How to be a groupie (with self respect)
Rock stars wouldn’t exist without their fans, and we’ve all been through that phase of being a little too obsessed with someone famous. (Don’t lie.) For me, that started way back in the ’90s with New Kids on the Block (Jordan!) and is still raging strong with A$AP Rocky (there’s a reason he’s called Pretty Flacko). Actually meeting your musical crush is usually a fantasy reserved for those precious moments of daydreaming, but for Pamela Des Barres, it became a claim to fame.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Pamela’s infatuations with Elvis and The Beatles blossomed into a dream come true when she discovered flower power in Laurel Canyon, frequenting the clubs in on the Strip where she seduced rock ’n’ roll’s finest from the front row. With her established position in the music scene, it wasn’t long before she became a legend in her own right chased by men like Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, who passed her a sexy note in a club.
Now a writer and clothing designer, Des Barres cemented her title as Queen Groupie in 1987 when she published I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, a memoir detailing her drug-fuelled adventures in the Hollywood rock world. From doing backbends in Jim Morrison’s living room to babysitting Frank Zappa’s kids and playing with the GTOs, one of the first all-girl rock groups, no one has had a life like Pamela’s. Sometimes criticized for being submissive, the Queen Groupie says she’s anything but, doing what she wanted, when she wanted, how she wanted and with no shame.
I sat down with her last week when she was in town for a sold-out reading at Toronto’s Analogue Gallery, looking for some pro tips on how I might charm my way backstage at the next A$AP concert. Fifty years after Pamela did it, gaining access to these mega babes is a fulltime job (and really, we all have better things to do), but sometimes you just find yourself in the right place at the right time. Here’s what to do when that happens.
“The way I met The Birds, the very first band that I met, was that I knocked on a backstage door. They opened the door, offered for me a joint, and I walked in. I was very nervous. I thought, ‘Oh my God! I did it! I’m in here. I’m in the inner sanctum. What am I gonna do now?’ I was the only person there with them. They were passing a joint around and I had to pretend I was smoking it. I don’t think I said a word.”
Cultivate a Unique Lewk
“I made a lot of my clothes out of vintage tablecloths and doilies and antique wedding dresses. I created looks that were very sexy, very sheer. I never wore a bra. It was just very taunting and liberating. I had nothing to hide. I felt like a hippie flower child free love person and I wanted everybody to feel that way.”
Choose a Career In The Music Biz
“Because of John Lennon’s death and a lot of other different reasons, my heyday is just gone. The groupies today have a frustrating time unless they become musicians themselves, which a lot of them do. There are more options than I had. They become photographers and work for magazines to meet the guys in different ways.”
“I had a real shy streak. I was just determined to get near the people who made me feel so good. I wanted to do something creative myself. It’s inspiration. A great artist touches you in a place that…once you’re touched that way, you want more.”
Age Is Just A Number
“My last two boyfriends were musicians and twenty years younger than me. I’m trying to find someone in my age group. I’d like to get a hold of Bob Dylan again.”
Don’t Let Heartbreak Stop You
“Heartbreak’s heartbreak, connections are connections, and chemistry’s chemistry. It’s either there or it isn’t. You can’t force that, no matter what they play. If you want to keep dating musicians, just put yourself in the right place.”
Embrace The Groupie Lifestyle
“I was a groupie before the word existed. I thought, ‘Oh, a word that describes me. I hang out with groups. That’s alright.’ It quickly became a negative thing. That’s really how the negative connotation started: jealousy and people being afraid of sex.”