In the Sixties and early Seventies, Pamela Des Barres was known as “Miss Pamela,” a scene girl who later claimed to have had intimate relationships with Mick Jagger, Keith Moon, Jimmy Page and Jim Morrison — stories chronicled in her 1987 tell-all I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. Barres, 62, who still lives in California, stars in the new VH1 documentary Let’s Spend the Night Together: Confessions of Rock’s Greatest Groupies (adapted from her 2007 book Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies), which follows Des Barres on a cross-country road trip sharing stories with other former groupies. It premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Are there any rock gods today?
Isn’t that funny? The guys making the most money are over 60! Paul McCartney, The Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Leonard Cohen, Dylan. Can you tell me of a Mick Jagger today? Are there any rock gods of that level? I take that back. Jack White is a rock god. Jack has actually risen to that occasion in the hearts and minds of millions of people. He is a certified rock god in my opinion.
Why’d you make this documentary?
People are still fascinated with that era. All of the girls in the documentary are “classic groupies” from the Sixties and early Seventies. Tura Santana — she was with Elvis way before the word “groupie” existed. There are always gonna be groupies. I remember when I first heard that word. It was, you know, “Wow, someone called me something. I have a term. There’s a term for what I’m doing.” And it quickly became a jeer because it’s a misunderstood concept.
How is it misunderstood?
Because the girls are viewed as basically sluts — one-hour stands down on their knees in a bus. They’re just girls, mainly who just want to be near the music. We wanted to be around The Who and The Kinks and The Doors and The Byrds and Love and Buffalo Springfield and Zeppelin. We wanted to be a part of this incredible musical brilliance that was lighting up the world. It’s really all about love, you know. People would say, “Why did you want to meet these guys?” Why not? Why not? Why not want to be a part of something so important?
When did you first start seeing lots of live shows?
I saw Dylan in ’65 at the Santa Monica Civic and I just walked out in front. In those days, I was the only person walking down to the front. And I leaned up against the stage and watched the show gazing up at him you know, from one foot away. I just decided to do those kind of those things. The Stones in ’65, Victor and I went, and Don [Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart] actually went to the Ambassador Hotel so I could meet them. You know, Don already knew Charlie and Bill, so we were in Charlie and Bill’s room listening to jazz and blues. No one would have believed us in high school the next day. I knocked on Mick’s door and he opened the door naked just to scare a little fan, and it worked. Instead of running into the room, I ran in the other direction. I was just too young to know what to do at that point, but I knew what I wanted to do.
Did AIDS kill the groupie scene?
No. It was the same exact time John Lennon got killed. Everyone got tons of security after that. The whole attitude in the rock world changed to, “someone who has asked for our autograph would come back later and kill us.” Those two things contributed to closed backstage doors. That’s right around the time a lot of rock guys started getting involved with peers, other female musicians, models, actresses. Now, a lot of the groupies would just die to be called a groupie. Renee Zellweger, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, especially Winona Ryder. They’re all groupies because they love musicians, all these women love musicians.
What strategies you’d recommend for girls who hope to get backstage now?
I’m asked that probably every day. You have to either start with a local band — someone’s music you love that you can meet easily in the bar after the show — or you become a journalist, photographer, even blogger. Sometimes blogs can become so successful that you can actually do interviews with people. And, you know, there are many ways in the business side to meet them. You know, it’s changing again, still. I mean it keeps changing, but that’s the way nowadays. Or of course, play music yourself and open for them.
It was reported earlier this year that there’s going to be an HBO series about you. Is that still happening?
It’s gonna happen. It’s just taking longer than we hoped. I’ve been trying to get I’m With the Band on the screen for 25 years. It’s set in Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip in the late ’60s. Zooey Deschanel is set to play me. We’re meeting with [the writer] Jill Soloway next week again to, you know, tell her all kinds of stories and give her the vibe and the juice. You know, she wants to make it as authentic as possible.