This morning, I contacted Alexander of Hollywood for comment on the passing of Tura Satana.
Some of you know him as “Official T-Shirt Designer of the Canadian Right Wing Blogosphere,” whose works have commemorated the northern voyages of Ann Coulter and Mark Steyn. (And are available with FREE shipping across North America!)
He comes by his nickname honestly, having lived and partied in LA for years the Meyer gang, until the city finally got turned back over to Mexico, like a kind of SoCal Hong Kong.
He sends this brief reminiscence of Tura Satana, from exile:
“In the early 2000s when I was living at Siouxzan Perry’s house in Topanga Canyon, and Sooz was managing Tura and several other Russ Meyer actors, my elderly mother came to visit for a few days. One of those days, Tura was at the house too. My mother had never heard of Tura or seen a Russ Meyer movie, but the two gal had a pleasant chin-wag just the same.
“Despite her onscreen reputation for violence, Tura in reality was (as long as you didn’t annoy her) an utterly charming and delightful personality. Later, after Tura and my mom were done talking, I told her, ‘You probably won’t believe this, but that dark-haired lady you just had the nice chat with, played one of the most terrifying villains in movie history.’
“People meeting Tura who HAD seen FPKK were afraid of her. Even her biggest fans were sometimes wary of approaching her. I always got along perfectly with her — but only by being constantly aware that this was someone you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.“
Satana’s father was a silent movie actor of Japanese and Filipino descent, and her mother was a circus performer of American Indian (Cheyenne) and Scots-Irish background.
After the end of World War II and a stint in the Manzanar internment camp in Lone Pine, California, she and her family moved to the Westside of Chicago.
She developed breasts very early and, despite being an excellent student, was constantly harassed for her figure and Asian heritage.
Walking home from school at the age of nine she was gang raped by five men. Her attackers were never prosecuted and it was rumored that the judge had been paid off. This prompted her to learn the martial arts of aikido and karate and, over the next 15 years, track down each rapist and exact revenge. “I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them,” she said years later. “They never knew who I was until I told them.”
Because of the rape and the bribed judge, she was sent to reform school as a teenager and became the leader of a gang. In an interview with Psychotronic Video, she said, “We had leather motorcycle jackets, jeans and boots and we kicked butt.” At 13, she was married in Hernando, Mississippi, a short-lived union arranged by her parents and the family of her 17-year-old groom.
Satana then came to Los Angeles at age 13 with a fake ID and tried her hand at blues singing. When that failed, she started modeling as a bathing suit photography model and posed nude for the silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, who did not know she was underage [photo NSFW]. Lloyd told Satana she should be in films because she was photogenic.
While working as a photographic model, Satana contracted makeup poisoning and could not wear any makeup due to the ensuing skin eruptions. She returned to Chicago to live with her parents and started dancing. Satana danced at the Club Rendevouz in Calumet City, Illinois, where she was known as Galatea, the Statue that Came to Life. She was offered a raise to become a stripper.
She eventually became a successful exotic dancer, traveling from city to city and working with Rose Le Rose, Maxine Martin The Skyscraper Girl, Tempest Storm, Candy Barr and Stunning Smith the Purple Lady.
Satana credits silent film star and 3D photographer Harold Lloyd with giving her the confidence to pursue a career in show business: “I saw myself as an ugly child. Mr. Lloyd said, ‘You have such a symmetrical face, the camera loves your face…you should be seen.”
“Because of her dancing, face and figure, she was ultimately voted one of the 10 Best Undressed Burlesque Dancers of the 20th Century by Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera
Satana’s most noted screen role is Varla in the 1965 film Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat Kill!..kill! – a very aggressive and sexual female character for which she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes. Renowned film critic Richard Corliss called her performance “…the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest.”
Originally titled “The Leather Girls”, the film is an ode to female violence, based on a concept created by Russ Meyer and screenwriter Jack Moran. Both felt at her first audition that Satana was “definitely Varla.” The film was shot on location in the desert outside Los Angeles during days above 100 degrees and freezing nights, with Satana clashing regularly with teenage co-star Susan Bernard, because of Susan’s mother disrupting the set. Meyer said she “was extremely capable. She knew how to handle herself. Don’t fuck with her! And if you fuck with her, do it well! She might turn on you!”
She was fully responsible for adding key elements to the visual style and energy of the production, including her costume, makeup, usage of martial arts, dialogue and the use of spinning tires in the death scene of the main male character. Meyer cited the extreme tension on the set caused by Satana as the primary reasons for the film’s lasting fame. “She and I made the movie,” said Meyer. Meyer came to greatly regret not using Satana in his subsequent productions.
- Big Hollywood obit.
- My review of Faster Pussycat: “The Citizen Kane of crap”
- Tura Satana documentary in the works.
- “Make Way for Satana, Heaven”