Groupies As People
High Times, February 1983
[Ah, those were the days – when young girls lived and breathed for their favorite groups, became neurotically obsessed with the band members' hair, their dental floss, the length of their peckers. Those were the days when innocent rock stars were true heroes, the largest heroes in America – not musicians-cum-lawyers behind corporate scams calculated to muster up a brainwashed following, like today. The groupies were a natural demented offspring to the immensity of the '60s rock group. Though they may still exist in some adulterated form, the poor souls documented here by Frank Zappa (who allegedly coined the term "groupies"), are a striking and accurate stab from the past.
HIGH TIMES doesn't usually run interviews that were conducted 13 years ago. But the sanity with which Mr. Zappa conducted himself whilst surrounded by these remarkable girls – who lived to worship music, and suck out the very gene pools of those who played it – so impressed us that we decided to send this sociological study to press.]
Having been on the victim's end of the interviewer's machinery for 15 years has brought me to realize several things about this most unnatural of human activities; first, that I don't wish to experience any more of it, and secondly, that the people who conduct these little inquisitions have a tendency to dehumanize their subjects and use the interview situation as a device for the enlargement of their own personal splendor.
One of the most common questions asked of people in my profession is: "What's the story on those groupies we've heard so much about? ... [drool, slobber, slobber, drip-drip-drip]." With this article I'd like to present a view of that special behavior which has baffled and mystified the Tom Snyders of America for the last two decades.
The following is a transcription of a taped interview with three young ladies from New York City. It was recorded in 1969.
Frank Zappa: Will you explain what a groupie is?
Jenell: A groupie is a young kid. I don't know what age, it doesn't even matter because I'm still a groupie and I'm seventeen, but it's a girl or a guy who finds a group of singers and runs around and follows them, thinks they're groovy and follows every word they say and sort of idolizes them. It's an idolizing-type thing. You fall in love with the people in there and you get to memorize word for word. We used to just sit and think about you people all the time. It was beautiful for us, though. You were really very happy and completely involved in their lives and what the group does and every record and every word on their album.
Zappa: But what if you never meet the group that you're grouping for? Would you group for the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
Jenell: No, I think a groupie is more of a personal thing, or else you're just a fan. With the Beatles, I was a fan. I had my walls completely decked out with Beatles pictures, but I was just a fan, I wasn't a groupie because I never met them, but if I did meet them, I would be a groupie.
Zappa: How old were you when you first started being a groupie?
Jenell: I was about fourteen.
Annie: I was fifteen.
Cynthia: When I was thirteen, I had a big thing like with the Rolling Stones, and every concert I had to run to, and I used to dream of making it with Mick Jagger and everything, so that's like sort of being a groupie, but it's a sort of a fan, also. But when I started meeting the groups, that was the height of my groupie career. That was like the night we met the Mothers, but before that I had a thing for the Fugs. I used to hang out on McDougal Street and they played in the Players Theater right on McDougal Street, and I used to see them walk out and I used to want to talk to them and everything, and I used to go up and tell them anything just to get to talk to them, and they let me in to the show free and they gave me an album and I was so thrilled with that.
Zappa: Well, let's get down to some details. I recall a meeting in the dressing room of the Garrick Theater wherein you explained in minute detail certain experiences that took place in the ladies' rest room after hearing a performance by Ritchie Havens –
Cynthia: That was me and Rosslyn. It was so insane. You see, we were really horny over the Mothers. At that time I was fourteen and the big thing was getting horny over the Mothers. Like, when I used to sit, me and Rosslyn, when you were playing an instrumental song, imagining you all were nude playing there, and you really went wild because you were coming and everything into the drum.
Zappa: Coming into the drum?
Cynthia: Right. So then, we wanted to see you so much, and you went off and we were having such a great time, sitting there, watching you nude and thinking of all sorts of fantasy situations and getting so horny over it. Then Ritchie Havens went on and we were getting very bored. We wanted to see the Mothers for more sexual arousement. So we went into the bathroom while Ritchie Havens was singing "San Francisco Baby Blues" and against the sink we started rubbing away.
Zappa: Rubbing away?
Cynthia: Yeah. My father always says, "Fucking away all night long. What did you do? Fuck away?"
Zappa: Describe the process of rubbing away against the sink. Do you have to take your dress off?
Cynthia: No. We were wearing pants. But you don't have to.
Annie: You have two things. Because once you're against the sink, that's one thing, and then the pants is rubbing against you, that's two things on you. It's cool.
Zappa: Is that the best process?
