Pamela Des Barres: Her latest book celebrates the outrageous, unsung exploits of her fellow 'band-aids'

Sarah Harris meets the legendary groupie who slept her way through swathes of rock musicians during the 1960s and 1970s.

You know what rock'*' roll means, right?" asks Pamela Des Barres, one eyebrow raised: "It means rock'*'roll in the sack. It means sex: the lyrics, the beat of it, the thunderous feeling through your body. Before the word groupie even existed I knew that I wanted to share myself with someone who created that music and turned me on in every kind of way."

For 40 years, the name Pamela Des Barres has been synonymous with the heady Los Angeles music scene of the 1960s when she partied alongside (and in bed with), some of the most infamous, snake-hipped gods of rock'*'roll – from Jim Morrison, via Jimmy Page, to Mick Jagger ("the most thrilling, naughty, sexy man I had ever seen").

"I would go on tour with them, on planes, in the back of limos, to parties. I would be on stage with Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Who and the Doors. It was a magic time," recalls Des Barres, who has just written her fourth book, Let's Spend the Night Together. This tantalising follow-up to her 1987 debut, I'm With the Band, includes interviews with Elvis's secret mistress Tura Satana, the notorious Cynthia Plaster Caster and modern-day muses and career-groupies such as LA rock sirens Lexa Vonn and the Plastics (see box).

She has written it, she says, on behalf of the women regularly derided as the painted, backstage sluts or gold-diggers of the music industry, vampishly chasing the famous in order to satisfy a craving for notoriety. "In the 1960s, 'groupie' was just a word used to describe girls who wanted to hang out with groups, but over the years it has slowly become a negative term," she says wistfully. "I wanted to give these girls a voice, for people to understand the groupie mentality."

"Like most groupies, I was never just a follower," says Des Barres, who is imbued with the kind of rock-star majesty that could only come from being touched by some of the century's most celebrated musicians (Page was her greatest lover, apparently). Resplendent in leopard skin, hands laden with rings, lips scarlet, she proffers an unapologetic splurge of colour against the drab London hotel lobby.

Groupies are not just star-fuckers, insists Des Barres. "We inspired the guys as much as we were inspired by them. It was very equal. They loved us because we dared to have a blast. We looked after them, picked their clothes and showed them the best restaurants to go to. I made cowboy shirts for Jimmy Page and Miss Christine [fellow member of her all-girl band, the GTOs], showed Alice Cooper how to do his make-up".

I ask about her most memorable groupie experience and she giggles wickedly and recalls the time she ended up, high on PCP, at Jim Morrison's house in Laurel Canyon doing backbends on his Persian rug. "I was 17 and heard The End playing from a house nearby. It hadn't even been released yet, so of course I was curious. I wandered over to this house to find Jim Morrison standing next to his refrigerator in unzipped leather pants, no shirt, looking the epitome of rock god, singing along to his own record." Des Barres' impromptu acrobatics earned her Morrison's admiration and his then-girlfriend's wrath (on discovering the spaced-out teenage Pamela in her kitchen, she chased Morrison out of the door, smashing all his unreleased demos after him). Backstage, later that same night, Des Barres remembers "making out passionately" with Morrison, spread out on top of her " crazy muskrat coat" and thinking, "this is the most beautiful man I have ever seen. He was so gorgeous, everything about him was just perfect."

The rock star eventually went home to his girlfriend ("he was always a one-woman man"), but the thrall of the music, the magic of backstage and the artists who presided over it continued to be a seductive combination for Des Barres. Alongside various day-jobs, including designing cowboy shirts, performing in the GTOs and nannying for Frank Zappa's kids, Des Barres dipped in and out of relationships with many rock'*'roll greats during the 1960s and 1970s. Jimmy Page won her heart and in return allowed her a place on his amplifier, so "I could feel the audience's insanity and energy pouring on to the stage". Keith Moon was her "freakiest" lover, confesses Des Barres. "He liked to dress me up as a little schoolgirl and he would be the naughty priest, or we would trade sexes and he would put on my clothes and I would put on his." I tentatively ask Des Barres where feminism fits into the sexually "liberated" groupie idyll.

"People often ask me whether I felt demeaned, and I always say it was exactly the opposite of that: it was empowering. Any woman who gets out there, looks on stage and goes after someone who inspires her – that is the ultimate feminist act, surely? Some women like doctors, politicians, football stars – I like musicians, and I was always very focused about who I wanted to be with. I consider myself a sexual pioneer. To me great sex is like touching God, and I was lucky enough to have experienced it to the hilt and wrote about it freely, openly and joyously, when not many other women had."

But of course, Des Barres writes from a bygone world of love-ins, limos and flowers in your hair – what of groupies today? "Women still have the same desire to be with people who are in the limelight, who are talented and inspiring and who make a good living," says Des Barres, who is now living in LA with her long-term partner, country-singer Mike Stinson, " but a lot of things have changed in the outside world. When John Lennon was shot, security became tighter and then Aids came along and it could no longer be as free as it was – but the same attraction is there. These days we might be more cautious, but there are still many well-known women who are repeatedly pulled into the rock-star orbit."

Des Barres' book concludes with an interview with the LA groupie Lexa Vonn, who is a journalist and founder of a glamorous clutch of publicist-promoters, The Plastics, who have professionalised their groupie status. Des Barres quotes an article Vonn wrote for LA's Rock City News: "Being a real groupie is a talent on its own, and not one that can be performed by just anyone. Sex, while an important part of the groupie experience, is only one facet of the whole picture. A true groupie has a deep connection both to the music and the dimension in which musicians exist when they are performing. Rock'*' roll is a ritual and groupies are the high priestesses." And if groupies are the high priestesses, they all seem to worship at the altar of Des Barres. *

'Let's Spend the night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies' is published by Helter Skelter on 27 September, priced £17.99

I'm with the band: Five supergroupies

Tura Satana

The original 1950s groupie, Tura Satana (aka Miss Japan Beautiful) was the exotic burlesque dancer and actress who claims she taught a young Elvis Presley how to move – both on stage and in the bedroom. He proposed to her in secret, and she wears the diamond engagement ring to this day.

Catherine James

Blonde rock'*'roll temptress "the elusive Miss James" was celebrated in song by Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall, had a son at the age of 18 with the Moody Blues' Denny Laine and even had an affair with the snarling Jagger, while employed as a cook at Eric Clapton's country residence.

Cynthia Plaster Caster

Self-described "recovering groupie", Plaster Caster gained notoriety in the late 1960s by casting the erect penises of famous rock stars including Jimi Hendrix, Clint Mansell and Brian St Clair.

Bebe Buell

Preferring to call herself a "muse" rather than a "groupie", Buell is famous for her relationship with Aerosmith's Steve Tyler, with whom she had one daughter (actress Liv Tyler). She was also linked with Todd Rundgren and Elvis Costello.

Lexa Vonn and the Plastics

Founding member of Los Angeles glam-goth publicity outfit the Plastics, Lexa Vonn is part of a new breed of "professional groupie". A fetish and pin-up model, burlesque dancer and journalist, Vonn has famously been linked with Marilyn Manson.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee