Thursday, March 1, 2018

Pamela Miller

Our mini series on rock muses ends here (at least temporaily – although it could go on endlessly) with Pamela Miller (Miss Pamela), who grew up in Southern California and, as a teenager in one of the great eras to be a teenager (she was 15 when The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan), she went to Cleveland High School with Miss Sparky (Linda Sue Parker) who introduced her to Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet) which resulted in her meeting, dating, fucking, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Waylon Jennings, Chris Hillman, Noel Redding, Jim Morrison (and a bevy of others) and was close friends with Frank Zappa, Robert Plant, Gram Parsons and Ray Davies. (Yes, that is one long sentence; now saw it without taking a breath. became the live-in nanny for Frank Zappa's oldest children, Dweezil and Moon Unit during the late 1960s, and after a few years, she was a member of one of the first all-girl rock groups, created by Zappa, the GTOs – Girls Together Outrageously. "Zappa was my mentor," she said. "He brought out in me all sorts of creativity I didn’t know I had. That was his main gift, I think. He insisted on it. He wanted you to be more of yourself than you’d ever really been, and he wanted to find out who you really were. He wanted everyone to be themselves, to a huge degree, and then he wanted to encapsulate that and share it with the world."

The GTOs were only active for two (1968-1970); their only album, Permanent Damage, produced by Zappa, was released in 1969. Miss Sparky, who sparked Pam's journey, was renowned for driving a Hudson Hornet in the late 1960s along the Sunset Strip. Her story is far more obscure than even Des Barres, and no one has known her whereabouts since early in the new millennium, but let's explore The GTOs in a follow-up post.

On October 29, 1977 Pamela Miller married Michael Des Barres, but was divorced in 1991. She has kept her married name Pamela Des Barres and has published several memoirs of her experience as a groupie – her word, not mine; despite her "spirited sexuality," and the unknown history of many a song, I'd instead categorize Pamela as the ultimate muse. And I'd go so far as to say rock's greatest first person historian. "I just had to know these guys," she explained. "I wasn't happy just sitting around, looking at a poster of a rock star. I wanted to touch them. When you were a kid growing up in the '60s, rock was incredibly liberating. These guys were sending a message. They had skintight pants and wild guitars and you wanted to be a part of it." While other accounts of the era have painted many rock stars as crude, drug-addled, male-chauvinist jerks, Des Barres insists she never felt exploited or subservient. "I saw myself more as some kind of geisha girl."

Miss Sparky
Criticize her life all you want, but for me, Pamela has led the ultimate charmed life. The stories at AM are 2nd-hand at best, and the result of years of research, and while the stories in Jay and the Americans reflect my personal experiences with rock's elite (playing Ouija with David Crosby at The Trip when I was five; hanging out, unintentionally, with Chuck E. Weiss), Pamela was the proverbial fly on the wall. And of course, I've never written a proverb so telling as "Tobacco is my favorite vegetable." What's interesting about her writing is the journalistic style it takes, mostly shying away from any real emotion. Her relationship with Keith Moon, for instance, is there in her biographies, but one might overlook the intensity of their relationship. Research would say otherwise, and photography speaks volumes - there are more pictures of Keith with Pamela than any other icon. It's only with Gram Parsons that Pamela's emotions are at the surface, referring to Parsons, despite their lack of sexuality, as her "soul mate."

With Keith Moon
Still, no resource that I can find is more fascinating than word of mouth: "My most important time with these men, friends and lovers alike, was being onstage with them. As close as you could be to being in the band was to stand on the side of the stage. Keith Moon, when they were doing Tommy, he made me stand on the stage next to the drum kit. It's amazing I can still hear it. He wanted me right there. In Zeppelin's case, Jimmy had me sitting up on the amplifiers, so I could see. Everybody could see me up there, and I could see these girls [in the audience] with so much envy.

"You've gotta remember how young I was. I was 19, 20 years old. Jimmy was 24. We were young people. Your ego wasn't even formed yet, and it was just a heady experience. There were no girl rock bands yet, so it was as close as you could get to being in the band. Being onstage with The Stones, with The Kinks, with The Doors, with The Byrds, with the Mothers, with Zeppelin, The Who. It was incredible."