Lauren: Did you plan this?
Me: No, it is the second year.
Lauren: But it was your idea, right?
Me: No, I just found out when I bought cat food.
Lauren: But you made it happen. How is this not your idea?”
Valerie Harper on the cover of Esquire, 1976.
Los Angeles in the 1960’s was known as a “groupie heaven”. There were a lot of girls hanging out on Sunset Boulevard in the groupie look — layers of scarves and ruffles and heavy eye make-up. But it was the GTO’s who rose to fame. The GTO’s stood for “Girls Together Outrageously” or “Only” or “Orally”; whatever you choose. Their members included Pamela Des Barres and Cynthia Plaster Caster.
Many of the women of the GTO’s had come over from the hippie community. The original members of the GTO’s were close with — sometimes financially supported by — Frank Zappa, who eventually produced their albums. The GTO’s were a band despite none of them being able to sing or play instruments (how very riot grrrl of them.) They were hanging out with Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and were known as the girls you would want to meet if you were a musician.
The GTO’s owned being groupies, and they owned their creativity as well. Aside from spoken word and music performances, the GTO’s were said to have had a hand in men’s careers, and are credited with coming up with Alice Cooper’s signature mascara’d proto-goth look. Cynthia would go on to be thirdwave feminist darling — as her plaster casts of rock-star penises have been shown in countless feminist art shows.
I’ve interviewed a lot of these women. Nearly every one was assaulted at some point. Cynthia was raped by members of Led Zeppelin’s entourage and held against her will. Also the penises haven’t been exhibited very widely at all. (Cynthia is terrified to let them out of her sight.)
It is and was a super-fascinating period and I’m intrigued by how the groupies found their way into the rock world. But—as I prove that I am not only a feminist killjoy but an intra-feminist killjoy—might as well launch the discussion with the facts.
Note: There was groupie activity in the R&B scene, and it’s flourishing now in hip hop. See Kat Stacks, Karrine Steffans’ book “Video Vixen”, and “Pimps Up, Hos Down” by Tracy D. Sharpley-Whiting. I don’t think any of these references are perfect texts but helpful as a snapshot; would love to hear other sourced if people have any.
(Lecture over. FOR NOW.)
1960s office interior.
"He is thinking about asymmetry. This is a world, he is thinking, where you can lie in bed, listening…"
- Paul Murray (via atomos)