Almost everyone will admit to having outrageous crushes on a rock star, but the number of people who actually meet their music idol is significantly less. Pamela Des Barres, as groupie extraordinaire to some of the biggest bands in history, did a lot more than just meet her idols. Here are some juicy facts about Pamela Des Barres that will whet your appetite for gossip.
Pamela Des Barres was a staple of the Los Angeles music scene, but she almost lived miles away from the west coast: in Kentucky. She was born Pamela Ann Miller and her parents were from the Bluegrass State, but they moved to California just before their daughter’s birth. This last-minute move set Des Barres' life on course for her wild rock and roll lifestyle.
When Des Barres’ father brought home their first television set, she quickly became fascinated by celebrities: especially the male ones. She swooned over the stars of TV westerns like Bonanza, but it was crooner Ricky Nelson that led her to a love of musicians. There was, however, a female star that ignited another passion.
Before Pamela Des Barres was partying with rock stars, she was convinced she should be an actor. It was watching Patty Duke win an Oscar for The Miracle Worker that sealed the deal and made her vow to win her own Oscar. But in just a few years Des Barres’ life would more closely resemble Duke’s other cinematic claim to fame: the pill-popping Valley of the Dolls.
As a teenager, Des Barres idolized The Beatles and she made a promise to herself that she’d one day meet her favorite member, Paul McCartney. Des Barres held true to him until something else caught her eye: The Rolling Stones. Des Barres soon forgot all about the Fab Four and put all her teenage obsession on Mick Jagger.
Though she was still an innocent teen, Des Barres’s obsession with Mick Jagger was anything but. For a school art project, she drew a very intimate picture of the lead singer of The Rolling Stones. It must’ve been a very progressive high school, because she received an easy A. Soon these rock stars would be leaping off her sketchpad and into her life.
Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip was the center of the music scene, and Pamela Des Barres just had to be there. Once she finished high school, she found odd jobs on the strip that would keep her close to the rock stars she loved. She sold posters door to door, she danced in a dime-a-dance hall, and she even painted Gumby eyeholes. Terrible jobs, but she was living the dream.
While most young people just dreamed of meeting their rock and roll heroes, Des Barres actually did it. Through a high school friend, Des Barres met two of her idols: Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. With this, Des Barres had tasted fame and wanted more. She started hanging out on the Sunset Strip with members of the Rolling Stones and the Byrds.
But Des Barres’ obsession with fame would soon get her into trouble.
Pamela Des Barres didn’t totally forget about her love for Paul McCartney. When she heard he was in the Los Angeles area, she came up with a truly bizarre plan. Des Barres hid in a bush all night just to get a glimpse of her favorite Beatle. Instead of seeing the star, she got taken away by the authorities for trespassing. On her next encounter, however, she didn’t need a bush to hide behind.
Des Barres was hanging around in the Laurel Canyon neighborhood and one night heard The Doors song, “The End,” wafting through the summer air. She followed the sound and brazenly walked into a stranger’s house. Here she found a shirtless Jim Morrison singing in the kitchen and started kissing him. But this was just the beginning of Des Barres’ escapades.
If you have this idea that Des Barres was a girl who couldn’t say no, especially to gorgeous rock stars, you’re wrong. She did say no to superstar Jimi Hendrix. Although Des Barres regrets it now, she felt she was too young when Hendrix hit on her, just 17. But there was someone even possibly more famous she said no to.
Unlike Hendrix, Elvis Presley’s invitation sounds quite innocent—at least on the surface. The King invited Des Barres to come on over and watch some TV with him. Whether it was that generation’s version of a hook up we’ll never know, as Des Barres declined. Her next refusal, however, quite likely saved her life.
Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin fame, promised to bring Pamela Des Barres to live with him in his mansion in Pangbourne. Des Barres admits she was madly in love with Page and fully expected him to swoop her up and take her to his mansion. Well, the swooping never happened and Des Barres vowed never to let herself fall in love with a rock star again.
