Tura Satana in 2007
|Born||Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi
July 10, 1938
|Died||February 4, 2011
Reno, Nevada, United States
|Spouse(s)||John Satana (m. 1951–52)
Endel Jurman (m. 1981–2000)
Tura Satana (July 10, 1938 – February 4, 2011) was an American actress and former exotic dancer. She was best known for her role as "Varla" in Russ Meyer's 1965 cult film, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
Satana was born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaidō, Japan. Her father was a silent movie actor of Japanese and Filipino descent, and her mother was a circus performer of American Indian (Cheyenne) and Scottish background. After the end of World War II and a stint in the Manzanar internment camp in Lone Pine, California, she and her family moved to Chicago. She developed breasts very early and, despite being an excellent student, was constantly harassed for her figure and Asian heritage. Walking home from school just before her 10th birthday she was gang raped by five men. According to Satana, her attackers were never prosecuted and it was rumored that the judge had been paid off. She tells how this prompted her to learn the martial arts of aikido and karate and, over the next 15 years, track down each rapist and exact revenge. "I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them", she said years later. "They never knew who I was until I told them." Around this time, she formed a gang, the Angeles, with Italian, Jewish, and Polish girls from her neighborhood. In an interview with Psychotronic Video,[where?] she said, "We had leather motorcycle jackets, jeans and boots and we kicked butt." Because of frequent delinquency, she was sent to reform school. When she was 13, her parents arranged her marriage to 17-year-old John Satana in Hernando, Mississippi. It lasted nine months.
Satana moved to Los Angeles and by 15, using fake identification to hide the fact she was a minor, began burlesque dancing. She was hired to perform at the Trocadero nightclub on the Sunset Strip, and became a photographic model for, among others, silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, whose photos of her appear in Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D. She contracted makeup poisoning and could not wear any makeup due to the ensuing skin erosions. She returned to Chicago to live with her parents and started dancing at the Club Rendevouz in Calumet City, Illinois, where she was known as Galatea, the Statue that Came to Life. She was offered a raise to become a stripper. After singer Elvis Presley saw her perform at Chicago's Follies Theater, the two began a romantic relationship that some reports say ended in a marriage proposal she declined.
Satana eventually became a successful exotic dancer, traveling from city to city and working with Rose Le Rose, Maxine Martin, The Skyscraper Girl, Tempest Storm, Candy Barr and Stunning Smith the Purple Lady. Satana credited Lloyd with giving her the confidence to pursue a career in show business: "I saw myself as an ugly child. Mr. Lloyd said, 'You have such a symmetrical face, the camera loves your face... you should be seen.'"
During her early career, Satana appeared on television shows such as Burke's Law, The Greatest Show On Earth, Hawaiian Eye, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. She also appeared as a dancer in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? with Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery. That same year, she had a cameo as Suzette Wong, a Parisian prostitute in the musical Irma la Douce with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.
After starring in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Satana worked mainly with cult film director Ted V. Mikels in such films as The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Doll Squad (1973) and Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002). She has also appeared as herself in various documentaries and TV shows including The Incredibly Strange Film Show (1988), A & E's documentary called "Cleavage"(2003), Strip de velours (2005) and Sugar Boxx (2009) which is currently in post production and co-stars fellow Russ Meyer alumna Kitten Natividad.
Faster Pussycat! Kill Kill!
Satana's most noted screen role was as "Varla" in the 1965 film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!--a very aggressive and sexual female character for which she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes. Renowned film critic Richard Corliss called her performance "...the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest."
Originally titled The Leather Girls, the film is an ode to female violence, based on a concept created by Russ Meyer and screenwriter Jack Moran. Both felt at her first audition that Satana was "definitely Varla." The film was shot on location in the desert outside Los Angeles during days above 100 degrees and freezing nights, with Satana clashing regularly with teenage co-star Susan Bernard, because of Susan's mother disrupting the set. Meyer said she was "extremely capable. She knew how to handle herself. Don't fuck with her! And if you have to fuck her, do it well! She might turn on you!"
She was fully responsible for adding key elements to the visual style and energy of the production, including her costume, makeup, usage of martial arts, dialogue and the use of spinning tires in the death scene of the main male character. She came up with many of the film's best lines. At one point the gas station attendant was ogling her extraordinary cleavage whilst confessing to a desire to see America. Varla replied "You won't find it down there, Columbus!" Meyer cited the extreme tension on the set caused by Satana as the primary reasons for the film's lasting fame. "She and I made the movie", said Meyer. Meyer came to greatly regret not using Satana in his subsequent productions.
After making Ted V. Mikels' The Doll Squad in 1973, Satana was shot by a former lover. She later found employment in a hospital, a position she kept for four years. She had studied nursing at Firmin Desloge Hospital. She was then briefly employed as a dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1981, her back was broken in a car accident. She spent the next two years in and out of hospitals, having two major operations and approximately fifteen others.
Satana dated Elvis Presley but turned down his marriage proposal, though she did keep the ring. Satana married a retired Los Angeles police officer in 1981, and remained married until her husband died in October 2000. She had two daughters from a previous relationship. Her older daughter Kalani had a cameo role in Mikels' Ten Violent Women. She had remained friends with Mikels till her death.
- Irma la Douce (1963)
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
- Our Man Flint (1966) (uncredited)
- The Astro-Zombies (1968)
- The Doll Squad (1973)
- Man Hands and Swollen Glands (1990)
- Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002)
- Sugar Boxx (2009)
- The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
- The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels (as herself) (2010)
- The alternative metal band Tura Satana is named after Satana.
- The Argentine rock band Babasónicos created a song honoring her, titled Viva Satana!.
- "Song For Tura Satana" is the sixteenth track on Zopilote Machine by The Mountain Goats.
- Australian punk-pop band Ratcat had a b-side called Tura Satana in 1989.
- Seattle industrial band Kill Switch...Klick released a four song EP in 2008 featuring Super Amanda on vocals performing four different mixes of the Tura Satana Tribute song Hemi Charger.
- The London based DJ Musician/ Producer Healer Selecta aka Yvan Serrano- Fontova, friend of Tura, collaborated from 2007 with Tura Satana. Healer Selecta wrote a tribute song for her the instrumental TURA STOMP on Freestyle records (2009) and the vocal version TURA SATANA with lyric by Time Out journalist Simone Baird played by the Dustaphonics.
- In 2009, Tura and Yvan wrote the song Burlesque Queen played by The Dustaphonics and produced by Healer Selecta on British label Dirty Water Records
- Frasier, David K. (1998). Russ Meyer : The Life and Films : A Biography and A Comprehensive, Illustrated, and Annotated Filmography and Bibliography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0472-8.
- McDonough, Jimmy (2005). Big Bosoms and Square Jaws : The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-07250-1.
- Meyer, Russ (2000). A Clean Breast : The Life and Loves of Russ Meyer (3 Volume Set). El Rio, Texas: Hauck Pub Co. ISBN 0-9621797-2-8.
- Des Barres, Pamela (2007). Let's Spend The Night Together. ISBN 978-1-55652-668-8. Chapter 1 features Tura Satana.
- Paul, Louis (2008). "Tura Satana". Tales From the Cult Film Trenches; Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 199–203. ISBN 978-0-7864-2994-3.
- Rupe, Shade (2011). "Tura Satana". Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms. London, England: Headpress Books. pp. 348–375. ISBN 978-1-900486-69-9. Features a 27-page interview with Tura Satana illustrated with photographs.
- Other sources give her birth year as 1935: Dave Itzkoff, "Tura Satana, Cult Actress, Is Dead", New York Times, February 5, 2011.
- Pat Long (11 March 2011). "Tura Satana obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- McDonough, Jimmy (2004). Big Bosoms and Square Jaws. pp. 158–159.
- McDonough pg. 159
- Kohn (February 5, 2011). "Tura Satana, RIP. 1938 - 2011.". IndieWire first= Eric. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- McDonough pp 160-161
- pp. 201-203 Paul, Louis Tura Satana Interview Tales from the McFarland, 2007
- Schwartz, Adolph (2004). A Clean Breast.
- McDonough pg 167
- McDonough, pg 173
- "The Week" 19 Feb 2011
- McDonough, pg 178
- McDonough, pp 176-179
- Des Barres, Pamela (2008). Let's Spend the Night Together.
- Rupe, Shade (2011). Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms. p. 365.
- Itzkoff, Dave (February 7, 2011), "Tura Satana, Actress With a Cult Following, Is Dead", The New York Times
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tura Satana.|
- Official site
- Tura Satana at the Internet Movie Database
- Tura Satana at AllRovi
- Roger Ebert on Satana
- Varla Films
- 2012 Movies' interview with Tura Satana