have some of that. Like when the band’s been on the road for three weeks or more, you get tired and you get irritable. We’ll have fights, you know? Not real fights, but arguments over stupid little bullshit things that don’t matter. It’s the tension of the road, man. Groupies relieve that tension. You get laid and it’s cool. You don’t feel like hasslin’ anybody.”
But Hite makes it clear that most of the time, groupies hold little interest for him. “Most of them are into a big giggly-giggly trip. All they got to tell you is how they balled this guy last week, that guy the week before and about this party they were at where Jimi Hendrix o.d’ed or some such bullshit. The only reason to deal with them is after three weeks from home you get horny.”
Similarly, managers are of two minds about groupies. They want their musicians happy, and aren’t sure that groupies are the happiest alternative. “Who needs groupies?” says Stu Kutchins of the Youngbloods. “The only thing they’re any good for is relieving tensions and picking up a dose of clap.” The VD Center is at 33 Hunt street in San Francisco, an address every wise groupie knows and visits with some regularity. “Most fellows are nice enough to tell you,” says one, “but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And, like, I don’t want to pass a dose on to anybody else.”
Sally: If I’m going to ball someone, clap is just not something to worry about. There are ways to take care of it. I had the clap once and it’s nothing to get uptight about if you know what to do.
John Walker of It’s a Beautiful Day says the trouble with groupies is “it’s impossible to identify with people — with groupies — when they don’t see you as a person. You’re almost a god image and they don’t see the person inside that. Communication with groupies is weird. But the sex thing is understandable: it’s giving to people you love.” It’s A Beautiful Day, its first Columbia LP still unreleased, hardly qualifies as a nationally prominent band, yet even a band of its stature has its problems with groupies. “You come home,” Walker explains, “and there’s fifteen people waiting there for you. You don’t know them and they didn’t get to know you by the time they leave, most of them, but they’re good people who have been turned on by your music and want to be with you. They come and stay four days, five days, and leave. It’s funny, most never say anything. Nothing. So you have this feeling that they just came so they could go back to their friends and say, like, ‘Guess who I spent the week-end with?'”
Michael Bloomfield: “They just want to talk to the cat, see where he’s at, watch him do his thing and the only way they can do it is to give him something. And the only thing most of them have to offer is their cunts.” Chicks call Bloomfield all the time asking whether they can come over and visit. Many times he’ll say fine, only to have a bad memory stir in his brain after he’s off the phone, and then spend hours hiding in his room.’ “It’s just that I have nothing to say to them and no time to waste on all that bullshit.”
Eric Clapton once said that having all these chicks eager to ball him gave him a sense of power. The realization that it wasn’t even “your body or your face they wanted to make love to, but your name,” changed his mind.
Q: What attracted you to the music? Or was it just the idea of rock and roll?
Anna: It was a facial thing, a visual thing, then. I’m sure I couldn’t tell, in the early days, whether he was playing what guitar, rhythm, lead, bass. It was the visual attraction. But then like I progressed with the music that was being played. You have to be keyed to them, whether it’s good or bad. I could never be attracted to a group that I thought was making asses of themselves on stage … I mean, I look at pictures, too. That’s enough. Posters and record jackets. And I think wow, I wonder how he handles himself on stage, and you think, like, maybe he’d be groovy to know.
Most groupies find Englishmen superior to Americans in every way. The feeling is often reciprocal. “Some of the nicest people you meet are groupies,’ Jimmy Page feels. “Because if they weren’t there it would be pretty deary for a lot of English musicians. You’d sit around the hotel, you know, waiting for the gig to start. There are groupies and there are groupies, but a lot of them make you feel at home.
“Most of the English guys who come here are married,” says Page, who isn’t, “and their interest in the girls is simply a matter of finding release. There are a few guys who take groupie chicks seriously, but that’s a mistake, isn’t it. Most of the groupies are only concerned with who’s the best ball.” Do they tell Page who’s been their best lay? “Certainly.” What name’ comes up most often? “Oh,” Page laughs, “they all say I’m the best.”
American chicks are more aggressive than British girls by all accounts. “But that isn’t necessarily bad,” says Page. “Nothing wrong with it, especially if a bloke’s a bit shy — I am — then it’s helpful that you don’t have to put out all those lines. They do it instead. And you’ve still got the choice, you know.”
Sunshine: English guys are not beyond two girls at a time. They’re not beyond anything they might want to try. American guys are very conservative. An Englishman at 19 is as mature as an American at 26 — or 27. I think that’s because most Englishmen are broken in by older women. They don’t fumble into it, they learn it right. They’re gentle, never pushy. Englishmen, a lot of them are bi-sexual. They’re not hung up. I know a lot of them who have slept with men to see what it was like. American men are constantly trying to prove their virility. They won’t wear lace shirts or anything like that. They don’t realize that there isn’t a woman in the world who can’t be had by a man who knows he’s a man.
Anna: Englishmen are terrific lovers. Their sole thing is to please a woman; not to get it over with. American men are always in a hurry. Englishmen are really far-out lovers. They know they are, even. When they’ve been touring the country for a while, they’ll even say, “I’ve had a lot of American chicks tell me I’m a good lover,” and they want to know why. They want to know what American men are like and why there’s a difference. One guy told me that it’s different with Englishmen because it’s like a mother thing, so you treat women with more respect — woman are an important part of a man’s life and women there aren’t dominating like they are in America, you know. American men don’t care if the woman is happy or satisfied. Englishmen are totally different. They’re taking their time. It’s more of a togetherness. With American men, sex is so free; it’s ugly. I just don’t get involved with it. It isn’t worth it.
There are also added benefits:
Sunshine: There isn’t an Englishman who doesn’t know about amyl nitrate. Its medical use is for people who have heart attacks. It’s legal at any drugstore. What they do is pop an amyl nitrate at the strategic moment in bed. It simulates a climax, brings you up like a rocket. All it does is heighten the trip. Movie stars used to use them that way.
(Amyl nitrate dilates the blood vessels of the heart — this is why it is used by heart patients — and in the process, blood flow to the brain is increased, heightening whatever emotional experience the user is going through. “It is a potentially dangerous habit,” according to one doctor because of the possibility of a marked drop in blood pressure.)
At least during the late 1968 and early 1969 season, the young English musicians are the cat’s meow. In part this is due to the resurgence in popularity of the English touring groups in this country, the largest since the Dave Clark/Herman’s Hermits era, and perhaps it is even the same girls, only now weaned from screaming and fainting ways into more sophisticated pursuits. The Clapton/Bruce/Baker trio led the way for such’ latter day modish figures as Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Noel Redding, Terry Reid and company.
“With a lot of chicks,” one girl confides, “they see these young English bands and the scene is, come on little boy, let me make a man of you. It’s a nice fantasy, though you know he balled three chicks last night, two the night before, and he’s going to get a dozen before he’s left town.”
The attraction of the Englishmen is part myth, part fantasy and part truth. In one sense, it is the old greener grass syndrome, and across the Atlantic is definitely as good as on the other side of the fence. The myth too is important: Americans, members of the democratic, classless society have always been intimidated by “classes” and traditionally Americans regard anything British as having class, even East End and Cockney goods. A British accent just has that certain sexy edge.
The truth is illustrated by a scene from inside New York’s smoke and cement filled club called the Scene, a veritable groupie heaven. This club, right off the dirty-bookstore strip on Broadway is about the only thing in town open for weird looking people after 2 a.m., other than Max’s Kansas City (a much more literary type hangout).
All visiting and touring musicians at least spend one night hanging around the after-hours club. Groupies know it and inhabit the place in legion. You can sit and clearly watch “the patterns they’re weaving.” Thus also you can watch the musicians.
Jeff Beck and most of his group, accompanied by managers and entourage with New York super groupie Jenny Dean on his arm, swirl into the club, closely followed by Jimi Hendrix Experience bass-player Noel Redding and two or three other cats who look like somebody. Steppenwolf, an American group, are also there. But the various Englishmen act as if they own the place, loudly carousing or satisfactionly holding court at three tables simultaneously. On the other hand, Steppenwolf which is a reasonably “big” group by virtue of hit singles and all that, look lonely. In fact, one or two of them are wandering around in that tentative search for someone to behave like they recognize who we are.
But the scene belongs to Jeff Beck, et al, for whatever reasons may be. And that is the story.
So the chick makes it backstage. She’s got her rap all set. She’s dressed as outlandish/sexy as possible. Usually there’s something striking about her makeup — they’ve all got something to set themselves off. And they’re all quiet at first, unless they know the band. They stand back in a corner or across the room and observe their prey, listening for everything he says, trying to pick up scraps of conversation, vibrations, so when finally he ventures a word in their direction, they’ll say the perfect thing, blow his mind, be his baby tonight.
“You come on pretty strong and either you win or you lose. I am aggressive, always have been. That helps an awful lot.”
Depending on how big the attraction is, the room is full with these girls, each with her own pose. Except that there’s all these bodies, what happens seems almost invisible, it happens so imperceptibly. The girls — except for the ones who’ve connected and are rapping with various cats — stand and sit here and there all around the room, listening, not saying anything, listening, eyes tracing every hint of action.
“It’s wild backstage,” says one groupie. “But you flash on these great memories. Like you’ve been eyeing a guy and he comes over to talk with you. It’s just so neat. All those other chicks — and he fancies you.”
It was extraordinary to count fully 13 girls like this (not counting the ones who were with somebody) jammed into the plain concrete-and-pipe backstage at Fillmore West recently when Jeff Beck was there. The hushed room was electric and intensely claustrophobic under the frantic, if silent, cumulative ego-push they exuded. (Small wonder that some bands not infrequently order everybody out of their dressing room). Beck already had plans made, wasn’t apparently interested in these chicks, said nothing to them, they said nothing to him, and he departed alone to see a girl he knew from before.
Backstage is the battleground of groupie-dom. They converge, colors flying, literally by the dozens when somebody like Jimi Hendrix or Cream (remember when?) are on, and the first obstacle is the ballroom’s or club’s guard at the backstage entrance. It’s a real challenge getting by him, unless a chick is extraordinarily beautiful or special looking, or has some real business getting in there.
Kip Cohen, manager of the Fillmore East says “We run the stage pretty tight and we really don’t have that many problems. In other words, a groupie can’t really get backstage here — not just a freelance groupie — unless she’s attached to a group. Then, we run into certain problems backstage in the halls and dressing rooms. One of our security guards was once offered a free fuck on the fire escape if he would let the groupie in afterward, but this sort of thing rarely happens.
“It’s the English groups that are the worst. They attract the most extraordinary looking groupies in the world. There’s definitely a run on black groupies this season, for some reason. Ultra Violet (one of Andy Warhol’s superstars) somehow manages to get backstage in spite of everything every week. She’s with David Clayton Thomas (of Blood, Sweat and Tears) now. The Joshua Light Show had a fantastic groupie who ended up keeping house for them in their dressing room, cooking and serving food. She was an incredible looking spade chick like six feet tall with a blonde wig. Her name was Charlene.
“Jenny Dean was here this weekend. She’s Terry Reid’s old lady now. She brought down every musician in the world on the East Coast to see Terry here this weekend. But she’s nice. I think that in her head, she says, ‘OK, I’m a groupie. That’s my scene. I’ll be as cool about it as I can to get as much as I possibly can.’ And with that sort of respect, it works out OK.”
Lacy: All these people backstage, all the egos crashing around. Plus, everybody’s so stoned it makes it all the weirder.
Backstage scenes vary from city to city, club to club, concert to concert. They are all veritable beehives of activity and motion. The Scene Club in New York is an entire backstage, strategems barely piercing the smoke-laden atmosphere and then bouncing round and forth off of the cement pillars and abutments that clutter the club.
“Visiting musicians love the Scene,” according to a New York record exec, “it’s the place in New York City where they feel most comfortable. Because of the late-night jams almost every night and because of the way they’re treated there. The general audience — myself included — don’t like the Scene because it’s uncomfortable: the chairs are uncomfortable, the volume is uncomfortable the service is uncomfortable, the prices are uncomfortable, and the people are uncomfortable. It’s a seedy place, and no one really wants to bring his girl there.
“But musicians’ comforts are based on a different set of standards: simply as to how they’re accepted. They’re not called freaks there, can go to hear good music, and be treated like they’re the important people there.”
One girl who hangs around the Record Plant and other recording studios, she doing such odd jobs as setting up microphones and sweeping the floors of the studio for her keep raves: “You wouldn’t believe the conversation in the Ladies room! All about who’ve you made it with, how long was it, how many times a night — wow!”
A stitch in time saves nine, and the most successful groupie is the one who makes contact with the boys in band well ahead of show time. This is not always possible in the case of groups or performers in town for just a single show. But the main targets are in town for a week end or a week, and they’ve got to be staying somewhere. It’s not hard to find out where that somewhere is: the groupie grapevine calls on such data handlers as record companies, press flacks, radio stations, hotel clerks, disc jockeys and the whole crew.
If in New York, it’s likely to be the Chelsea or Albert Hotels for a group on a medium budget tour; the higher-priced performers often wind up at the Hilton (like Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix) and the highest priced will be at any number of the much more refined hosteleries.
In Los Angeles, there is the dreary Hollywood Hawaiian or Continental and Tropicana Motels, distinguished only by their proximity to Hollywood recording activities and willingness to accept the freak trade. The Landmark is also a rock inn, and there are the more expensive spreads: the quiet and pleasant Chateau Marmont, a French-flavored residence hotel to be settled into by the week or the month. If you are Eric Clapton on your farewell tour, you can get the $50-a-day-and-up private cottages at the Beverly Hills Hotel. What is even better are the dozens of private houses available at excessively expensive rates by the week. They are tucked into the hills among the crawling roads and are a groupie’s despair, because, who knows which one out of the thousands, no phones, clerks or addresses. They come in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars a week and are really for the likes of those artists who are out of reach of the groupies anyway.
In San Francisco, the Continental is a ever-popular spot, just a few minutes’ drive to either Avalon or the Carousel Ballrooms, and again an establishment with a management willing to tolerate the travails of the rock and roll trade. The more leisure-oriented musicians often wind up in Sausalito either at the Alta Mira, a Spanish style manse set into the hillside or the Sausalito Inn, right off the main square, with about two dozen suites each named something like the “Prince Charles Room,” the “Queen Anne Suite,” and so on.
Anna: A girl has got to use her head. Like if the Moody Blues are playing at the Fillmore and it’s their first night in America, get there the first night. Get right into them, and like if you’re a decent person, every time they’re in San Francisco they’ll want to see you. OK, like, where are they flying from? Find out first whether they’re coming from New York or straight from London. Or if it’s an American group, find out if they’ve played here often, or if they’re going to get involved. How involved will they be? You can figure that out standing on the side.
The San Francisco contingent of Sunshine, Judy and The Twins went through an amusing strategy session to plot out how to meet Moody Blues. They met in mock seriousness at Sunshine’s house, where publicity photos and record jackets of Moody Blues were spread out on the kitchen table. The girls studied the faces long and hard. “He looks like such a gentle cat.” “This one looks so mature.” “He’s mine.” “Oh, he’s a Libra.” In the end, they decided exactly how they’d pair off with the band. It didn’t work out precisely that way, but it did, the girls say, work out.
“Backstage, your mind is on the music,” says Steve Miller. “You can’t be bothered with all these ego scenes with all these chicks. I can’t stand all these people just sitting around saying nothing. It’s like a high school dance scene. I want people to be up front. If the dressing room is full of chicks like that, I just clear them out, empty the room. I can’t be bothered.”
One way to a musician’s pants is through his head, that is to say, supplying him with dope. Like, completely out of the blue, one of these girls will hand a musician a lid or slip him a dozen joints. Why? Just because. Dope is so important that the scene wouldn’t be the same without it. A lot of the chicks are connections for the bands and only matter to them in that way. It’s dangerous to travel with quantities of dope, especially across state and international lines, so they count on friendly people in every city to turn them on, and in most cases it is the chicks. For many of them, it goes beyond a lid or a dozen joints; many of the full-time girls are dealers and support themselves in that way.
It is 4 o’clock in the morning and they are alone now in a hotel room which neither of them have seen before. For that matter, he has never seen her before in his whole life before tonight, and she has never seen him in the flesh, though she knows his records word for word and has seen dozens of photos of him. There were 15 other girls backstage trying to hit on him and he chose me, she is thinking.
Wow! Since his set ended at one o’clock they have shared a couple of pills, and gone to a draggy party where a new set of chicks had tried to hit on him, and downed two glasses of wine apiece, and taken a cab to his hotel, and gone to one of his musicians’ rooms, rapped with the small assemblage there while the hash pipe was passed, a three-way act was going on in the bedroom and that was groovy, everybody sort of took turns watching, and then room service brought coffee and eclairs, and then they had gone to his room, just the two of them, and she had given him a massage, head to foot, like that cat in that L.A. band had showed her a couple of months ago — everybody dug that.
One time I just had to call someone from the hotel — tell somebody so somebody would know, and I just said it out loud, I said, “Gee, I really would like to call someone,” and the guy I was with just said, “Never mind, they won’t believe you anyway.” He was just saying, like, they’ll never believe you’re with me. I called Linda and said, “Oh, you’ll never guess where I am; I’m in, you know, this bed.” He must have heard a million chicks say that. It is far out.
He is above her, doing that thing, getting it, they are really working out. Because of the dope, it will be better than life itself and it will last until down or exhaustion. Wow! He’s telling her all this dirty sweet bullshit in her ear, and damn, can’t remember her name. She’s thinking, like, he’s good, but he’s not great, he’s just about as good as I thought, he’s nothing compared to Dave — jesus, Dave — or any of those British cats.
If she’s really lucky, he might send her a postcard later on.
It was all different four years ago during the earliest Yardbirds tours, according to Beck. “It was all a teeny-bopper scene then, with all these screaming chicks who would just come for the music, mainly, and just scream. That’s all they did. For the most part. And sometimes older women — strange chicks in their 30s — would try to pull us. But now the scene has changed completely. Completely. Maybe groupies are in reality grown-up groupies, I don’t know.”
Anna: The chicks can do that now. They can find out from the equipment man: Where are you staying, please tell me where you’re staying. And you find out the room numbers, the hotel — there is nothing to keep you from going over to the hotel. When I found that out, it blew my mind. When I found out how easy it is to get to them!
The odd part about it, from the musician’s stand-point, is that it’s a complete reversal of the traditional male-female relationship, wherein the male sees a female he digs and sets out after her. In the rock world, chicks have heard all the records, studied all the photos on the album cover, read all the fan magazine garbage, know as much as is public about the musician/star before-hand, see him on stage, dig the way he moves, sings, handles himself, his expressions, his clothes — it’s surprising the extent that attire plays in turning on the girls of rock — one reason why British bands often score better — and the chick has built up layer upon layer of fantasy and socio-sexual energy before she even approaches her quest.
And it is she who approaches him, she who places herself in the dressing room or hotel room. She has decided he’s worth the trouble. He has decided nothing. Except that here’s this chick, um, she looks pretty funky, yeah, Christ yes nice body, pretty eyes, blue eyes, umm, bet she’s dumber than living shit — feeling a little horny anyway — got my reputation to keep up — wonder if she’s got any dope?
And often as not it’s the girl who makes the first bit of conversation. “I mean if you don’t say something why should he say anything to you?” explains Sunshine. “You don’t want to come on too strong, but you do want to know the cat.”
Henri: The major fuck-up on the part of most groupie chicks comes at the point they forget that no matter what goes down they’re still women. The same double standard exists in rock society as in the society as a whole. A man may shred every vestige of self-respect and still retain the respect of society because, after all, he is still a man. Not so for a woman.
Q: Why did you pick professional musicians instead of say the Chicago White Sox or professional athletes?