Her next fling would put her promise to the ultimate test.
When Des Barres finally hooked up with Mick Jagger, she had a new attitude to these rock and roll idols. She was more mature and knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term thing with Jagger. She just wanted to love him in the moment and not count on anything more than that. But with Jagger, it ended up being more than just a moment.
Because of her association with Mick Jagger, Pamela Des Barres had a terrifying brush with one of the most infamous events of the 20th century. She attended the notorious Altamont Free Concert, which, because of a homicide and three accidental deaths, turned out to be a disaster of epic proportions. Des Barres was turned off by the energy at the concert and left before things got really bad.
Later that day, she received a frantic cry for help from a despairing Jagger.
After the disastrous concert, Des Barres found Jagger in his hotel room in absolute despair. Jagger reached out Des Barres for comfort, but she misinterpreted what he wanted. She thought he was proposing a threesome with another woman, so Des Barres gave an excuse and left. She came to regret this misunderstanding, but it didn't stop her from becoming a star herself.
Pamela Des Barres had a chance to see her life on the big screen. Many believe that Cameron Crowe based the groupie character Penny Lane in the film Almost Famous on Des Barres’ life. Kate Hudson’s admission that she read I’m With the Band while she prepared to play Penny Lane further cemented the connection. Well, the film didn't exactly thrill Des Barres.
Des Barres liked Almost Famous, but took issue with the way the film portrayed groupies as helpless little girls and not the powerful woman that she feels they are. She also thought the film so obviously was her story that now she’s unable to produce her own biopic of her life. Then why is Des Barres already starting to cast it?
If she did make a movie of her life, she says she knows who she’d cast as Mick Jagger. Des Barres wants singer, songwriter, and actor Harry Styles. She says she’d go for him if she were younger because of his easy femininity and mystery. She also feels Styles has a long career ahead of him. Speaking of long careers, Des Barres’ isn’t over yet.
Pamela Des Barres had been hanging around rock stars for a number of years and soon decided it was time to transition from groupie to rock star in her own right. It was notoriously wacky musician Frank Zappa who came up with the concept for the band she joined: Girls Together Outrageously (the GTOs). They were the first all-girl rock band, and they got the attention of a very famous magazine.
The GTOs got mildly famous for a very short period of time—at least, they got famous enough to end up in the centerfold picture in Rolling Stone magazine. The band was made up of women who, like Des Barres, were part of the LA music scene. Des Barres was ready to make her mark on rock and roll history, but the band fell apart for a surprising reason.
Des Barres’ band, Girls Together Outrageously, put out only one album, which was called Permanent Damage. When she tried to get the band together for a second album, Des Barres made a chilling discovery. Many of the members had been incarcerated for their out-of-control use of illicit substances. So, it was good-bye rock star…and hello movie star.
Frank Zappa was instrumental in getting both Des Barres’ music and film careers going. Zappa contacted Des Barres to appear in his surreal movie 200 Hotels, about life on tour. Des Barres jumped at the chance to work with musicians like Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. The film had only limited success, but it was official: Des Barres had the acting bug.
Fresh off her experience in 200 Hotels, Pamela Des Barres wanted to become a legit actor, but acting lessons were financially out of her reach. Resourceful as always, Des Barres offered to clean a grimy theater in exchange for what she later called “crappy acting classes". It was these bad classes that led to her first experience on the casting couch.
Des Barres eventually got the lead role in a play called The Drunkard. The producer said her voice was too high and, to help her lower it, he invited her to lie down on his Naugahyde couch. The voice therapy involved rubbing Des Barres’ body with a vibrating naughty toy. Des Barres didn’t like where the therapy was going, and she made a quick escape.
Des Barres’ 200 Hotels had a double feature with Zachariah, a rock and roll Western starring Don Johnson. Johnson would later go on to rule the airwaves as Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice, but was then a struggling actor. Des Barres and Johnson had a romance that included running lines together, but Des Barres' heart still belonged to music.
