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by Hank Willow, staff reporter.  [August 28, 2003]





[]  Actresses Tura Satana and Lori Williams reminisced over their 1966 cult movie classic, Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill, at the Santa Monica Barnes & Noble bookstore on June 27, 2003 -- and the Hollywood Investigator was there!

Joining them was author/publicist Hal Lifson, promoting his book, Hal Lifson's 1966! A Personal View of the Coolest Year in Pop Culture History (Intro by Adam West & Nancy Sinatra), who said that Faster Pussycat was "one of the forerunners to the feminist movement in filmmaking and Russ Meyer's best movie, with a real political message, as well as an interesting story."

But shockingly, despite Faster Pussycat's eventual cult success, Tura Satana almost turned down her chance to audition -- because of director Russ Meyer's soft porn reputation!  Only after Satana's agent reassured her that the film "wasn't like that" did Satana go see Meyer.

Once at the audition, Satana said, "Russ asked me, 'How would you play the lead in this script?' So I read a couple of scenes and I said, I could play her two ways. I could play her very soft and feminine, or I could play her as a very ballsy woman." Russ asked her to read it both ways -- and picked the ballsy broad.

Satana said everyone had fun shooting Faster Pussycat, despite its desert location. "We did everything together. We moved scenery, we moved props, people, bodies, rattlesnakes, tarantulas. We had a pet tarantula that loved to crawl up into my hair.

"Of course, it was like 110 in the shade, and being in solid black tends to get a little warm.  I wound up with a hell of a sunburn. But it wasn't as bad as some of the other girls."

"Black has always been my color," she added.

Faster Pussycat, shot over eight weeks in 1965, was released in 1966. Lifson commented that eight weeks is a "lot longer than a lot of B movies at the time," adding that it "really should be seen on the big screen."

"Everything was done with stationary cameras," said Satana. "No dollies, no moving, no handheld cameras."

"That's unusual for a movie shot on location," Lifson quipped.



Faster Pussycat is famous for its femme fights, predating Lara Croft, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Emma Peel.

"I did all my own fight scenes," said Satana. "I choreographed all the fights. I had to literally carry some of the guys through the fight scenes because they were afraid of getting hurt. Especially the first guy that I broke his neck [in the film]. He was scaredest of all. He was the biggest chicken when he had the tarantula! But nobody ever got hurt."

Born in Japan, Satana trained early in martial arts. "I started studying marital arts when I was about eight years old," she said. "I was studying aikido, which is very good for women, because they don't have to worry about ruining their hands.  A combination of karate and aikido and judo. It's basically using your opponent, and his strengths and his weaknesses."

Women also benefit from aikido's emphasis on self-defense. "The first thing you're taught in martial arts is to be defensive. Unless you study for maybe ten, fifteen years, you won't get into any offense."

After Faster Pussycat, Satana continued her involvement in the martial arts community. "I knew Bruce Lee. I knew Chuck Norris."

Apart from marital arts, Satana also studied exotic dancing. "I started at about fifteen years old." There were also strict rules back then. "We never walked around backstage without being fully clothed. You never ever swore backstage. And you never fooled around with anybody else's boyfriend or husband."

Several years before Faster Pussycat, Satana put her exotic dancing to use in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963), by teaching Carol Burnett how to do a striptease. "I got paid for both acting and choreography," said Satana.

Lori Williams came to Faster Pussycat through a cattle call -- but nearly failed to get cast! "Russ wasn't going to hire me because he didn't think I was buxom enough," said Williams. "But then Russ decided to work it out in wardrobe."

Despite attending the cattle call, Williams too had reservations about working for a soft porn director. "It kind of scared me at the time, because I was known for popcorn and fluff beach party movies. But it turned out to be one of the better experiences, because Russ was such a professional. He was a good guy. He ran a tight ship."

The script's car chases also unnerved Williams. "I didn't know how to drive. I learned on the film how to drive."

Unlike the older and wiser Satana, Williams was inexperienced in many ways. "The first shoot was at night, in this bar. I was like nineteen, and I was clueless. I didn't drink or anything. I didn't know what was going on. So they said, 'Jump up on the bar and we're gonna put some music on and this is the opening of the movie. Just get up there and dance.' "



* Pussycat Politics


"Faster Pussycat showed that women didn't have to be the weaker sex," said Satana. "We didn't have to pussyfoot around guys. Someone got in our way, we just knocked them out. Thelma and Louise was just a takeoff on Faster Pussycat. Basically said the same thing, that women didn't have to be the weaker sex."