Anna: I’m sure that it’s the fact that they’re on stage, lights are on, and they’re involved so deeply. They’re like gods. It’s like the same feeling that girls got about movie stars. Look who they are. Look at how much money they’ve accumulated, how young they are. All the places they’ve seen … Every era has its gods — the ones that are worshipped by the female masses, and envied by the male masses, and rock stars, in this particular decade, have been on top of everything. They can have anything they want. Now they’re introduced to royalty; they’re given fantastic awards and achievements. It’s quite an honor. They’re put on the best TV shows, given prime time. People are constantly taking pictures of them. Why shouldn’t they? They should be spoiled beyond belief. Look where they are. Why should they have to tolerate anything. That’s the way it is and the sooner you accept that the better off you are … You’re there three or four days, waited on hand and foot, and there’s just all the dope and food you can eat, and all the people paying attention to you and your lover, it’s very beautiful. I mean, you can go months in between, and live off just those few things. Especially as you get up into the really far-out groups.
Few groupies are truly beautiful girls — though obviously some are. But all the most successful are striking in appearance — every one has some little fillip of makeup, a line under the eye, flowers painted on the cheek, frizzed out hair, something to distinguish herself from all the others — so many others. “I have nothing going,” says Anna, “except maybe if I open my mouth they’ll dig it.” Except for the extraordinarily stunning groupie, that’s where it’s at.
If the girl connects, what kind of relationship should she expect? “The emphasis,” says Henri, “is on freedom of self. She and her old man get along fine and the scene is cool. When that ends, the relationship is over. It’s mutual trust or nothing.”
It’s never a secure thing. “You shouldn’t expect security from relationships like that,” says Anna. “The fear of other women is a very great thing. Because the younger ones are extremely brazen. They come on so strong with whoever you’re involved with. They’re very possessive, they don’t know any better. It’s like watching a young child pouting. The young ones are really far-out. They’re so aggressive. And hostile.”
Though every girl who’s been on the scene for any length of time knows that the music comes first and emotional attachments second — a distant second — where most musicians are concerned, their common dream is that one of the Real Heavies will sweep them off their feet, whisk them off to a vine-covered cottage (preferably in Berkshire or Northern Scotland) and live happily ever after.
Sunshine: The only guy I could be happy married to is a musician.
Karen: It doesn’t have to be a musician that I marry — but after going out with all these supermen — just really super people — I can’t see myself, for the rest of my life, walking down the street next to a plumber.
Marriage does not often dim the musician’s free spirit. He is constantly being hit on by groupies, and balling his share. Everybody is getting stoned in a dressing room far from home and it can’t matter, if the relationship is to last, that somebody’s old man is making it with somebody else’s old lady. Not if everybody’s happy, and usually they are.
“But sometimes,” says Henri, “it’s difficult to be happy knowing that each time he comes home from a tour, he will probably have something wrong with him that was OK when he left. Then it’s up to you to put him back together again in time for the next tour or session. If your thing is pretty together you have a chance of making it.”
But it’s hard to build anything lasting in these circumstances, and the list of rock musicians who have been happily united with one chick (old man-old lady or married) for more than a couple of years is not very long.
Lacy: In a lot of cases, it’s a one-night stand. There’s no way a cat can respect you when it’s a one-night stand.
Anna: The first couple of times I was with someone, it was very hard to handle when they left. It was like I’ll never do it again. I had allowed myself to care too much. It often happens that they split before you wake up. Or you wake up and it’s like fifty people in the room and they’re all going out the door saying goodbye and you’re still in bed. It does happen.
She’s home alone, she’s lost another one,
Met him yesterday now he’s already gone,
And though tonight she’ll swear it was the last time,
A smiling face will come that knows the right line,
And then she’ll do all the right things with the wrong guy,
And when he’s gone next day she’ll sit and wonder why.
She doesn’t know why she’s everybody’s next one
Cause she’s afraid that the truth is gonna hurt some,
All the pity in the world ain’t gonna help none
She has to realize that to keep one her ways have to change some.
—”Everybody’s Next One,” Steppenwolf
Karen: I saw Romeo and Juliet at the movie the other day and afterward I decided there is no Romeo … I’m sick of being hurt. You keep thinking somebody is going to come and sweep you up and carry you away.
Q: If you had it all to do over again?
Lacy: Oh no! Well, but … I had some very very memorable experiences that vere groovy. If I were doing it again, I would do it, but just cut out all the bullshit.
Sally: It’s a life with a lot of pain, being a groupie. People just leave you, always leaving you, leaving you. Most people think, well, maybe he’ll take me with him. I’m not going to get into that again.
Some of the girls are not groupies any way at all, but musicians, members of groups themselves. One of these is Trixie, who took her name (she was born with another) from a song called “The History of Trixie Merkin,” which she wrote herself, as performed by her band, Anonymous Artists of America. It goes like this:
Merv Merkin made his fortune in hair
He made ’em shave
Till they were bare.
Kept his nose clean with his finger.
Kept his finger out of his pants.
But he felt the tingler of fear
Had this Merkin muffed a chance?
Merv Merkin, last tycoon
Caught his daughter looking at the moon
His reputation’s ruined.
Trixie is one far-out chick by just about any definition. It would be fair to call her a “fixture” of the San Francisco scene. She’s seen in the parks on sunny Sundays and at apartment parties on Victorian evenings. Her dress is always exotic, having taken the dayglo and feather boa thing several steps further. Like the blouse on which she has painted hands over the breast pockets, or something like one of her many topless outfits — one a skirt with thin straps over her shoulders and plastic ears four inches wide attached to the straps just covering her breasts.
The first thing that happens upon arriving at Anonymous Artists’ nine-room house (collages, posters, photos, letters pasted everywhere on the walls) 35 miles north of San Francisco at Novato, is that you receive from Trixie a calling card with the likeness of that genial cosmic captain, Meher Baba, with the inscription, “Don’t worry, be happy. I am the Divine Beloved who loves you more than you can ever love your self. I and God are One.” Conversation picks up where that leaves off, and Trixie jumps up half a dozen times to pick up her bass and play a song for you. Like her “Tits and Ass Memorial Rhythm and Blues Band Song.”
I like my music with tits
I like it served up with ass
Some nipple while you tipple
Gives a joint class
Showing as much as the law will allow
Always brings sweat to my brow
You’ve heard of tit power
I don’t mean the boob tube
I was hit hard by a topless flower
Dancing on the piano
Every hour on the hour
The feeling you get is that this is the way Trixie communicates best. She is a rock and roll musician first, not a great musician, but a good one, an interesting bass guitarist, an interesting composer (she writes nearly all AAA’s material) — a musician first. Where the majority of the girls of rock were moved to ball rock and roll groups — to become groupies — Trixie heard the music and was moved to play it.