Cynthia: Not for Rosslyn. She wanted to stick the thing of the sink, she wanted to take it off, the things that stick out, but we never got around to that because the thing of the sink wouldn't come off and some other groupies walked in and we didn't want to show that we were like so horny then. We had to like keep our cool in front of other groupies and like: "We'll eventually get them you won't – you have to go and masturbate over them, but we'll eventually wind up fucking them." The ultimate greatest thing you could imagine is being with the Mothers and in bed, and wow, the Mothers, and to go home – but that wasn't even as much fun as going home and telling your friends what you did.
Zappa: Did you ever fuck any of them?
Cynthia: Yeah. Not one of the Fugs. One of the group.
Zappa: Who was that?
Cynthia: Well, it doesn't matter now. It was Don.
Zappa: How many of the Mothers did you strap on?
Zappa: How many of the Mothers did you strap on?
Zappa: You mean you got no status?
Jenell: I never really strapped anyone on.
Zappa: What did you do?
Jenell: Just kissed people. Hugged people.
Zappa: Kissing and hugging is worth how many points as compared with fucking them?
Annie: About thirty percent. About forty percent even, I'd go as far as saying.
Zappa: That's in your eyes, or in the eyes of your competitor?
Jenell: I don't compete with anyone. I'm always out for my own thing.
Zappa: Do you compete?
Annie: Not with other groupies.
Zappa: Did you ever?
Annie: Yes, I did. I was a little jealous of Joan with Billy, and it was like a competition thing, but after awhile it got to be ridiculous, but at first I was kind of jealous of her.
Zappa: Are you actually in love with the guy in the group, or are you in love with the idea of the group?
Annie: No. Well, the first thing that heads it on is that he's in the group. We became groupies because of the group, but after that, after you get to know the person or be with the person, it just goes into a completely different thing. It doesn't matter, like if he quit the Mothers and he was out on the street, it would be no different in me loving him.
Zappa: But you're liking him because of who he is?
Annie: Yeah. Well, that's after we got to know them as the group. First you meet someone, you get a different impression until you get to know them.
Cynthia: With me it was just completely the group, because first I thought I was in love with you, and I wanted to throw Gail down a flight of steps, and then I thought I was in love with Ray, and Ray was with this girl and I was crazy on that and I was crying and all that, and I really thought that this girl was a woman, she was about ten years older than me, I can see him really liking her – but me, I was a fourteen-year-old little girl and he could never take me seriously. And at one time I was jealous of Peaches because of Bunky, and none of them I really cared about as a person. I never got to know them as a person because they couldn't talk to me like they would talk to somebody. They could never talk to me as if I wasn't a groupie, because how could they talk, how could Ray, what is he, thirty-four years old? talk to a fourteen-year-old girl like you would talk to a woman.
I used to wish I could be like one of the girlfriends that they really had. I used to talk to Gail and she said that she was twenty-two, and I used to wish that I was that age too and I could really be like a woman and live with you and things like that, and that's how I got very, very depressed and nervous about that, because, look, I was only fourteen, there was nothing I could do about it, I can't be that mature now.
Zappa: But you really wanted to have some sort of lasting relationship with the people?
Cynthia: I thought I did then, when I was madly in love with Ray. But as time passed I realized how ridiculous that was, because, let's say I was madly in love with him, and let's say he did really like me – then I couldn't stand him, because it was just the idea of trying to get them. Once I got them, like eesch – you know, it was just the idea of trying to get them because it was excitement and we had nothing to do.
Zappa: You disagree?
Jenell: I think that after you're a groupie, and after the excitement, that I got to know the people, not as well as I could, because I was young, but we talked to you a lot, and I think I got, just by meeting older people and people of a group with different ideas – I think we got a lot out of it.
Annie: We were labeled as groupies, like little kids that run around screaming for you instead of wanting to be with you, just because you're you.
Cynthia: Now we know you. Now I can talk to Don seriously and things, and you and Ray. But then, you know, it was a different story, because then we were the groupies that ran around screaming. That's what happens. You say "raging," and that's why, I didn't want to rage anymore because I wanted to be – did you ever see like Gail raging into the microphone screaming about nymphomania or one of Ray's girlfriends or somebody like Jim's wife –
Zappa: And that's why you stopped?
Cynthia: Because I wanted to be like that. I didn't want to be raging around like a little teenage girl. I wanted to be like a mature woman like they are.
Zappa: I think that by stopping, you really hurt yourself, because I felt the way you were raging in those days was a very artistic thing.
Cynthia: Yeah. I realized that later.
Zappa: Too bad you can't get back into it.
Cynthia: Then, it was so neurotic with me and I was always so nervous, and it was just like a neurotic crazed thing to keep talking like that, and every time I started to do it, I didn't like it. I didn't like being the center of attention and screaming and raging like that.
