I'm with the band: Rock's most famous groupies tell all for VH1 documentary 'Let’s Spend the Night Together'
During the 1960s and early '70s, as such rock royalty as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones burned up the charts, a prominent set of women played a key, but quiet, role in the proceedings.
They were the dedicated fans, the ones who took their love of rock 'n' roll a step further by assuming the role of groupies. They proudly served as treasured paramours -- and oftentimes muses -- to some of rock’s most iconic statesmen. And now they are telling all for a new documentary, premiering Wednesday on VH1.
Adapted from Pamela Des Barres' bestselling book "Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies,” the doc follows Des Barres -- heralded as the "queen of groupies" -- as she travels across the country reconnecting and reminiscing with the women who lived up to their reputations.
“I’ve been wanting to do a documentary on the true heart of the groupie ever since I was one. The groupie is just a girl who loves music and loves to be around the people who make it. She is the fan that takes it to the next level to experience the whole shebang,” Des Barres said backstage at a private screening for the film.
Des Barres was motivated to log her experiences, and those of her pals, because she felt the word "groupie" had become something tawdry, especially as reality shows featuring rock stars looking for love in a house full of women looking for fame became the norm.
“For a real groupie/music lover, you’re not in it for money. You’re in it for the thrill of being with someone famous,” she said. “Sure, we loved the little bonuses. Being taken on the road, staying in really cool places, but the main joy was to be with this person. We all fell in love. There were relationships.”
Her cross-country journey took her to Utah to see Tura Satana, the woman who taught Elvis a few tricks in the boudoir; Seattle, where Robert Plant's muse Michele Overman resides; Chicago, the home of iconic groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster; California to meet Cassandra Peterson, who was a well-known groupie before becoming Elvira; and Arkansas, to visit the famous Connie Hamzy, known solely as “Sweet Connie.”
“Sweet, sweet Connie, doin’ her act / She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact,” Grand Funk Railroad sang in its song "We're an American Band."
Hamzy, unlike the other groupies, was never looking to build relationships. She was after sex, and she unabashedly shared intimate moments with virtually every rock star -- even their roadies -- who came through Arkansas.
“Look, we’re not hookers, we loved the glamour,” she clarifies in the film when pressed about her conquests. “We’re getting to hang with celebrities. I’m 55 years old, so I don’t do the things I used to. I don’t look the way I used to. There aren’t women who could do what me or Pamela does. How many songs on the radio have a gal's name in it?”
Sweet Connie never minces her words -- ever. She boasts that she’s bedded -- or serviced -- anywhere from 700 to 1,000 musicians and their crew guys. She says she still gets requests from bands, which she is happy to oblige. Though a lot of her anecdotes can't be printed in this publication, one of her favorite memories is of helping Don Henley join the "Mile High Club" -- with a little bit of help, albeit unexpected.
“I had my eyes closed, because that's what you do when you're making love, before feeling another set of hands on me and it was the pilot. Then I realized, who could be flying this thing? Don tells me not to worry, it’s on autopilot,” she said. “My only complaint is they didn’t ask me how I felt. I mean, it can’t be safe to put the plane on autopilot, can it?”
Hamzy admits she sometimes got attached to some of the stars, including Eddie Van Halen (she also had his brother, “but not at the same time,” she quickly points out).
“I think I let him slip through my hands. I did get attached to some of them. I feel in love with some of them. You build attachments,” she says before catching herself. “But it's pointless. They are here today, gone tomorrow.”
When pressed about relationships with married musicians, she lets out a hearty chuckle. “I was with some and their wives, at one point, which I didn’t mind. Most of the times the wives detest me. But I will say if they think I’m the only one who’s ever done this with their husbands, then they are very naïve.”
Overman, who also dated a pre-Aerosmith Steven Tyler, puts it differently when she thinks of her teen years with Plant (ironically, they dated at the same time Des Barres was seeing another Zeppelin member, Jimmy Page).
“It was an instant attraction. And he was married, so you know, it didn’t last. But it lasted for three years. I just really liked him,” Overman said. “I really wanted a boyfriend. And when you’re that young, you kinda don’t think about the consequences of that sort of thing. You just think it’s all going to work out the way you want, and you will ride off into the sunset. But it didn’t.”
“Let’s Spend the Night Together: Confessions of Rock’s Greatest Groupies” airs Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on VH1.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photos: (Top left) Pamela Des Barres and Keith Moon.
(Top middle) Vintage Des Barres.
(Top right) The GTOs, a groupie group created by Des Barres that featured her, Linda Sue Parker, Lucy McLaren, Christine Frka, Sandra Leano, Judith Edra Peters and Cynthia Cale-Binion.
(Middle left) Vintage Michele Overman.
(Middle right) Jimmy Page with Des Barres.
All photos courtesy of VH1.