WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MUSICAL MEMORY?
Early in the fifties, I had this tiny transistor radio, and it was only deep into the night that I could pick up this Tennessee station. It was Wolfman Jack’s blues program. Those old blues songs used to blow me away. I was so young, but I would put the radio on my pillow, lay my ear on top of the radio and turn it up as loud as it would go. The blues reeled me in way back then. I was hooked.
WHAT IS THE FIRST RECORD YOU BOUGHT WITH YOUR OWN MONEY?
It had to have been an old 45 like Duane Eddy or the Coasters.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO MOVE TO CALIFORNIA?
I ended up in California because I ran away from home. I believed that my grandfather’s death had been my fault. He died of a heart attack during an argument with me after repeatedly being warned not to upset him because of his bad heart. I left town with ten bucks and just started driving west on Route 66, trying so hard to run from the pain of all that guilt, trying to leave it all behind me. Eventually I ended up on the west coast smack dab in the middle of Hollywood on the Sunset Strip.
WHEN YOU WORKED AS A STRIPPER AT THE BODY SHOP ON THE SUNSET STRIP, YOU GAINED NOTORIETY AS THE FIRST ALL-NUDE DANCER, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
I used to love the fact that I was dancing for a living as I had dreamed of becoming a famous ballerina or a June Taylor dancer, but I hated being publicly nude. It was demeaning. It’s something I never really got used to, never felt comfortable with it. Consequently, I used to escape from that hard truth with drugs, because they helped me to lift myself up and out of that actuality and dance inside the song. I could become the song. That is rather hard to explain to most people. A musician would understand the place you go when you just float inside the music. It’s another level of consciousness. It’s hard to comprehend or understand if you’ve never been there, but it’s the only thing that kept me sane in those days. I’m not saying that the drugs kept me sane, but going to that other level, knowing it was there and obtainable, kept me sane. It was something to look forward to in that business.
YOU WERE EVEN ASKED TO BE ON THE JOHNNY CARSON SHOW, RIGHT?
My nudity caused quite a stir in Hollywood in those days. For someone who was trying to stay kind of low key in the business, well those days were over. My name was out on the marquee; and my agent told me that he had me booked on the Johnny Carson show. My agent assumed that I would have no problem with an appearance on Carson, but I emphatically said no! That would have been horribly embarrassing and humiliating for my family back home, especially the older ones, like my grandparents, aunts and uncles. I loved my granny and her sisters and brothers. I couldn’t do that to them. I never went on that show.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO HANGOUT ON THE “STRIP” IN THE SIXTIES?
It was very much like roaming around in Alice in Wonderland. Everything seemed surreal and dreamy. My naïve and uncomplicated youth had only read about this place called Hollywood in books and I’d seen bits and pieces of what Hollywood might be like on TV, but I never dreamed in a million years that it would be so majestic. I was in awe of seeing famous people right before my eyes, and the fabulous homes sprinkled all over the hills, the Rolls Royce’s, all of the rock and roll clubs, the lights, the traffic at night; and there were hundreds of kids just like me going through the same thing that I was. We were literally walking through a fairytale everyday and night of our lives out there on the Strip. We became part of what we had fallen in love with in the first place. Life never got much better than that.
SO MANY PEOPLE SEEM TO FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE OR SLEAZY ASPECTS OF THE SUNSET STRIP. DO YOU FEEL THAT PEOPLE ARE BEING DEPRIVED OF THE TRUTH?
Oh, hell, yes! I’m so sick of hearing about people jumping off buildings, overdosing, and having sex orgies. Those aren’t my memories, not for my friends or me. Yes, those things happened, but it wasn’t daily or weekly. Those stories were blown up out of proportion by the media. I heard those things, too, but I never knew any of those people. The weekend hippies would come in from the Valley, the part-timers that were getting their wires crossed with information about us, so they’d drive in and do their little plastic hippie act. They had it all wrong and gave us a bad name.
AS A REGULAR AT THE WHISKY, WHAT WAS THE WILDEST BACKSTAGE PARTY YOU EVER WENT TO?