Lifson said the film "stands apart from the Russ Meyer library because of its [feminist] sociological message. I always wondered why some of his later films he didn't really try to do that."

"He went back to his old [porn] motifs," said Satana. "The one thing about this film he was trying to prove, his morals were that good always winds up beating bad. That's why we had to die in the end, because we were bad girls."

"And sadly," quipped Lifson, "the trend of women wearing white go-go boots in the desert didn't last."

"When I see that movie now," said Williams, "I see all the characters as comic book come to life. I would have lines laying atop the Porsche. Nobody does that. I fought Russ on that. I had studied serious acting. Why don't I just talk? He said, 'You don't understand, this is a cartoon, this is a camp, exaggerate it, be corny.' And he was right."

In the 1970s, Williams went on to a career guest starring on television, including "about four" episodes of Charlie's Angels. She sees the recent film version as an extension of Faster Pussycat's comic book aesthetics and feminist message. "It's escapist and fun and still has that message. Demi Moore is a statement in that she's older than the other gals, and hanging the toughest of them all."

Williams likes the message that older women are still tough and sexy -- because she quit acting due to ageism!

Williams was still getting invited to "T&A calls" in the late 1970s. "I was getting very uncomfortable. I was like thirty-two, and the oldest person at the interview was eighteen. This was for a movie, and right before I came in, I heard 'Now the next one coming in is Lori Williams. She's an oldie but a goodie.' I heard that at age thirty-two. I walked in with a bikini on, because it was a bikini call, and my face was hot."

After that, Williams quit acting for a new career in casting. "I got into casting through Universal, because I did a Baretta. The casting director was looking for someone to work with. I did that for a while. That was fun. I did well at it. But now that I'm older, I'm going back to acting."

"Charlie's Angels was a takeoff on The Doll Squad," said Satana, who appeared in the 1973 Ted V. Mikels film.  "I took Aaron Spelling to the screening. I'd recommended Francine York [who played Sabrina Kincaid in the film] for the part of Sabrina. I was one of her sidekicks [in The Doll Squad].  Judy McConnell was there, and Leigh Christian, and a couple of other girls. And after he saw the screening, it was I think three months later, there was Charlie's Angels. He didn't even change the original name for the first girl. It was Sabrina."

The recent mega-success of Lara Croft and the Charlie's Angels movie indicates that Faster Pussycat's kick-ass broads are here to stay. "I think that door's been kicked way open," said Williams. "I don't think it's ever going to be closed again. I think that's so over."

Satana added that it'd better be, or she'll kick it back open. "It's much better than it was. Women have finally come into their own. Before they were housewives. They were weak, or they were somebody's girlfriend running away. Somebody hiding, somebody crying, somebody weeping. But now it's a whole new ballgame. Women are starting to do something else beside stand in the kitchen and cook dinner, or look pretty, or be an ornament on the beach. You can still look pretty and kick ass."

Faster Pussycat's influence also extends to a band of the same name. "Russ Meyer was originally connected with the band," said Satana. "And whenever they played, they showed the film behind them, and it seems to bring in the audience a little bit more. Russ allowed them to use the name."


* Lifson's 1966


But although the two tough broads dominated the panel conversation, the centerpiece of the Barnes & Noble gathering was moderator Lifson's new book, Hal Lifson's 1966! A Personal View of the Coolest Year in Pop Culture History (the year Faster Pussycat was released).

The Hollywood Investigator asked Lifson why devote a book to 1966, as opposed to some other year?

"I didn't mean for this book to make a claim that this was the best year of the Sixties," Lifson replied. "What it's really supposed to show you is that, for me, it was my favorite year of the Sixties. That's why I called the book Hal Lifson's 1966, as opposed to just 1966, where people might assume it's more of an encyclopedia or a textbook about the one year.

"But to really answer your question, I feel that this one 12-month period best symbolizes the Sixties in terms of pop culture. I'm not including in this book the news events of the year. I wouldn't have chosen 1966 for the most significant year in terms of sociological or political events."

The Investigator then asked Lifson if, in terms of culture, he sees a big difference between the early Sixties and late Sixties -- and if he thinks 1966 represents a melding of the two?

