Friday, February 18, 2011

Muse: Tura Satana

I have that eerie feeling right now, hearing that Tura Satana died after I just made that Faster Pussycat playlist a couple days ago.  She actually passed away on February 4 and I had no idea until I read a recent Cat Party post.

One of my all-time favorite films is Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!  I first saw it one late night on Turner Classic Movies and swear I had a religious experience.  If you haven't seen it, you must rent it right away.  But, if you love black eyeliner, go go boots, retro drag racing scenes, chicks beating up guys, hour glass figures, campy cult classics, and worms-eye-view camera angles, then stop reading this sentence immediately and buy this movie.


Tura is best known for her role in Pussycat as Varla, a ruthless female lead of a small group of gals that find their way into dramatic love triangles and ass kicking-- sometimes at the same time.  Tura was partially cast in the film by cult classic director Russ Meyers for her clevage-- the female anatomy Meyers was admittely obsessed with (see: all his other films.... lots of mommy complex issues).  

Even before Pussycat, Tura had an intense life.

Born to a show-biz family, she was raise partially in Japan of Japanese, Filipino, Cherokee, and white-American heritage.  She had spent time in an internment camp during WWII and moved to Chicago after her famliy was released.  Though Chicago seemed a fresh start, she faced a worse event; while walking down the street (at age nine) Tura was viciously raped by five men.  Despite the grusome situation, the men were faced no consequence from the court, walking free after the trial.  Whats more, due to the incident, she was placed in a juvenile dilequent program.  The injustice prompted her to learn martial arts and self-defense techniques, and she vowed to find her attackers and administer some corporal punnishment.  Over the course of 15 years she tracked down each rapist and beat them to a pulp.  But meanwhile as a teenager, she proved to be a tough girl who formed her own leather jacket wearing all-girls gang, and enacted a mini version of Pussycat with her schoolmates.

This was cut short when her parents pushed her into marrying at... 13!  She was married in Mississippi to a young man of 17.   When that surprisingly didn't pan out, she cut loose for LA and tried an assortment of jobs, including blues singing, and eventually landed into nude modelling (this, keep in mind, is all happening at age 13).  Eventually though, she went back to her parents in Chicago and began stripping as an exotic dancer, which she took on the road, travelling with some of the icons of Burlesque. Oddly, she holds the title of Best Undressed Burlesque star of the 20th century by the supposed connoisseur Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbara fame.

Naturally, Tura found her way on to TV and film but Pussycat remains the high point of her career.  Director Russ Meyer even maintains that she controlled most of the film.  She brought the high kicking martial arts, her costume styling, make up style, dialogue, and energy to the film.  Meyers said, "She and I made the movie."

But no, her story doesn't stop there, in years after Pussycat she: had affairs with Elvis and Sinatra (she supposedly rejected Elvis, prompting him to force his next girlfriend Pricilla to adopt her Vampiress-Siren look for the first few years), was shot by an estranged lover (which was nether Elvis nor Sinatra), studied nursing, worked in a Police department, broke her back in a car accident, and had a metal band named after her (she was not affiliated with the band).  She started in two other memorable cult films Astro-Zombie (1968) and The Doll Squad (1973), but nothing in career captured her quite as iconically as Pussycat, and on no other film did she have so much creative input behind the scenes.

This woman was amazing.  She was very attentive to her cult fanbase, maintaining a myspace page and website, and often making appearances for signings.  She died suddenly in Reno, Nevada February 4, 2011.  Her cause of death is vaguely listed as 'heart failure'.

More Tura :

---->  Ebert even has a page on her (??!)

---->  Also see a more recent interview of Tura, sassy and still rockin' monochromatic black and even gigantic-er cleavage:  HERE.

---->  See her official website/tribute HERE

Violent clip from the gals of Pussycat:


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