The parties weren’t really after the show unless they were elsewhere because we all had to pack up and leave. I imagine the parties that you heard about were during the shows or on breaks. This is going to sound prudish, but when things started getting weird up there backstage, I would leave. The drugs didn’t drive me away, but the sex would. Weird, I know, coming from a stripper, but I only liked sex when it was an expression of love versus a quick fix for Led Zeppelin.
YOU WERE APPROACHED BY ROBERT PLANT AND ASKED IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN HIM AND HIS ENTOURAGE AT THEIR TABLE AT THE WHISKY?
The Whisky was kind of empty. It must have been early, but I was sitting about dead center at a table by myself. I was probably waiting to meet someone to come in that I knew. I knew that Led Zeppelin was sitting right behind me at a corner booth, because they were loud and unruly. How could I not notice that they were there? I wasn’t one to approach someone famous, though, or even acknowledge his or her presence, so I pretended to be pre-occupied with whatever. Maybe ten minutes after I arrived, Plant walked up to my table, leaned over, and asked me if I’d like to join him and his friends at his table and he pointed back to the corner booth. I don’t remember my exact words, but I must have said “No thank-you I’m waiting for someone” or something like that, because when I turned around to where he was pointing, there were two or three groupies underneath the table. Like I said on my website, I was no angel, but it was beneath me to be underneath that table!
JIMI HENDRIX ALSO APPROACHED YOU WHILE YOU WERE ORDERING A DRINK AT THE WHISKY?
Hendrix did not approach me. Our souls just sort of crashed into one another. Here is the Hendrix story copied out of chapter ten of my uncompleted book:
I passed out standing up. My head hit the bar. Boom! I wasn’t out for long, though, because the hit on the head jolted me back to a low level of sobriety. As I was coming back to my senses, I was trying to focus my eyes across the L-shaped part of the bar where the waitress station was. I could tell some jerk was laughing at me from over there, and I was drunk enough to get really pissed off. I remember I stood there lunging over the bar trying to give this asshole the evil eye, but my eyes wouldn’t focus quite right yet, which pissed me off even more. I could see this blurry shape and could tell he was still watching me and laughing, so I let him have all the verbal abuse I could sling at him. My eyes began to focus a little clearer the more I ranted. I suddenly realized I was cursing a blue streak at Jimi Hendrix. ‘Hendrix! You purple assed motherf**ker! I know what you are! You’re a triple assed Sagittarian. You shit purple! You think purple! I know that because I’m a triple Sagittarian! Triple ass purple motherf**ker just like you, so don’t be flashing that purple shit eating smile at me! I know what that phony ass shit means. I bet your dick is swollen up purple and probably about to explode star spangled purple shit all over the Whisky! Hell, the walls will be dripping soon with that purple crap!’ He had been standing there at the waitress station waiting for a drink, and when he finally got it, he walked off still chuckling and shaking his head. I felt the same way I probably would have if I had won the lottery. Ecstatic! Actually, I had just yelled and cursed at him. I felt I had stepped over the line so I wasn’t feeling real swell about this encounter. I loved Hendrix, but he just found me in a strange dimension, and became the unfortunate butt of my verbal attack. I think I was just trying to hide my embarrassment for passing out at the bar. Later that night as the Whisky was closing, I was standing outside as people were filing out. When Hendrix stepped outside the door, he turned his head towards me, looked me dead in the eyes, and with that killer grin, ever so softly, he said ‘goodbye, Sagittarius.’
I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live and then some. I’m still madly in love with him. Hope we meet again in heaven.
THE FIRST WEEK YOU AND YOUR SISTER DIXIE ARRIVED IN LOS ANGELES, YOU MET THE DOORS WHEN THEY WERE PLAYING AT THE LONDON FOG, RIGHT?