"That's an interesting way to phrase it," said Lifson. "I think that '66 was a unique year because it was the last year where a lot of innocence from the early Sixties was still present, but also the first year that the psychedelic images, psychedelic music, the more subculture-oriented things from the pop world, began to appear in the mainstream. It was a transitional year. If you look at TV or magazines from '66, you do see that. But I have to say, '67 had a lot of great stuff. A lot of the years of the Sixties. I might do a few other books. I'm hoping to do 1969 as my next one."

Lifson became a publicist because he wanted to meet and work with his childhood idols. Today, he represents many of the people he writes about -- including Adam West and Nancy Sinatra, who wrote introductions for Lifson's book! Lifson found his life's calling through an entry level job in advertising.

"I would go through the Rolodexes, and get the contact numbers for some of the people at the agencies I worked at. As I got to know them better, I would offer to do PR for them, separate from what the agency was doing, which was to try to get them work. I would try to get them publicity or little articles, and I was successful. I started with Adam West. He was my first client."

What's the secret to being a successful publicist? "You you have to have an angle [for the publication]," said Lifson. "Something that goes with the client or the story, over and above your wanting them to write about it. So it forces you to be a writer, to be creative."



* Future for Pussycats


While Lifson is working on his next book, Satana and Williams are preparing for their next film, to be shot in fall: Please Sign It, Love! It will star several Russ Meyer alumni, including Cynthia Myers, Teresa Ganzel, and a cameo by Mamie van Doren.

Satana is also "appearing" in a new comic book, Tura Satana.

"For the first time I'm playing one of the good guys," she said. "This is the first issue, a very limited run issue. If it works out, there might be others to follow. Mike Hoffman of New Mexico did all the artwork.

Satana recently completed her autobiography.  "It's being edited right now," she said. And there's a filmed biography in development. "There's a producer that wants to do my life story because, he says, not only do I benefit the oriental women, but women in general." Satana is currently assisting the producer in casting a young Satana. "I've been looking at a few girls."

While preparing to revive her acting career, Williams also has a day job. "I work in real estate on the Westside. Santa Monica, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades. I've been doing that for a while."



* Elvis Presley


In their amazing careers, both Satana and Williams knew Elvis Presley, and each shared their Elvis encounters with Lifson and the Barnes & Noble audience.

"I was sixteen years old," said Satana of her first encounter with Elvis. "I first met him by accident in Biloxi, Mississippi. But I really got to know him in Chicago, 1955, '56. I was working in a theater. I was dancing, and I used a lot of acrobatics in my routine. He came backstage with the theater owner and asked, 'How do you do that?' I told him my routine was based on martial arts. He asked if I could teach him. Martial arts is not only a disciplinary form of art, but it teaches you control. And he said, "Well, you got control.' I showed him how to do the shimmy, and some other stuff. We started dating."

Satana added that "very few people know" of her affair with Elvis -- but that additional information will appear in her soon-to-be-published autobiography!

Williams related an incident that occurred while she worked on Elvis's film, Kissin' Cousins. "We were up in Big Bear. I was hired as a dancer. Elvis had a thing where he had to have people he felt comfortable with. He always said that's why we were in the troupe as a dancer. He didn't like anyone outside moving in. He had rented a whole cabin up in Big Bear. I was intimidated, but not by much, because he was so far out of the realm of things I didn't really go there anyway."

One day Williams attended a gathering at Elvis's cabin. "I went to the bar for a glass of milk. He comes up right  behind me and says, 'Are you getting a glass of milk?' I said yes. He said, 'That's what I'm having.' It was a corny, simple thing. We sat on the sofa, drinking our milk. When people were leaving, he said, 'I don't want you to get a bad reputation. I don't want anybody to say anything bad to you, so I'm gonna have Richard drive you down to your log cabin. You go with everybody else, because I want to make sure you don't have a bad reputation.' "

Williams said that Elvis told her that he didn't do drugs, and she didn't know anything about his alleged drug habit. "He was a really nice guy, and a complete gentleman. Gave me a lot of work."


Hank Willow is a Los Angeles based tabloid reporter who has extensively investigated Hollywood scams against actors. Read more about his journalism in Hollywood Witches.

ELVIS FANS: Read the shocking story of Elvis Presley's stolen pipes!

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