One of the things that makes our city unique is that we are a town of celebrity six degrees of separation. Actually, to be more accurate, in Los Angeles it is more often closer to one degree or two degrees of separation at most. Whether your best friend’s sister works on set with your favorite actor or your hairdresser is the cousin of someone in a band you love, celebrity second hand stories, like celebrity sightings, are pretty par for the course in our city. It is a special thing, however, to hear some of these stories first hand from someone who lived them, because insider information from a reliable source will always be a vicarious thrill.
This is one of the things that makes Pamela Des Barres Rock-n-Roll Tour of Hollywood and Laurel Canyon a special and interesting experience. For those of you not familiar with Pamela, I can sum it up by saying that she knew and cavorted with the who’s who of the 1960s-70s Los Angeles rock scene. This scene included the Doors, the Byrds, Frank Zappa, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Captain Beefheart and even British bands who frequented Los Angeles, such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. She was one of the most well known of a number of girls at the time who began identifying themselves as “groupies”. Under Frank Zappa’s tutelage she was part of an all-girl “groupie” band called The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously), who recorded one album in 1969. Pamela got to know many of the aforementioned rock-n-roll deities so intimately that she published a successful 1987 book based on her diaries called I’m With the Band. This book goes into explicit detail about many of her encounters and has been an essential read for anyone interested in the social side of rock history.
Today Pamela is still a beautiful and intelligent woman with a passionate, artistic spirit and a playful sense of humor. She currently is involved in writing a screen play based on I’m With the Band and putting together a clothing line called Groupie Couture. She also conducts weekly writing workshops and leads special rock tours of the area. Going along on one of her rock-n-roll tours is very much like driving around with an old friend who is excitedly pointing out all of the places she used to see bands and dropping juicy tidbits about the boys she used to have crushes on. Except that most of the bands Pamela knew went on to become famous music legends and the boys she flirted with included Jim Morrison and Jimmy Page.
In fact, Miss Pamela, as she has been known since the late 60s when she was christened with a proper title by Tiptoe through the Tulips singer Tiny Tim, is quite open about her history. She quite often turns to the ten passengers on her sold-out van tour and asks, “Any Questions?” She insists that she will answer anything with exception to “the size of people and who was best” when discussing her famous lovers. The tour is social, light hearted and fun, very much like Pamela herself.
The first stop on Pamela’s tour is the location of the long defunct Hullabaloo club on Sunset Blvd (now Nickelodeon Studios), a place where many of the famous mid to late ’60s pop and rock acts played. Our tour group gathers tightly around Pamela as she reads a passage from I’m With the Band involving a make-out session that she had at this location with Jim Morrison on the night of a Doors show. Our group poses for photos, asks Pamela questions and we head around to the back of the building to see the rear entrance where a teenaged Pamela used to wait to meet her idols.
All together we spend nearly five hours with Miss Pamela. We drive around to more than twenty locations, at many of which we get out of the van to hear Pamela read a connected passage from her book and to hear more stories and take more photos. Our entertaining van driver, Kip, a part-time tour guide himself, often points out unrelated, but interesting rock-n-roll sites that fill in our experience. Our trip takes us to the locations of many 60s clubs, many gone, but some, like the Whisky, still in business. We also see Pamela’s old residences and those where famous friends lived, such as Jim Morrison’s Laurel Canyon apartment behind the Laurel Canyon Country Store. Although this tour is lengthy, time goes by quickly, and after hugs are dispersed all around by Miss Pamela everybody is left feeling like they just spent an entertaining day with a long lost friend. As the old expression goes, sometimes it really is who you know…
Pamela Des Barres Rock-n-Roll Tours: scheduled by appointment only. www.pameladesbarres.net