Five years ago she was part of the Stanford University community of artists and psychedelic existentialists who clustered around Ken Kesey and Dick Alpert. It was Kesey who pointed the people in Trixie’s scene at rock and roll. It was Leary who gave them acid, gave AAA its incredible $15,000 “generator,” a synthesizer-like instrument, except capable of producing a richer and more varied set of sounds.
“We were all at Stanford and we decided to put the band together,” says Trixie, who is somewhat cross-eyed, in need of contact lenses (she broke her last pair and hasn’t gotten a new set yet).
The first thing was to learn how to play their instruments, and that amounted to a total learning experience for Trixie, who “just used to sort of listen to the whole thing — I didn’t even know bass was a separate instrument.” Now she’s developed into a bassist capable of laying down some interesting lines. It’s a little hard to tell exactly how good she has become since AAA doesn’t solicit gigs these days (“too much bullshit”) and play infrequently.
Around the house (actually she lives out in back in a separate two-room house of her own) Trixie wears paisley bell bottoms beneath a longish pale green nightgown and goes barefoot. No make-up. She loves to sing, but the band doesn’t like it when she does. “Don’t have much of a voice I guess.” She compensates by writing most of their songs. What Trixie digs is when the band gets really into a song and into solos, “and it goes beyond the song into pure music, something like a contact with something beyond you. You’re really plugging into central switchboard when that happens. That’s why music is different from songs. I sometimes write songs about music.”
Trixie’s old man is Lars, a gentle young man who pursues a variety of crafts during his long days — he awakens at dawn and does rigorous exercises — who doesn’t place especially big sexual demands upon her. Trixie has written a song, “The Daily Bloats,” about this part of their relationship: “I had the greeds/When I was younger/I had needs/I was always hungry/Now I only eat my jelly roll on Sunday.”
Not that sex has no place in her life. Trixie, who majored in French literature at Radcliffe, is writing what she calls “a dirty novel” as a present for Lars. One passage deals with a car full of people putting bananas to an unusual use — or trying to. Bananas aren’t stiff enough to do the job and just sort of goosh all over. Then an Irish cop comes along and sticks his nose into it, literally, and it goes on like that. “I just love dirty books and disgusting songs,” Trixie confides. “When I’m working on the novel I just sit there and cackle.” Another project she is contemplating has the grandiloquent working title The Anonymous Novel of America.
But music comes first. “I get nervous before we play in public because it’s such a huge responsibility. Because you’re the person who puts people into trips and you want them to be good trips.”
The GTOs are a sociological creation of Frank Zappa’s. He didn’t create the GTOs; he merely made a “group” of them … and now is presenting them in concert as well as recording them. According to Frank, G.T.O. stands for Girls Together Occasionally, Girls Together Often, or Girls Together Only. Girls Together Only are lesbians. But the GTOs (the group) are not lesbians; they are merely girls who happen to like other girls’ company.
The GTOs in all their freaky splendor are … outasite. Each has a personality all her own, and together they are not to be believed — tummeling, chattering, laughing, telling stories, leaping about. The visceral reaction is full freak, but once you get into it, you don’t even notice.
“Girls don’t show the emotions like they should,” one of the girls said. “When I say: ‘Sandra, you have the most beautiful breasts in the whole world,’ that’s not homosexual, it’s just what I feel. You know how it is when you don’t have a boyfriend and there’s a girl there to hold your hand, to kiss you, to say nice things to you. It’s so important.”
Sparky says: “We don’t ignore each other at all.”
Cinderella says: “We compliment each other. There are closer relationships between girls than boys.”
Mercy says: “We love boys to death. But you shouldn’t be pushed into things. Some people think we’re dykes and they’re disappointed when they find out we aren’t.”
Miss Christine says: “This is Hollywood, and Hollywood’s Hollywood … but in Ohio, maybe they aren’t ready for this. We’re trying to spread our philosophy.”
Mercy’s Story: She first went to the Fillmore Auditorium when it first opened, moving into the Haight-Ashbury when she was 16 and a half, leaving her family in one of the San Francisco suburbs. She remained in the Haight until 1967, hanging out on the street, panhandling some, very much a part of the scene, spending a lot of time in Golden Gate Park. During 1966-67 she spent six months in juvenile hall, in several installments. “All the things my parents thought I would avoid by being in jail, I learned in jail,” she says. “My parents didn’t care; they thought jail’d be good for me. So I was in with dykes and junkies and the rest. I finally left the Haight when it lost its magic. Besides, I couldn’t see being a hippie the rest of my life.”
In 1967 she moved to Laguna Beach, traveling back and forth to S.F. and then to New York for five days in the fall of that year, finally returning to LA, where she now lives in room No. 229 of the Landmark Hotel (one of the motels where groups stay) with Miss Christine and Cinderella. Mercy is a heavy girl, with a predilection for loose-fitting clothing made from antique (sometimes rotting) cloth, boots, and black eye makeup looking as if it were applied with a canoe paddle.
Sandra’s Story: Sandra is a native Southern California and she joined “the scene” by hanging out at the Insomniac, a now-defunct coffee shop in Hermosa Beach. She also frequented (with Miss Christine) a similar place called the Intangible Tangerine, where, she says, “everybody was insane.” She’s from San Pedro, “where everybody cruises.” She went to New York when Miss Christine moved in with Tony Melendy, a Santa Monica sculptor. For a while she was in art school somewhere, and finally she found her way to Tom Mix’s old house in Laurel Canyon. At that time, Carl Orestes Franzoni (“he is freaky right down to his toenails,” Zappa said on the liner notes of Freak Out) was living there in one of LA’s wilder communes. (The house rents for $700 a month and later Zappa moved in, gathering his own commune to supplant that of Franzoni’s.) Miss Christine had been reunited with Sandra by now and they lived together in the vault in the basement of the house (right next to the bowling alley. Her “fave raves” are Bob Dylan and Calvin (who is the artist Zappa uses for all advertising and album cover art).
Miss Christine’s Story: She, too was born in San Pedro, of Yugoslav parents. She was a “sickly kid,” she says, and had a “big complex about being skinny.” (She is tall and lean, the type of girl who would have been called “beanpole” by her schoolmates.) “Pop music brought it all together for me socially,” she said. “It brought people together, it gave me friends.” She says she is the cold, cruel one in the group, but she’s not. She’s bright and quite outgoing. She met Zappa when he returned to LA from New York for a concert, when she was living in Franzoni’s commune. “We talk about groups a lot,” she said. “That’s because it’s glamorous and because we’re very young. If you have a fave rave in a band, it’s like having a soldier in the war; you write him letters and you worry about him.” When Zappa returned to LA for good, she became his housekeeper and governess to Moon Unit, Frank’s daughter. “Mercy and I sent the Velvet Underground a dozen roses with our pictures on the back,” she said. “You can’t be subtle.” Miss Christine loves clothing and makes all her own, which can only be described as junkshop harlequin. The night of our interview she was wearing a knitted patchwork jump suit in a hundred colors, colored pipe cleaners coiled into her frizzed character; not a bad description.
