What Would You Do: Tura Satana
Once in a while, everybody has to give themselves a pep talk. You ask yourself, what would somebody else do in my position? And if you’re drawing a blank, sometimes it helps to look at what other people — historical figures, pop culture icons, personal heroes, whatever floats your boat — have done in their own time. Their accomplishments, their defeats, and even just the weird stuff that they’ve done. On this episode of WWYD, Tura Satana.
- Tura was an actress, model, singer and burlesque dancer, most known for her role of Varla in Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the vicious and deadly leader of girl gang of go-go dancers.
- As a child she and her family spent time at the Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II, before moving to Chicago in the “mafia section of town.”
- In her teens she was in a girl gang, protecting young girls and women in her neighborhood.
- At the age of nine, she was raped by five men, none of whom were ever prosecuted, and she was sent off to reform school for ‘enticing’ them. “If I could help every woman this has happened to,” she said of the attack, “I would. It is in your spirit to conquer this degradation.”
- Her father taught her self-defense, and Tura went on earn a green belt in aikido and a black belt in karate. Over the next several years she tracked down each of her attackers and got her revenge. “I did get even with each and every one of them. It took several years to find them all, but I did and I gave them back what they did to me.”
- At thirteen she entered a brief arranged marriage to a seventeen-year-old in Hernandos, Mississippi. After their divorce, she moved to Los Angeles, got a fake ID, and worked as a nude model and singer. At age fifteen she began her burlesque career in Camulet City, Illinois. Of the divorce and her ex: “When I ran into him again, I was an actress and dancer and he was fat and bald.”
- She dated Elvis Presley in the 1950s, but the relationship was kept quiet. He proposed to her but she turned him down. According to Tura, when he began seeing Priscilla, he asked her to model her appearance after his ex-girlfriend, until Tura told him to stop it and let Priscilla be herself.
- Of her legendary character Varla: “There are a great many similarities between Varla and myself. Varla was an outlet for some of the anger I felt growing up. She was also a statement to women all over the world that you can be a take-charge person and still be sexy. She also showed the women world-wide that women don’t have to be weak, simpering females. They just go after what they want and usually get it.”
- Tura was once shot in the stomach by an ex-boyfriend, and suffered a broken back from a car accident.
- Aside from television, film and burlesque, she once worked in a hospital, managed a doctor’s office, and was a radio patrol operator for the L.A.P.D.
- An obsessed fan once tried to attack her, and failed miserably. “I once had a guy hide in my hotel room closet. After my show, I came in and proceeded to get ready for bed. When I went to hang up my clothes, there he was. He reached to grab me, but I got there first. He went flying across the room and wound up with a broken arm and busted nose and badly twisted leg. The house detective carried him out of my room and then I went to bed.”
- Director Quentin Tarantino once said that he would “give up five years of my life” to work with Tura Satana.