Pamela Des Barres was featured on Real Don Steele, a TV program that Steele himself called “Dick Clark on acid". The host was famous for literally throwing teenagers into the spotlight and letting them get their 15 seconds of dancing fame. Des Barres had a special place in the show: hanging all over the host. But at least she could keep her clothes on.
Des Barres was aching for a leading role, and in her audition for 1975’s Car Hops, producers wanted her wearing nothing but high heels. She reluctantly complied, got the role, and then promptly refused to appear in the film without clothes. The director’s reaction was surprising. He listened to her demand, and the filming went ahead without the racy aspect.
With this attitude, Des Barres was surely heading straight to stardom.
Des Barres’ was about to shoot the comedy Arizona Slim, but they were short one actor. The producer sent Des Barres to meet a new rising star to fill the role. Upon arrival at the meeting place, Des Barres was shocked to see Robert De Niro waiting for her. De Niro was between Godfather films and looking for a role. He didn’t make the movie, but Des Barres met someone she liked even better on the set.
In 1974, while making Arizona Slim, she co-starred with glam rocker Michael Des Barres—you can see where this was going. Michael Des Barres was also an actor and had appeared as a teenager in To Sir With Love. He checked a number of Des Barres’ boxes—skinny, effeminate, rock star—and the two fell in love pretty much at first sight. There was, however, one very serious glitch.
When Pamela fell in love with Michael Des Barres, she didn’t know it, but he was actually hiding a dark secret. Des Barres was already married. In fact, according to Des Barres, he’d only been married for three weeks. The movie they worked on together never actually got released, but Des Barres got a new boyfriend out of the deal.
She was more than ready to play house with married Michael, until the phone rang.
The ominous phone call was from her agent saying she’d been offered a recurring role on soap opera Search for Tomorrow. A real American soap opera! This surely was her big acting break that would lead to so much more. One problem though: Her life with her new boyfriend was in LA, and Search for Tomorrow was in New York.
After much soul searching, Pamela Des Barres decided she couldn’t skip this chance to light up the small screen. Her boyfriend Michael stayed in LA to pursue his music, while she went to chase her soap opera dreams. It was, after all, a real job with a real paycheck of 500 bucks a week. There was nothing that could stand in her way now.
Des Barres lost her focus on Search For Tomorrow because she was too worried about her boyfriend Michael Des Barres all alone back at home. Des Barres frequently didn’t know her lines, and the consequences were heartbreaking. Producers fired her. As a farewell, her co-star, TV goddess Morgan Fairchild, took her to the Russian Tea Room for a farewell bender.
After losing Search For Tomorrow, Pamela Des Barres got herself back to LA, married her boyfriend Michael Des Barres, and got a commercial agent. If you’re old enough, you might remember her first TV commercial. She was one of the many people who fell back into a pool holding a glass of iced tea. But there was something unusual about this ad that you couldn’t see…
Des Barres was three months pregnant with Michael Des Barres’ child when she took the plunge. The production company demanded she get a doctor’s note for permission to fall back repeatedly into the pool. Luckily, the TV ad paid well, because it was official: The Des Barres were starting a family. But what would this do to her career?
Motherhood wasn’t about to slow Pamela Des Barres down. She carefully took her son Nicholas Dean to interviews, auditions and acting classes. Nicholas would lie in his foldable playpen, grasping at his plastic mobile while his mother grasped for roles in TV and film. All this hard work, however, would soon lead to an audition with a big star.
All her hard work eventually paid off and Des Barres got a call for a serious movie audition. The actor/writer/director was between two films and making a film about professional wrestling. Those two films? Part of the Rocky franchise, and the triple threat was Sylvester Stallone. Des Barres was willing to do almost anything to get the role…or was she?
