“Tura Thursday” is a regular feature where we will be celebrating the legacy of the late, great Tura Satana, best known as Varla in the 1965 Russ Meyer cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (check out Offender Philip’s tribute to Tura aka the most kickass Asian American woman to ever grace the silver screen here). This series will be curated by Tura’s longtime manager, friend, confidant and CEO of Tura Satana Productions, Siouxzan Perry.
For this first edition, we present an exclusive, never before published excerpt from Tura’s memoirs which she wrote before her death in 2011. Here, in her own words, is a glimpse into what happened off-set during the shooting of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
“Tura Thursday for a kick-ass weekend” kicks off now:
I have to write about Russ Meyer and shooting Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in the Mojave Desert. It is something that I thought I would never tell anyone else, but it wouldn’t be a good life story if I didn’t include it.
Russ was a very funny guy. When I first went in for my interview on FPKK, I was in my bridesmaid dress from shooting Irma La Douce. I was on my lunch hour and had to come in costume. It definitely had the neckline that he liked because it was very low cut. Even if it was baby blue. Do you know how hard it is to be mean and nasty in baby blue?
To make a long story short, I did the reading and sold him on me as Varla. Russ always said that there was no one else who could have played Varla. I was always very proud of that. Needless to say, he made small hints about how he would love to see my boobs in action. I told him that he would only see that if he came to a club I was working. Then and only then, would he be able to see the boobs “in action”.
After the interview, he asked if I would come back later. I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t know what time I would be finished shooting and then I had to go to work at the Pink Pussycat on Santa Monica Blvd. He told me that we would have to get together sometime during the week so that we could go to a western store and pick out the jeans for the wardrobe for Varla. We went to a store in the Valley on Lankershim Blvd. and picked out two pairs of jeans. (I still have one pair left, as size 12.) Sure wish I could wear them today. (Fat chance!)
We were all staying at the Mojave Motel during the shoot. It was such a cheap and dingy little place, but it did have a small swimming pool. Even though we didn’t get much free time, we did use it on occasion. The pool sat in front of the motel and when we would lie out in the sun on our short days, we would definitely stop traffic. (FPKK co-star) Haji is, and was, a sun worshipper and in some respects so was I. I think that (co-star) Lori (Williams) was only out there once because the pool was not heated. We enjoyed the pool as long as we could because it was 120 degrees in the shade.
Russ would never go into the pool, but he would walk around it and comment whenever we were out there taking in the sun. As much as we liked him, sometimes his comments were a little over the top. He wanted us to go topless just so he could see what type of people we would attract. I told him that I wasn’t out there for his amusement, but for my own. The only time I go topless is when I am working in a club and even then I never went totally topless.
Russ would tell me to make my boobs jump like I did in the clubs that I worked in. I told him that I would do it if he could do it. He couldn’t, though I finally showed him how to do it. I wonder if he ever mastered the maneuver. I don’t think that he did. He was great with a camera, but had no muscle control. He was very fascinated with my chest muscle control though. At least, he used to remark about them a lot. He should have seen what I could do with a pair of tassels!
While we were in the desert, Russ made mention that we (the girls) were not allowed to have sex during the filming of the picture. Well, I took him aside and said, “I am sorry, but if I don’t have sex everyday, I cannot function. I guess I will have to leave the picture after all, because I needed to be relaxed when I worked and sex relaxed me.”
Russ looked at me and said, “Just where in the hell are you going to find a guy to have sex with out in the middle of the desert?”
I told him that I would find someone, but it wouldn’t be him! Russ thought I would never find a guy that far out who could possibly satisfy me. I said to him, “Why don’t you let me worry about that, but if you are going to uphold that rule, then I won’t be any good for your film.” Russ looked at me, and finally said, “Well, you had better not tell any of the other girls that you are doing it.” I looked at him and smiled. “It will be my little secret.”
I was very relaxed for the rest of the film ‘cause I found someone who kept me relaxed. The assistant director, Gil Haimson.
At first I didn’t realize we had an audience for our nightly sessions, but I found out a couple of days later.
I was in my room and waiting for Gil to come by. I had just stepped out of the shower and was drying off. I had been listening to the crickets outside my window when all of a sudden, there was total silence. That’s when I found out that Russ was outside my window and that apparently he had been there every night since I picked Gil to be my lover. I heard the crickets cease their chirping. My window was at the back of the motel, so I knew the street traffic was not going to stop the crickets. It had to be the fact that someone was moving around back there.
I looked out the window and just barely caught Russ running away; around the corner of the building. Once he was gone, the crickets started up again. I could always tell when he was out there, because of the silence.
At any rate, when Gil came in, we did some heavy necking and then got down to business. As long as he could perform at least twice, I was happy. I always needed to unwind after each shooting day. After dinner, I looked forward to a nice hot shower and a warm or cool body next to me. Then I would be content for at least a few hours. One night, I told Gil of my suspicions about Russ spying and he told me that he had heard the same thing from other ladies who had done shows with Russ. Well, these little episodes went on for at least two weeks. Finally, I thought I would teach him a lesson right there in that dingy motel in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
Gil and I started as we usually did and then I shut off the lights, which is something that I didn’t usually do when we were pleasing each other. Sometimes I would get very vocal, other times, I liked it slow and easy and other times, I wanted it hard, fast and deep. Gil was capable of performing to my satisfaction.
Anyway, I had explained to Gil earlier, just what I was going to do. We would play like we were going at it hot and heavy with the moans and groans of deep satisfaction and the bouncing off the bed. Then I went out the door with an ice bucket and snuck up behind Russ and doused him with it. The shock value was priceless. I caught him with his pants down and spanking the monkey.
After that, I never heard him outside my room again.
I know that Russ went to some of the other gal’s room windows as well, but I don’t know if they knew he was there.
After we finished the picture, Gil told me that Russ took him aside and asked him if I was any good. He told Gil, “I bet she wasn’t that good!” Gil looked Russ in the eye and said, “Not Good?? Are you kidding?? She is the best that I have ever had! She is absolutely fantastic and I wish I could get more.”
I don’t know if that was a great recommendation or not, but Russ was always a little touchy with me about that. I told him that I never crap where I eat, that is why I don’t sleep with my producers or directors, unless I feel something for them. When I went in for our original interview I was dating (Irma La Douce director) Billy Wilder. (Yes, I know he was married, but I didn’t want to marry him, I just wanted to enjoy him.) In many ways, Russ reminded me of Billy Wilder. Russ knew what he wanted from you in front of the camera and he would make you give it to him.
Even though Russ and I had our disagreements on the set, we both wanted the same thing: What was best for the picture and how to get the best performance from your people.
Russ would work you very hard and make you put in very long hours, but he would also get a performance out of you. The camera caught all of the little nuances that each actor put forth.
Part 2 next Thursday: Tura has an encounter with an aggressive male heckler at the first public screening of FPKK and traveling to Europe with Russ Meyer.