Pamela’s Story: It started with Elvis, she said, when Elvis went “off to war” and she marked the days off one-by-one for two years on a calendar hanging in her bedroom. Later, she sent Paul McCartney a poem every day for several months. She also fell in love with Chris Hillman (Byrds), and once took him some soup. Still another time she “chased the Stones” and once banged on Mick Jagger’s hotel room door … and he said he was in the shower … and she kept on banging, so he came to the door and opened it and he was nude … and she ran down the hall. She is from Los Angeles (the San Fernando Valley) and grew up there with the “greaser groups.” She studied acting for a while. Her fave rave is Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf, and one side of their upcoming single (on the Bizarre label), is called “Ooo-Ooo Man,” a song written about this blonde bass player she loves. (Nick doesn’t know about it.) Pamela has kept a diary reflecting her interest in groups and according to the Plaster Casters of Chicago, it’s beautiful. Pamela is blonde and fragile, yet hearty.
Cinderella: Isn’t sure of her story. “I’m the chronic liar in the group,” she said. “Frank said write fourteen songs and I did,” she said at another point. “I can’t remember anything.” “I don’t know what you can put down.” “I don’t know how old I am, I’m from everywhere, I have no fave raves.” Cinderella is a little “spaced,” by somebody else’s terms; gentle and sad. She apparently writes most of the GTOs material, as indicated; she has chopped blonde hair and likes diaphanous minidresses.
Sparky has always liked all music, she said, emphasis on all. Along with Sandra and some one named Miss Lucy they danced together at clubs (Cheetah, etc.), wearing diapers. They became known (to Frank Zappa) as the GTOs … and later Frank broadened the size of the group of dancers and introduced them as the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company. (They appeared with him at least twice: at the Shrine and Cheetah.) “Frank just saw us dancing, I guess,” Sparky said. Sparky is small and dark and sexy. As Rolling Stone‘s photographer took photo after photo, the dialogue was as scattered as the poses they hit. “I’m the Mae West of 1968,” said Mercy. Then: “No, I’m the Theda Bara.” Sandra says: “I’m the Italian widow of the group.” Someone else says: “I’m the bull dyke of the group.” (All describing Jimmy Carl Black as “the Indian of the group.”) A radio was playing in the background. “Ahhhhhh … Smokey Robinson!” “Wake up, little Suzie …” Sing-along time, and trading stories about groups, between leaping and posing and making comments, and laughing a lot. What they have going for them is, really, a dream come true. They’re a group now. Making records. Appearing in public. Once it had been decided they would be known (on future Billboard charts) as the GTOs, they rehearsed nearly every night for two months. The act they debuted at the Shrine Exposition Hall here a few weeks ago was beautifully choreographed and so what if one of the Mothers thinks they’re astonishingly flat, can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
The Plaster Casters
On the evening of February 25th, 1968, two girls who call themselves the Plaster Casters of Chicago — Cynthia, age 21, and Dianne, age 17 — took a cab to the Chicago Opera House, where they waited for one of the top rock and roll attractions to appear. He was at that moment completing his first show inside and the Plaster Casters knew that he would be returning to his room in the Conrad Hilton Hotel between sets.
As the star they were seeking got into his limousine, Cynthia and Dianne followed in the cab. At the hotel, they approached him and introduced themselves. They were there, they said, to cast his genitals in plaster of Paris. If he was agreeable, they’d all go to his room … and this popular lead guitarist would become No. 00004 in the Plaster Casters’ diary. The rock and roll star was agreeable.
In the Plaster Casters’ diary, a penis is called a “rig”; fellatio is called “plating” and a fellator is called a “plater”; masturbation is called “banking” and masturbator is called a “Barclay’s banker.” These terms come from British slang, taught the girls by members of an English group.
From the diary, pages 7 and 8: “Dianne: Plater; Cynthia: Mold and Plaster Caster; Marilyn: Cynthia’s assistant. We needed a ratio of 28:28 and found this barely sufficient. —— has got just about the biggest rig I’ve ever seen! We needed to plunge him through the entire depth of the vase. In view of all these dodgy precedents, we got a beautiful mold. He even kept his hard for the entire minute. He got stuck, however, for about fifteen minutes (his hair did), but he was an excellent sport — didn’t panic … he actually enjoyed it and balled the impression after it had set. In fact, I believe the reason we couldn’t get his rig out was that it wouldn’t Get Soft!
“A beautiful (to say the least) mold with part of a ball and some random embedded hairs. Dig this — the plaster cast was a flop. Cynthia got uptight and didn’t mix enough, and then after she’d gotten it set into the mold, she got anxious to get the finished product out before it was finished, and so it all crumbled. But it was kept intact in its crumbled heap for a couple days and it subsequently dried together and was only broken in 3 divisions — head, rig, and ball. A little Elmer’s glue and we had our plaster cast — a little on the Venus DeMilo side, but it’s a real beauty.”
“I want to make one thing clear in front,” Frank Zappa says. “The girls don’t think this is the least bit creepy, and neither do I.” Zappa says he is serving as the girls’ unofficial “guardian,” with plans to publish their diaries and perhaps present an exhibit of their casts.
Cynthia and Dianne are groupies. They called themselves groupies and they are not ashamed of the term. “A groupie is a person who regularly chases groups,” Cynthia says. “It doesn’t matter the approach or purpose — to get autographs, to go to bed with them, to get to know them. Most of my friends are groupies.
“Some people condemn you for seeking friendship with someone famous and they call you a groupie. I don’t chase people just because they’re famous — people like actors, vice presidents or war heroes — but only if they play good music. Music really moves me; it’s a huge part of me.”
“I’ve been chasing groups for five years,” Cynthia says. “We wanted to stand out from the other groupies and I was studying art at the University [of Illinois], doing plaster casting. My teacher said bring something to class and I thought why not bring … But I wanted to pass and the teacher wasn’t cool, so I chickened out. It still seemed like a good idea, so I started asking groups if they wanted to be cast.
“We’ve approached about 150 or 200 groups,” she says, “and most of the casts we’ve made are of road managers. The groups promise us, but they don’t come through very often. I guess they’re chicken.”
