Before we start, let me explain that this is one of two interviews I wrote with Tura in 2006. The Q&A was the same but the intro was very different and the second version will be held back for the book I plan to publish containing all my various interviews spanning over 130 actors and models spanning the last nine years. I wanted to publish this version as an homage to a friend. Tura and I exchanged many emails over the last five or six years and although the last one had been a couple of months ago, it still came as a complete surprise when I heard the news that this amazing and wonderful lady had passed. Tura was never one to complain about herself and was more likely worry about a friend or one of her daughters than to speak of her own ill-health. It was obvious to her friends that all was not well, and Kitten Natividad was quick to tell me that death would be a blessed relief for her dear, dear friend. Tura had faced many hardships in her life, but this article was not written to cover those difficult parts of her life, but to celebrate the great energy and great enthusiasm, which Tura brought to everything she did. This was a lady who did not suffer fools and had a very strong mind and we are all blessed to have had Tura touch our lives in some small way. It remains a great pity that Tura did not make more films and that Russ Meyer failed to use Tura to her full capacity in later films, but we will always have the classic Miss Tempura film with Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Second World War has ended and America is at peace. Yet, there is a darkness shadowing society. Hollywood has embraced Crime Noir. Many stars have finally returned home from Europe and the Pacific. Actors like Clark Gable, Dick Powell and Wayne Morris have hardened. You can see it in their films and their faces. While Wayne Morris returned with four DFCs and two Air Medals his career is never the same. And if these are the stars then imagine the returned soldier, the dogface or grunt. He will go back to work and displace the women who have been doing his job in his absence as if nothing ever happened. Or that is the fairytale version.
The soldier has returned to his town or his city, his factory, his family, a place where people are not dying. Well not as often. Imagine his town is Chicago. A tough working town with cold winters and hot summers; it is a melting pot. A city slowly coming to the boil…
So imagine being a child in this city. Imagine being a Japanese child growing up in this cauldron. Writer, Jacalyn D. Harden best describes this Chicago of the 1940s in her book, Double Cross, but Tura Satana, the child lived this city. It was under her skin and in her blood. However, Tura survived this city, but not without her share of scars. To understand Tura’s childhood it is best to read what she has written on her website. The descriptions of her childhood, her family, her rape at the age of ten by five Caucasians are written, matter of fact, yet totally cogent. Her words mean more than anything I could add here.
Yet the good and the bad of Tura’s childhood would greatly influence the actor we would see in the 60s cult films of Russ Meyer; and the dancer she was before entering films. Despite facing numerous personal attacks and often being charged as a sexist and exploiter of women, Russ Meyer always worked with very strong and forceful actors. His leading ladies were never victims. Nor were they dumb, either on screen or off. They showed a resilience and strength of character that many women in mainstream cinema were never allowed to embrace. They were also openly sexy and funny, which was seemingly taboo in American society in the late 50s and early 60s when Russ Meyer moving from photography to film making.
The 60s became the watershed decade, the rise of protest movements, and not just for antiwar protesters, but for the fight racial equality, for greater freedom for youth and for less censorship. It was the decade that probably addressed more social taboos than any other; the drug culture, gay rights, abortion issues, and the rights of women in general all began the long climb out of the closet. While Hugh Hefner might have been marketing women and building an empire, these same women were learning to take control of their lives in ways that earlier generations never imagined possible.
Performers like Tura Satana, Haji and Kitten Natividad had been in control of their lives long before many other women in society. They were neither fooled nor compliant to the mores of a society on the brink. This is not to say that life was easy or without its dangers. Russ Meyers could be a very tough taskmaster on a film set, and demanded great physicality from his leading ladies. Yet they all appeared to idolize him both on, and off, the set. While many of the nightclubs and other venues Tura had worked from the tender age of fourteen were not immune to the criminal element, or threats of violence. Erica Gavin is an actor who well remembers the kindnesses and strength of character of Tura while working as her protégé at The Losers nightclub in LA when she first started out as a seventeen-year-old. It would be Haji and Tura who would help Erica get her big break with Russ Meyer. Lifelong friendships were forming before film successes. Friendships that still flower today.
Fast forward some forty years. The legendary Russ Meyer has left this celluloid coil, after a long and lingering battle with Alzheimer’s disease; a debilitating end to an awesome talent. Yet his great ladies continue to thrive. Many of them remain great friends, sharing memories of their movie careers equally with their individual lives and losses. It’s like a very special club built on a mutual love and respect; a joyous camaraderie that you can see in recent photos taken by their agent, Siouxzan. Tura Satana, Haji, Cynthia Myers, Erica Gavin, Lori Williams and Kitten Natividad; names which conjure exotic memories, and much fun and desire.
And today these great ladies are back better than ever, appearing in the occasional film, touring the USA celebrating the anniversary of films like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, building websites and attending autograph conventions and the like. Through DVD releases a whole new generation is rapidly discovering their films while many of their earlier fans are returning to the fold. The demand for their autographed photos, DVDs and other paraphernalia will grow exponentially just as it has with mainstream TV and Film. How can it not when you see the stunning poses of Tura from films like Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Astro-Zombies.
If you want to see and read more about the beautiful Tura Satana then check out her great website: http://www.turasatana.com
And don’t forget to also google “Tura Satana” to discover some great interviews, as well as Tura’s MySpace site on the Web. Tura took time out recently to answer my questions and below is what she had to say. I think you will soon agree that she has a grand sense of humour and a heart of gold. And that she is still one of the sexiest kick-ass sirens around… the kind of gal, Quentin Tarantino would Kill Bill for…
David: Many of the major details of your early life have been chronicled in magazines and on the internet, but I wondered if there is a story from your childhood or adolescence that you think back to with joy?
Tura: Yes, David, I remember the first time that I was in grade school and I was asked to become the school soloist. I always loved to sing and had a wonderful range of over 4 octaves. I sang the song "Trees" and at 7 yrs old had the audience on their feet. I loved singing the semi-classicals. As a child I was also extremely proud, because the school and never had a soloist before. Being of Asian descent made it even better for me, since it wasn't that long after the war.
David: Do you recall how old you were when you were asked for your very first autograph and how you felt at the time?
Tura: Yes, I was 16 yrs. old and just became a featured dancer in my dancing career. I was stunned that someone would want my autograph and a picture of me. It made me feel very proud and also very humble. I really love my fans and the way that they make me feel even today.
David: Do you have any funny stories from your experiences with your fans and autograph hunters?
Tura: Oh yes, I was astounded when I appeared at the Chiller Convention and a fan came up and wanted me to sign his arm. On his arm was a tattoo of me. That made me smile and he showed me Haji on the other arm. I asked him where was Lori and he said that he ran out of arms. Then that same night and I went to a nightclub in NYC. I no sooner sat down when a line started and I autographed people in the most unusual place. I autographed breasts, chests, butts, arms, faces, even photos. I think that I autographed more body parts that night, than any other entertainer.
David: Have you ever seen anyone on the Net or elsewhere selling photos of you with forged signatures? If so how did you deal with the situation?
Tura: Yes, I have. There are some on eBay that have photographs of me with signatures that are phony. There are some from other dealers that are real, but there are some who aren't. When I find them, I call eBay, and they will usually pull them off. Otherwise there is nothing that I can do about them.
David: Do you collect any movie memorabilia or autographs yourself, and if so what are some of your treasures?
Tura: I would say that I am not really a collector per se. I loved collecting singers and have a large LP collection of various albums that I have autographed by the artists like Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and of course, Dean Martin. Other than that, I just felt I didn't want to interfere in their privacy.
David: If any person in history could sign their photo for you, who would you ask and what would you like them to say in their dedication?
Tura: I think that if I had one wish, it would be to have Buddha's autograph and the inscription would be for tranquility and continued happiness and humility. With a blessing like that I would be able to accomplish anything that I tried.
David: Looking back, what was one of the funniest things which ever happened to you while working on a film set or while doing a photo shoot?
Tura: The funniest thing that ever happened to me on a film was when I was shooting Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed with Dean Martin. The director wanted to get a look of surprise on Dean's face, so during the shooting of the scene I stood on the side of the camera with my back to Dean and when the director said action I took off my beaded bra and did a backbend twirling my tassels, then I stopped one and made it change directions and did the same with the other tassel. I can guarantee you that the look of surprise on Dean's face was not acting. That day, for a closed set we had over 1000 spectators on the set and when I was done, I received a round of rousing applause.
David: Who are some of your favourite actors or books, music and movies?
Tura: Of the actors today, my favorites are Lucy Lawless, Kevin Sorbo, Of yesterday, there is Rod Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Wyman, Jim Arness, David Janssen, James Garner, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters, Shirley Jones, and Julie Andrews. Of days before my time, there is Dennis Morgan, Glen Ford, Myrna Loy, Nelson Eddy, Janet Mac Donald, Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne, Jane Powell, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Gordon MacRae. As for books, I love historical romances and mysteries by Tara Moss. I love pretty much all kinds of music, but especially music that makes me want to dance. As for my favorite films, I love musicals. I enjoy those most of all, because they make you forget your problems and take you away to a happy time.
David: Working on the stage for many years in dozens of cities across America, you probably encountered your fair share of men who were just dying to date you and I wondered if you remembered a couple of the very best and worst pick up lines they tried to use with you?
Tura: One of the best pick up lines that I received was a $1000.00 bill wrapped into a napkin with the note that asked if I would have breakfast with John Ringling North Jr. I wrote back as long as it was only breakfast, I would be happy to. That was all we had, breakfast and conversation, for about two years. The worst one was receiving a letter from a fan. He stated that he just had to have me and that I was to follow the instructions in the letter to a T. I was to go to a certain address, the door would be open and I was to go in and walk through to the bedroom at the back. He said that I would remove all of my clothes and then I was to open the suitcase near the bed. Inside would be money. I was to cover my body with this money and then I was to lie on the bed until he got there, then he would proceed to remove that money and kiss and suckle where ever he removed the money until all was gone, then he would have sex with me. Needless to say, I never went there and never received another letter from him.
David: What brings you the most joy in life these days?
Tura: My family and grandchildren and my fans. They bring me the greatest joys these days.
David: And finally what story or incident from your life do you think says the most about the type of person you are?
Tura: I would say that it was when my husband passed away. In 2000, I had promised to do a show on October 30th 2000. My husband had just passed away on October 19, 2000 and his funeral was scheduled for the 30th of October. I had to bury my husband and then I had to head for Hollywood and the Roosevelt Hotel and the Cult and Movie Convention to meet and greet my fans. I had to go because I promised that I would appear. My heart was breaking, but I did not want to disappoint my fans either, so I appeared and did all the things that were required of me. If not for my fans and the show, I think that I would have fallen apart. I was surrounded by my fellow actors and actresses and my fans, and they were the one thing that helped to hold me together. You see, I had to be strong for my family and our children because everyone else was falling apart when my husband passed away. It is hard to lose someone that you have spent 20 years with everyday. I have nothing except thanks for my fans.
Thank you Miss Tura….
THIS INTERVIEW (C) DAVID PRIOL 2006
ALL PHOTOS (C) THEIR VARIOUS OWNERS