Let’s Talk ‘I’m With The Band’: Crocheted Bikinis, Jergens And Waking Up On Jim Morrison’s Rug
I would like to think that Pamela Des Barres’ glorious 1987 romp I’m With The Band: Confessions of a Groupie requires no introduction other than that offered in the foreword by Dave Navarro (!), but on the off-chance you’re a young Amish person enjoying the freedom of Rumspringa, this is a super-famous memoir written by a super-foxy woman with very few personal boundaries and an enduring love of the popular rock and/or roll music. Who boffed a lot of singers. And bass players. And roadies.
If you’re going to write a memoir about screwing your way through two decades (and you should! Send it to me!), the only appropriate way to couch it is NO REGRETS. Otherwise, you’re either Larry Kramer (not that there’s anything wrong with that — condom up! — but he’s not making it into Classic Trash), or, like, Dr. Laura. No one wants that. Buzzzzkill.
No, we want AUNTIE MAME, you know? Go whole-hog! Compare yourself to Anaïs Nin! (Not everything Jewel did was bad, okay?) Frequently use the phrase “pioneer,” as though you and Pa and Laura and your china shepherdess were plowing through the Rolling Stones like so many fields.
Do that, and we’ll read your book.
Now, obviously, you want to know who she hooked up with. Let me help. Captain Beefheart (just a hand job), Davy Jones’s stand-in on The Monkees (felt up her tits), Bobby Beausoleil (of Manson Family fame), Jim Morrison (made out extensively while huffing Trimar, that stuff that set the lake on fire in A Civil Action), Jimi Hendrix’s bass player (almost relieved her of her virginity), Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf bassist, SUCCESSFULLY relieved her of her virginity), Frank Zappa (who hired her to babysit his kids), Tiny Tim (okay, they just played miniature hockey and ate candy bars, and he gave her the nickname “Miss Pamela”), everybody in the Flying Burrito Brothers EXCEPT Gram Parsons (which sent her into a brief religious mania), Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger (he also tried to get a three-way with her and Michelle Phillips the night after Altamont), Waylon Jennings, Robert Plant, Keith Moon, and… Don Johnson (who she cheated on with Keith Moon). Also, obviously, her eventual husband, but who gives a shit?
Okay, so, maybe Pamela has some daddy issues. But, c’mon, “[my daddy] looked just like Clark Gable, and disappeared on weekends to dig for gold way down deep in Mexico.” I only read that sentence, and suddenly I wanted to let Jimmy Page slurp tequila out of my navel, you know? I also give her mad-props for including excessively cringe-worthy excerpts from her adolescent diaries, especially those based around her obsession with Paul McCartney:
February 10…Hello Diary, Paul, you are gear. Really Fab. Say chum, why are you so marvelous, luv? The most bloomin’ idiot on earth is me cause I’m wild over you chap.
Right? This is a woman who fucked Mick Jagger. She’s under no obligation to expose her teenage idiocy to our ridicule, and you have to love her for it. And you know she had pubes… because she tells us so! Good for you, Pamela!
We should probably briefly discuss her girl group, the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously/Openly/Only/Overtly, etc.), but… I’m still not entirely clear who they were or what they did. They couldn’t actually sing or play instruments, but I get the sense they wore kickin’ outfits and danced around doing white-teen-girl-spoken-word while Frank Zappa watched (and paid them thirty-five bucks a week “each!”) White-teen-girl-spoken-word with such amazing titles as “I Have A Paintbrush In My Hand To Color A Triangle” and “Who’s Jim Sox?” and “The Ghost Chained To The Present, Past, and Future (Shock Treatment).” Figure it out and get back to me, okay?
Is it any good? Hmm. I struggle with this one. My only actual beef with I’m With The Band is, bizarrely enough, its slut-shaming! Girlfriend occasionally likes to talk smack about other groupies (especially the newer models), who are less spiritually in tune with the music, you know? More generally, she’s not a writer, but it’s like a super-fun version of Go Ask Alice. And everyone loves Go Ask Alice, especially after they’ve successfully smoked pot without turning into a orange and attempting to peel themselves. It’s no Hammer of the Gods, is what I’m saying, but she seems like a delight. Shine on, you crazy diamond!
Context-Free Excerpts From I’m With The Band
• “…I had a moment of independence alone in the pink-tiled bathroom that will never be equalled for as long as I live, squirting a pool of Jergens into my palm and slathering it all over my hairless, shining Barbie-doll calves.”
• “Despite the fact that I had small titties, I was nuts about my high school.”
• “My dad bought me a reel-to-reel tape recorder and I made up a lot of adorable little plays, acting out all the different parts, in which Jane Asher dies many grisly, horrifying deaths.”
• “The second time, he took it out, and I closed my eyes real tight and tentatively grabbed on, petrified of damaging it, like it was a newborn.”
• “My tongue was tied in knots as I gazed around the room at the colorful clutter that Vito, his wife, Szou (pronounced Sue), and their son, Godot, called home.”
• “I believed the clearness of the liquid denied the fact that it could possibly be a harmful drug.”
• “When I came to my extremely sensual senses, I was in the middle of a perfect backbend on Jim Morrison’s tatty Oriental rug, my purple velvet minidress completely over my head, his redheaded girlfriend glaring down at me.”
• “The GTOs hung around with an eleven-year-old beauty, Bart Baker, and though I had never been intimate with him, a couple of the girls confessed to heavy petting with the beautiful blond prepubescent.”
• “Some dildo with a double first name shot Robert Kennedy, and any vague political interest I might have conjured up disappeared with his toothy grin.”
• “I took mescaline and went to Disneyland.”
And now your bi-weekly exhortation to delve deeply into the trash:
• Did you know that Tom Hanks tried to force DreamWorks to cast Rita Wilson as the mom in Almost Famous? Wouldn’t that have been WEIRD?
• You are a TARDIS-owning Time Lord, and can have safe, unprotected sex with any musician from any time period or genre. Dish! Who’s it going to be?
• Do you secretly wish you had, like, a crocheted bikini, or is that just me?
• Wait, HAVE any of you slept with famous musicians? Tell us in code, like “let’s just say he shagged like a Mountain Goat.” Okay, I’m not exactly a Windtalker, over here.
• The two guys she decided were too weird to fuck: Dennis Hopper and Roman Polanski. Who’s a dippy blonde now, America?
Now, next time, I was thinking we could go RETRO TRASHY! Beyond skinny ties! Beyond double-breasted suits! All the way back to John Cleland’s 1748 erotic romp, Fanny Hill, a.k.a., Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Why, it’ll be our first (but not our last!) book club selection written while the author was in debtor’s prison. If you, like me, have a useless degree in old-timey literature, bring your game face.
Nicole Cliffe is the proprietress of Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews.
Captain Beefheart photo by Jean Luc, via Wikimedia Commons.