Even once the girls had mastered the technique, there were problems — as evidenced when they cast the rig of a popular bassist, also at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, a month after the guitarist mentioned earlier had been cast:
“Dianne — Plater; Cynthia — Mold and Plaster Mixer. I would like to note that Marilyn was present to resume her duties as general assistant; however, at the time, being very stoned, she was unable to offer any service, save a couple of random scratches on a newspaper with a marking pen. Being under the same circumstances, I (Cynthia) could do little better, and faced with the additional chore of counting scoops there was a short delay in getting the alginates measured (I lost count 3 times) and heaven knows how warm or cold the water was. It was supposed to be a 28:28 ratio but I doubt if it was even alginates.
“Still, it molded superbly. Dianne applied some baby oil to his hair, and he only got stuck for five minutes. I had been counting aloud the time before we thrust —— in the mold, and when I announced the crucial moment, he became panicky and started to get soft. Thus, instead of diving in mightily straight in, we had to shove it and pound it in, and it twisted like a worm. This is just what the cast looks like — a worm peeking out of the ground.”
Initially, Cynthia’s partner was Barbara (there are seldom surnames in fandom), who dropped out and was replaced by Dianne. Cynthia says she met Dianne at “the Stones’ hotel” four years ago (when she was 17 and Dianne was 13).
“One aspect of being a groupie is you meet other groupies,” Cynthia says. “You can’t do it alone. Dianne took Barbara’s place in July 1967. We hadn’t made any casts by then, although we had been calling ourselves the Plaster Casters for more than a year. I call Dianne my apprentice protege, until she makes her first cast, when she’ll reach full Plaster Caster-hood.”
“The Recipe: 1. Plaster, 2. Alginates, 3. Alginates and water measuring scoops, 4. Baggies, 5. Vaseline, 6. Knife (Spatula), 7. 1 container (vase), 8. 1 container (Plastic cup), 9. 1 container (Coffee Can) 1/4-1/3 filled with water, 10. Water thermometer (unless you trust your hand).”
It was some time before all these technical details had been determined; the Plaster Casters had difficulty making casts in the early days. Not only did nearly every guitarist, drummer, organist and singer they approached refuse the honor, when they finally did find takers, seldom did anything go right. Either Dianne “didn’t lubricate (the rig) with enough vaseline” or the subject of the casting didn’t push his rig far enough into the vase or he pushed a finger into the vase with it.
Cynthia left home when she was 19, after her mother discovered one of the diaries she had been keeping. (This was in the days before she began to make casts). “She threatened me with a priest and a psychiatrist,” Cynthia says. “So I moved in with Dianne. Dianne lives with her grandmother.”
Dianne says, “It all started when the Beatles came out … then Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Kinks, and Billy J. Kramer, I read Rave, Fabulous and Big Beat. I used to go downtown [Chicago] to buy the magazines all the time. Then when the Stones were here in May 1965, I went down to their hotel. I ditched school for it.” The Stones were the first group Cynthia ever met. “Since then … well, just everybody, I guess.” They live in a modest home in Elm-wood Park, two blocks from the Chicago city limits. The casts are kept in a shoebox in Dianne’s closet. Dianne is a student at Elmwood Park High School. Cynthia is an IBM key puncher. Both are native Chicagoans. When they go out on a “job,” they carry the casts in a paper sack, to show musicians the quality of their craft, and the casting equipment is in an attache case, a huge sign on one side that says “Plaster Casters of Chicago.”
“We look very official,” Cynthia says. They even have had “business cards” printed.
Q: Why … uh … I mean, how was it determined who would be the … uh … the plater, and who would make the casts?
A: I had worked with plaster in school, and I knew how to do that. Dianne is the plater because she is considered excellent at that. We may change jobs, when I teach her how to make casts. The Plaster Casters of Chicago regard what they do quite prosaically. Rock and roll musicians are the girls’ life-focus, but casting genitalia in plaster is merely a means of overtaking other groupies, getting to a rock star first, as ordinary a means of making contact as, say, writing an especially good fan letter. For many, it may be difficult to relate to this. It must be remembered that morality, or the lack of it, is irrelevant. This just happens to be the bag they’re in.
“Eventually, I’d like to get other types of people,” says Cynthia. “You know, have a whole museum of casts. Wouldn’t that be nice? A whole room full of pedestals and these things on them! I’d like to get a common laborer. I’d love to get the President. Maybe a Zulu chief, too.”
Groupies are not generally jealous of the Plaster Casters. Far from it — much as you might suppose the opposite. Says Catherine James: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I wouldn’t want to … you know [giggles] … be known as a Plaster Caster. But it’s not some hidden thing. Everybody has their thing. I’d like to meet them. They always make me smile, that’s for sure.” [Giggles.]
Frank Zappa has asked Cynthia to join the GTOs. She is presently weighing the offer. It seems impossible that she might refuse, for a GTO-Plaster Caster merger is so logical and so right that to deny it would fly in the face of all logic.
The girls say their idea has worked wonders in meeting new groups; it cuts through all the “groupie groveling,” they say, and because people have heard of them, they usually are taken to hotel rooms straightaway.
There’s been one problem, though. There are now some other young ladies in Chicago, and elsewhere, calling themselves the Plaster Casters. “I feel horrible about it,” Cynthia says. “They’re cashing in on our fame. They can get to groups real easy this way … and we’re the ones that pay for it when these others don’t deliver. It hurts our reputation.”
About the imposters, Frank Zappa says: “Well, that’s show business.”
Five-foot-three, blue eyes, sandy hair, 25 years old — but the very first thing you notice about Anna is that she wears a gold ring in her nose (put there, a year and a half ago, by a medical student who was making money on the side by piercing ears — he was then planning to get into abortions — but had never pierced a nose. “It hurt,” says Anna.)
Anna is a San Francisco chick, originally from Milwaukee, who used to live with a band back home, then gravitated to Chicago and then to San Francisco, the better to be near the greatest number of musicians. One of the founders of a Haight-Ashbury boutique called Mom’s Apple Grave, with deals in men’s fashions — avant garde items of the sort favored by many rock bands, English bands in particular — she designs many of them, which gives her a certain sense of fulfillment. (Anna predicts that by summer fringed satin shirts will be on everybody worth knowing.)
With Anna, social life generally revolves around whatever band is in town. She knows music. Anna can rap for hours on the comparative merits of Paul Butterfield vs. Steve Miller, for instance. (Back during her Chicago period she was a fixture at Big John’s, and thinks Miller was much more together then than Butterfield.) Anna has her preferences.
Q: If Anna could have any musician in the world to spend some time with, who would she choose?
A: It would be an honor to, um … It would be enough just to be sexually involved with someone like John Lennon. It would be very flattering to have him even notice me. Or with any of the Beatles it would be. I’m sure it would be amazing. They’re ahead of the world right now. They started everything. And, like Eric Clapton would be fantastic to know for any length of time in any capacity. That would be groovy, too. But there isn’t any ultimate, there isn’t any one musician … When Hendrix was in town, the very first time I saw him, I knew what was going to happen and that was the freakiest thing. I saw the whole thing just spin before me. I knew that I was going to be sexually involved with the group and that I would know them and that it would be for a length of time. That was just freaky, the whole thing. I think it was such a strong animal attraction.
Q: What personal satisfaction is there in it for you — being identified with various rock stars?
A: It’s nice when people come into the store now and mention so-and-so is coming into town and you can just drop a bomb on them, you know. Like you say I’m gonna ball so-and-so. And later on, that person comes to town and they go backstage and there you are. It’s kinda fun. It’s like I told you so. Those are games. Those are beautiful, beautiful, fun games … Some of the limelight is on you, too. You’re in the room. You’re involved … Spending three or four days with a person, you, uh … under those circumstances, meals are served on carts and photographs are constantly being taken and you can leech off that feeling and it’s a gas.
Q: Do you feel that it’s enough for you just to be friends with a band guy — just to know him — or that your impact on him is not complete unless you ball him?
A: When you first meet them you just have to get that out of the way. I think you have the feeling that if you don’t get into something sexual with them, what are they going to bother with you for?
Q: Is that really the case, though?
A: Yes. It is. If a chick was really that beautiful, she’d be, I mean offended if he didn’t come on to her sexually. But with me, after that initial time, being sexually involved with him, I would or I wouldn’t see him again, depending on how I feel … With me it’s usually a personal relationship. But whatever comes up comes up. You likely have to go with it. I don’t get involved in all those scenes because of my own personal taste. There are all sorts of scenes — though they’re not the ordinary — with two people, three people, seven people. But that’s not for me … A guy in a band can handle two or three chicks in a night. They tie up a suite of rooms and there can be like one thing happening here and something happening in that one … That’s why a lot of hotels don’t allow groups in. They know what’s going on. All these people in garish, outlandish clothing and carrying an all night.
Q: What impresses you most about a musician?
A: I’m very physical. That’s a very heavy trip with me, a person’s body. An entertainer’s body.
Q: The guy who gives a good impression on stage — is he necessarily a good lover?
A: The ones I’ve met are. Usually. Depending on how … Well, drugs have a lot to do with it. That’s different. It’s a whole different thing when you get that wiped out with someone. It’s pretty intimate. Very easy to be just very relaxed. It’s such a forced situation. You’ve got three days, you’ve got two days. It’s a rush. Drugs kind of help the whole scene and kind of like make reality, um … So many hours and it’s, um, over.
Q: What role do drugs play in the whole scene?
A: It’s something they’re exposed to all the time, it’s very important. It’s a way of escaping from being gone from home. They really do get lonesome and homesick. That may seem schmaltzy but it happens all the time. Especially when are in the top position and they have great fame — then it’s very unhappy for them … Groupies are bound to have gotten into vast amounts of drugs. You get into a hotel and a situation in an elevator where you look kind of frumpy and it’s, uh, eleven in the morning, and you walk out to a limo and you got all these straight, wealthy people watching as you leave the Hilton, and they’re sneering and giggling and laughing, and you run through that whole trip, and if you can’t handle it, it becomes very ugly, particularly if you’re on LSD. You learn very fast … And a lot of groups are into not only drugs, they’re into a really heavy booze scene. They really, really get stoned out.
Q: Do they expect you to stay stoned with them?
A: Yes. And I want to. Otherwise, I’d like be falling asleep or something while they’re like tripping out on acid for three days. Also, I like bringing them presents like that. It’s hard for them to get it sometimes. They don’t want to go out for it themselves. So people lay stuff on them and turn on with them … Often you can do them enormous favors. Like turn them onto a girl friend who you know will ball the shit out of them. In a good way. And won’t make an ass of herself. It’s a nice thing to do for someone … It’s like turning people from out of town onto good things in you area. That’s a big part of it.
Q: It seems a punishing way of life — to have so few lasting relationships.
A: Yeah, yeah. I agree. Even when you do … I mean, I’ve lived with musicians for awhile … They have like one dream and that’s to make it absolutely to the top. Big as they could possibly make it. How could they possibly be involved with a chick, too? You just have to take the little bit that they can give you … There are so many chicks getting used. And it’s definitely their own fault. They should never let it happen. I mean, at least get a good meal out of it, to be basic and realistic about it. Chicks just feel like, oh, it’s groovy to sleep with everybody, and, like, he’s so good. You ask them if you dig him so much why isn’t there some friendship? Why is it just a basic, um … Well, maybe I’m just narrow-minded about it but these girls are getting just absolutely nothing out of it. They’re just a very heavy chick, you know, groovy looking, and they think maybe they’ll meet someone possibly. But I find that most of the girls don’t want that commitment of belonging to somebody, or that basic involvement. I mean, if you want to sleep with a lot of people, I can dig it. I can understand it. Because I do it, too. I have done it. But at least be down to earth enough to get a little bread out of it, or, uh, something to eat or some way to live if you don’t have any money.
Q: You have had an old man at the same time you’ve gone out to spend three or four nights with a band member?
Q: You spend the whole time with the traveling cat?
Q: Then do you come back and rap about the scene with your old man?
A: Yeah, I can. I have been able to. Like I said, the old man is a musician, he’s involved in the same scene. They’re into a similar type experience, and want to know what kind of scene it is, what’s happening. I don’t get down to how good he was.
I’m sure it must matter some, but not enough to get in an argument about … It’s very, very, very groovy if two people can just forget that sex really means nothing when it is just sex. Love and sex don’t go together. And like if you can look at it for that then you can groove watching the person you love making love with someone else. And like I feel that a lot of people here are put in situations where that does happen. And then your life goes on from there. The people I’ve met just are not possessive.
Q: Don’t you feel your own kind of jealousy if somebody you’re living with is balling somebody else?
A: I know from my own personal thing, when it first happens and they’ve gone out and slept with a groupie or something, um, I’m initially hurt. You know. Mostly it’s just female pride, you know. “Well, I was there — why did you …?” But what does it amount to — nothing. If I just let that initial feeling cool down a little bit, like my mind just reasons it out. And see it for what it really was, rather than what you’d like to think it was, you know: blow it into something just enormous, and pity yourself. You know, who cares? It doesn’t amount to anything. Very little.
Q: It doesn’t even bother you if he’s on tour and you know there are lots of chicks out there?
A: In the beginning that bothered me a lot, where I really cared for the person. Usually I’d been involved in enough that I could more or less keep up with whatever kind of stories he had to tell. After awhile I just like hoped he ran across enough groovy chicks. That they were with someone who’d care after their health and welfare as much as I do.