My sister and I had only been in Hollywood for a few days. I stayed on the job trail in the daytime and at night we went to the hangouts on the Strip. She was only seventeen, though, so we couldn’t get into a lot of clubs. We tried to get in the Whisky one night, but they wanted an ID, so we walked on up from the Whisky a few doors and heard a band playing outside this little club called London Fog. The doorman had no problem letting us in because the place was dead. There were two or three people sitting at the bar, the bartender, the doorman, and two tables in the back had a couple of patrons. That was it! Dixie and I plopped our little selves down right in the front of the stage at the center table. The Doors were playing directly up and in front of us on a stage about four to six feet high. When they took a break, John [Densmore] and Jim [Morrison] came over and sat down with us. They sat with us at every break, and we went out to breakfast when the club closed. Later we went to our apartment at the St. Regis. They stayed awhile and left, because Dixie was trying to get rid of John who was attracted to her. She didn’t like men who wore sandals, so she gave him her infamous brush off. Jim and I liked each other and continued to get together for the next couple of weeks, maybe three or four, not sure. Pamela Courson must have been out there in the perimeter somewhere; I’m sure, according to what I’ve read. I never met her; I never even knew she existed back then. Morrison was seen with many women in Hollywood. What he and I had was pretty piddly.
Jim liked cruising the Strip in my Corvette. We’d drive through the canyon or up to Mulholland or follow Sunset all the way to the beach. We’d often end up at some coffeehouse, especially the ones on the UCLA campus, like at the union. I don’t remember drinking with him, we just smoked pot. We drove out to Ray Manzarek’s house out on the beach one night. Ray’s wife, Dorothy, was there and was very cordial offering little snacks and tea. I remember waking up with Jim the next morning while the waves were rolling in. We slept in a bed out on a little porch facing the beach. I remember waking up with him on the living room tile floor at my St. Regis apartment one morning, too. I don’t remember ever falling asleep with him or what we did or talked about before sleep. I wouldn’t make it public even if I did. That’s all I will say about that subject. I was seeing a couple of other guys, too. Jim and I weren’t a steady thing. We just liked hanging out together. I think he liked my car.
YOU ALSO SAW JIM MORRISON PUKE ALL OVER YOUR GIRLFRIEND KAY POORBOY BACK BY THE RESTROOMS IN THE WHISKY?
That was towards the end of Morrison’s life. He was bearded, bloated, and drunk on his ass almost all the time. It just didn’t matter to us anymore that he was rich and famous. To us, he was a holy terror. If he was around, there was going to be trouble. He was no fun at all; just real negative about everything, real pissed at the world, one of those kinds of people. We all know one, and we just can’t stand to be around them. It’s depressing. I think John Mayall was playing that night. I was in the restroom when I heard a ruckus in the hallway outside. When I stepped out, Morrison and Kay were screaming and cursing at each other. From what I could tell, he had grabbed her, and tiny little Kay was having a hissy fit fighting him off, kicking him and punching him in the stomach. He lost it, literally puked all over her face and shoulders and down the front of her blouse. She was screaming at Morrison calling him a “drunken old has been”. Morrison called her a “filthy f**king bitch”. Security arrived shortly after I did and that was the end of the confrontation.
Later on, when the lights came on at closing time, Morrison was leaning over the banister up in the balcony screaming obscenities about God and “his f**king son”. He was scaring the tourists to death. They didn’t know who he was evidently or didn’t care, and they were filing out of there with an urgency of a danger present, scared something was going to blow at any second. We were all a little scared. What was he going to do now? Our group left and went out in back to the parking lot. We hung around for a while to decide on what we were going to do since the club had closed. We were piling into Mayall’s mustang when we noticed someone moaning in the shadows. It was a cross between somebody sobbing, moaning, and singing all at the same time, very weird. It was soon clear to us that it was Morrison. I really felt sorry for him then. He was pitiful. I suggested we take him with us but little Kay was remorseless. She had just been puked on! We left him standing there. That was the last time I ever saw him alive. That image of him in the parking lot is really painful for me to visualize today.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE DOORS MOVIE BY OLIVER STONE? DO YOU FEEL THAT IT WAS MISLEADING?
I couldn’t wait to see “The Doors” movie when it came out. I wanted to see how these incidents were played out on the screen, as I thought that night was a major event in Morrison’s life and in ours. Nada. Nothing. Not a thing about it in the movie at all. There wasn’t a word of truth in that film. It was all phony baloney, just somebody’s interpretation of what might have happened. It [was as] though one of those weekend valley kids wrote it, the ones with their wires crossed.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION MOST PEOPLE HAVE OF JIM MORRISON?