Strangely enough, it was her work cavorting around on The Real Don Steele Show that had caught Stallone’s eye. The movie was Paradise Alley and the part was that now common cliché: “hooker with a heart of gold". That’s when Stallone made a disturbing proposal: He wanted Des Barres to audition in a bed. But what happened next was not what you might expect.
Contrary to her prior creepy casting couch experiences, Stallone wasn’t trying to seduce Des Barres. They actually did the audition in a bed on set, because that was what the scene required. Des Barres remembers feeling strange in bed with this superstar while surrounded by set lights. Stallone was a gentleman and asked her to call him Sly.
She didn’t get the role, but the Italian Stallion still had his eye on her.
Stallone offered Des Barres a smaller role in Paradise Alley and she nabbed it. She had a few glorious weeks on the set of Paradise Alley and made friends with co-star Kevin Conway. When the film had wrapped, Stallone took Des Barres aside and praised her for her work. But there was still one tiny thing holding her back.
The expected offers after her role in Paradise Alley didn’t materialize. Pamela Des Barres took a good look at her life and made a painful decision. She chose to quit acting. After all, she had a lovely son to raise and a husband to enjoy. She decided to relax and enjoy her life. But this only lasted until Des Barres’ artistic energy demanded to be expressed.
Once her son started kindergarten, Des Barres took up writing. She’d been journaling since she was a teenager and of course, her diary was full of stories about the rock stars. She signed up for a writing class and the teacher encouraged her to make her diary into a book. It wasn’t long before the publishers were lining up.
After Pamela Des Barres released her first memoir I’m With The Band in 1987, she waited for the fallout. After all, it contained many intimate stories about rock and roll’s biggest names. No one sued her and even Jagger’s response was a simple: “I was there". To Des Barres, this proved that her stories were true. But the next thing she wanted to do was bare all.
Posing for Playboy had been a dream for Pamela Des Barres, but they'd turned her away because, well, she didn’t have the proportions the magazine was looking for. Des Barres was delighted that, because she was now a famous writer, the magazine was willing to overlook her shortcomings. To make it even more special, the magazine published an article she wrote alongside the pictures.
Des Barres has had to continually defend herself, even decades after she was a groupie. Her boy-chasing lifestyle often riled up feminists. Des Barres always fought back, saying she was a feminist because she was a strong woman who went for what she wanted. It just so happened that what she wanted were handsome, famous musicians.
In 2011, Des Barres played a groupie journalist in the popular soap opera The Young and the Restless. Des Barres says it felt good to come to a role without all the fuss: no weird auditions, no pervy producers. She could keep her clothes on this time. They wanted her for who she was, and she was glad to give it to them.
Pamela Des Barres now gives guided live tours of the locations of her wildest antics on LA’s Sunset Strip. They started off very small and intimate in a single limo, but have now grown to an actual tour bus. She says she never tires of relating the sordid tales of her young and restless youth. And the fans? They are gobbling them up.
So, what are the most scandalous stories from Pamela Des Barres' tell-all? Well, there was the time she met Keith Moon, the drummer for The Who. He soon fell for her charms, but charm wasn’t all Moon was looking for. Moon wanted Des Barres to engage in a role play where she was a rich older lady looking for a steward. Bizarre? Yeah, a little. But there was something much more sinister coming from Moon next.
Des Barres soon learned that Moon had demons. In fact, he made a horrifying confession. It turns out that Moon had once caused a fatal accident. While trying to escape from a mob, he'd accidentally run over his chauffeur in his Bentley. While authorities cleared Moon of any wrongdoing, he was still wracked with guilt, as he'd been high at the time of the accident.
When you kiss as many men as Des Barres did, there’s bound to be a few bad apples—but one in particular was rotten to the core. Des Barres once locked lips with someone she knew as Bummer Bob, but let it go no further than that. Sometime later, she saw him on the TV news. Bummer Bob was actually Bobby Beausoliel: associate and disciple of Charles Manson.
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