The 1970 documentary Groupies does not portray the lives of its subjects as particularly appealing. There are some famous faces—namely Pamela Des Barres (billed as “Miss Pamela”), and Cynthia Plaster Caster (listed as “Cynthia P. Caster”), but the most interesting people on screen aren’t the rock stars of the groupie world, as it were. From the very start of the film, testimonies from young, bleary-eyed, often chemically altered girls express at least as much ambivalence and regret as revelry. The girls often look a little haggard, arguing among themselves, gossiping about this or that groupie’s age or laughing off some rock star’s wife or serious girlfriend. The sexual competition produces no culture of sisterhood, that’s for sure.
With artists like Joe Cocker, Ten Years After, Terry Reid, Spooky Tooth, and Cat Mother, you’re not looking at the most “elite” of their class, which frankly makes for a more interesting documentary. A girl recounts the tale of being grabbed by the throat by a random bar patron who was under the impression that she was for the taking—luckily, she had mace on hand. In another scene, a musician asks a girl if she has the clap. Plainly, she says that she did, but recently cleared it up with penicillin. Unflappable, her potential partner asks if she has any more left. Adventure is never without risk, but both groupies and musicians are fearless.
Fascinatingly, the doc also covers male groupies—about whom there is very little discourse out there. Chaz, a young gay man, is desperate to get to Terry Reid, but he’s out of his mind on drugs, barely able to speak or stay awake. This doesn’t stop him from throwing himself at musicians, but it’s utterly tragic, even when everyone manages to let him down easy. In a less merciful scene, a runaway named Iris calls home—she’s terrified of her father’s response, even though she’s only a teenager. Later, Ten Years After (with whom she’d been traveling) drop her, while other artists try to get her to join their own caravan. It’s as if she’s being shuffled around by the men of the scene.
The film is truly brutal, but well worth a watch—an intense look at the seedy underbelly of an often-glamorized scene.
Photo: The lovely Miss Cynthia Plaster Caster