He was very sweet, very quiet and bashful. We had many awkward silences between us. Either he had nothing to say, didn’t feel like talking, or didn’t know what to say. I remember often feeling uncomfortable with him. I’m verbal and outgoing. He wasn’t. I would say something I thought was really clever or cute, and there would be no response. He was very quiet and subdued. He was so beautiful, you just wanted to sit and stare at him. Most people are only familiar with his stage and drinking performances. The real Morrison was buried deep below that exterior.
THE LAST TIME YOU SAW JANIS JOPLIN WAS AT THE PALOMINO CLUB IN THE VALLEY, RIGHT?
The last time I saw Janis was very similar to the last time I saw [Jim] Morrison. The lights had come on at the Palomino Club. I think I had just gotten there, because I noticed Janis for the first time when they turned up the lights. She was out in the middle of the dance floor all by herself dancing with a whiskey bottle. It was a pretty sad picture as she was slipping on the floor in her vomit. That’s what someone whispered to me anyway. I wanted to approach her like a friend, and see if I could help her ease her blues, even though she didn’t look unhappy in the face, but she didn’t know me from Adam. I didn’t know what to expect from her if I did approach her. I knew she was wild and quick tempered, and as I said, I never liked approaching the stars, so I passed. I stood there and thought about it for a while but chickened out. She was found dead shortly after that, too, at the Landmark.
YOU COOKED DINNER FOR ELTON JOHN AND LEON RUSSELL. WHAT DID YOU MAKE?
I'm smiling right now. Francine Brockey and I never made anything! I think we had planned to make spaghetti, but first we had to clean up that disgusting kitchen at Leon's house. Dirty dishes and pots and pans were all over the counter and sink and table. To make the job a little easier and kind of fun, we did speed and reds and booze and cleaning turned into a total blast. Leon was in the next room recording. Kathi McDonald's and Claudia Lennear's voices were piercing the kitchen door. Lord those girls could sing crystal clear and loud! Francine and I were dancing and singing and slinging those pots and pans, having a grand old time. That's all I remember about the dinner though, because we eventually passed out! We missed dinner altogether and Elton. I guess they ordered pizza.
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD HANGOVER?
Hasn’t anything ever happened to you that you could just never live down? And, over the years, you continue to think about it and roll it around [in] your mind over and over? The memory just kind of hangs out there, sometimes in the back of your mind, and sometimes it takes center stage. I’m reminded of those old times everyday of my life. The reminders never end, and the images are emblazoned across my soul. If I were stuck on a desert island with no TV or radio, I’d still be humming those old songs to pass time and have fun.
YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON A BOOK THAT FOCUSES ON THE SIXTIES AND THE SUNSET STRIP. HOW IS THAT COMING ALONG?
Very slowly. I am very short on time. I need help, a ghostwriter, a publishing deal. I’m a songwriter, not a book writer. The stuff needs to be organized and cleaned up. I don’t have the time or the talent.
YOU’RE ALSO OFFERING ‘I WAS THERE’ T-SHIRTS ON YOUR WEBSITE. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE DESIGN AND TEXT?
I have a private mailing list with about 200 people on it from those days on the Strip. They all wrote in and gave me ideas. I was able to pick and choose, but I have to share the credit. There had been talk for a while about a TV show based on my website called ‘I Was There’ which inspired me come up with a shirt to promote the show. All that TV stuff has fizzled out. Great idea, though.
WHAT IS YOUR FONDEST MEMORY OF THE SUNSET STRIP?
I can’t think of one that stands out more than others. There were so many incredible events in those days. My fondest memory is the whole indescribable sixties show out there in Hollywood and on the Strip. It was the cars, the drugs, the lights, the rock stars, the homes, the money, the traffic, the hang-outs, the parties, the psychedelia, my funny, wonderful friends and all the great times we shared. It’s all rolled up into one big fat unbelievable celebration of life. We laughed, we loved so hard, we danced and we partied. We smoked; we got high on anything we could find. We were trusting and loving and faithful, nothing was laced with nothing. That’s where I’m coming from anyway, though it seems like I read it in a book or something. It’s hard to believe I really played a part in that intensely beautiful, magical, historical period. Hard for me to comprehend the impact we had. I found myself wondering all week why you guys had contacted me in the first place…
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