Politics & Culture

Pamela des Barres: The Most Famous Groupie in the World

This is the woman whose love for music defined what it meant to be a groupie, and whose style has inspired today's It Girls.
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There is a fine line that separates inspiration from imitation. In the case of Pamela des Barres's style, there are definitely more imitations than inspirations; and yet, none surpass the original. It's not a matter of clothes, but of time: the queen of the groupies was dressed by and for a moment in history that can not be repeated.

In the late 60's and early 70's, everything was new. Everything was so new and everything had to be so new, that things were modern one day and passé the next. Young people made it their purpose to end the order established by previous generations; they longed to live differently, and what they found was that the best way to express this was music. One would not be able to tell Pamela's story without taking this context into account. Her place was on the visual side of music: the look.

A couple of years before, at a time when teenagers had to be discreet and modest, 15-year-old Pamela refused to go unnoticed and put on anything that could serve as a sort of neon sign. To achieve this, she — like many of the youth, today — spent marathon days tirelessly pawing through secondhand stores. The rules of thumb were as follows: anything with bright fabrics was a must-have, a top was only wearable if it could ride up easily, you could never have enough feather boas and 'the higher the heel, the closer you were to the stars.' This was the recipe to getting noticed at the three spots available to a groupie at a concert: backstage (where des Barres actually enjoyed one of Jim Morrison's first concerts after a private meeting with the leader of The Doors), on stage or on top of the speakers.

'Miss Pamela', as she became known after forming the band GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) with six other girls, recounts the stories surrounding each of her carefully chosen garments in her first autobiography I'm with the band, published in 1987 by Helter Skelter. Most of these stories involved encounters with men - men, in the plural, because Miss Pamela is the first to admit that she never stopped falling in love. In fact, this is a reflection of another thing that was unique to those years: the innocence of those who lived them. Groupies were not fans, but devotees; they loved the music others liked with a passion and desire that had to be known. Sex was a way to show their love, respect, and admiration for rock stars. Up until she married Michael des Barres in 1977, Pamela had dedicated her life to that love, respect, and admiration. Thus it only made sense that with every encounter, came changes in her look: there was a 'Beatle' stage, a Hippie stage, an intense Country stage...that is, of course, until she ended up choosing a bit of everything at the same time. Making love - she is convinced that even in the briefest meetings she did nothing else - and getting dressed for it was a way to enjoy freedom.

Pamela des Barres still lives in California, although she is officially retired from being a groupie. Her life still revolves around music, however, through her regular music article publications and writing classes. To this day, the question she receives the most is whether she has any regrets and - to this day - the answer is always no. "People keep seeing the groupies basically like sluts, one-hour meetings on their knees in a bus. They were just girls who wanted to be close to music. Close to The Who and The Kinks and The Doors and The Birds and Love and Buffalo Springfield and Zeppelin. They wanted to be part of all the musical brilliance that was illuminating the world. Everything was love, you know? People will say: 'Why did you want to meet those guys?' Well, I say, why not? Why not be part of something so important?"

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