Jenell: But it was good for your ego, though.
Cynthia: But I loved being with you, you know, being with the Mothers, it was such a thing, like seeing the shows and everything.
Annie: And we see you now again, and you bring back all the memories of when we were like little raging groupies and today, I was telling Cynthia how I walked near my old neighborhood and they knew me when I was this high. Frank knew me when I was this high, so like it's strange, they still knew us when we were like little kids.
Jenell: Another of the things is the music, because I really like the music, but now I know you, I can get into it more, whereas when I first heard it I said, "Wow, it's the Mothers and look what he's saying!" Now I say, "Wow, it's someone I know and it's a friend, now look what he's saying."
Annie: I went to see Big Brother yesterday and I saw them as a show, like they were putting on the show for me, but I didn't know them personally, so it was missing something, and once it misses that link, like, it doesn't bring anything, but now if I see the Mothers, I'll really enjoy it more because I know you like personally. You enjoy the music so much more, you listen better.
Zappa: Can you tell a little about what used to go on at the Garrick Theater? What are some of your fondest memories?
Annie: There's so many. But the thing that really stands out in my mind is when you had this big discussion in between shows with me, Rossie and Jenell and Annie. You were all sitting around the floor in the dressing room, and we were talking about ways people masturbate, and then Ritchie Havens walked in and Rossie screamed out, "Hey Ritchie, how do you masturbate?" because everybody was talking about how they masturbate, and it blew his mind. And I remember your press-agent person. Wow, he told me to "Rage for me," and I couldn't start raging and have it come natural, you know, and he was so flipped out when we started saying that.
Jenell: He didn't bother me. He was harmless. He was explaining to me how to make love. It was interesting.
Zappa: He was explaining to you?
Jenell: He like took all our hands and wiped them across his stomach and goes, "This is how you'll make love and this is how you'll make love and – "
Annie: It was so insane, like he took our hands and said this line means this and I'll show you how you're going to make love to this person and it was just like the gypsies do on Coney Island.
Zappa: What were some of the other interesting events?
Annie: Oh, there was that other thing about how much we disliked our parents, but we brought it out in such a way that we could laugh about it. Like sometimes we could talk like this girl. She was really harassed, her father started beating her up and beating on her mother and she was eighteen years old, still living home! We thought that was absurd in the first place. We thought she was sixteen years old. But like we became groupies with you. We weren't paranoid or anything to say we disliked our parents because of this, this and that. We just brought it out. We might have brought it out in different ways, like call them "Willie the Pimp."
Zappa: Tell about Willie the Pimp.
Annie: Oh, he's insane now. There's no doubt about it.
Zappa: Who is Willie the Pimp?
Annie: He's my stepfather and he tripped over my little brother's bike and he broke his arm way before the summer, right? So he had his arm broken, and the first few weeks was like, "Huh, huh, huh, I broke my arm." But now, it's insane, because he had it on for well over a month and a half, and it's like he's realizing that he's getting old now, because he's helpless, like he had one less arm, and now he's going completely insane. Yells about everything, goes b-e-r-serk for the littlest thing – like if Petie didn't buy him milk one morning, he beat the hell out of Petie.
Jenell: He's also jealous because your brothers have youth and he doesn't.
Annie: Yeah. It's the jealousy thing. It all has to do with his childhood and how he was brought up, to want to take the things out on us. But he's raging berserkly now. My mother says, "The man's crazy, keep away from him. Look at his arm, he's helpless, he realizes he's getting old, keep away from him," but how could I ignore someone saying, "Son-of-a-bitch, he did this one, he did that one – "
I told him that I did something and that I was happy for doing it: "I'm happy now, I don't care what you think." "You're happy? I'm more happy than anyone," he says. Meanwhile, he's sitting there completely miserable, telling me that he's more happy than the whole house put together, he has more intelligence than the whole house put together and he's sitting there, "You son-of-a-bitch, you're a schmuck and you're a schmuck" and nothing nice about people 'cause all people are shitty to him. I try to explain to him that they're not, you know, it's just how you take it.
Zappa: Why do you call him Willie the Pimp?
Annie: This perverted hotel in Coney Island, the Lido Hotel: We made up this story about my mother calling up Willie telling him where a woman whose body shapes are twenty-eight, twenty-five, forty or some bizarre shape, blond hair and all decked out insanely and told him to meet us in front of the Lido Hotel. We'll see him like casually be at the house at this certain time and we'll know that he's leaving to meet this woman that's not going to be there. Then we'll have my mother walk by and see how she's going to take it, right? Like "What are you doing here, you've got to get away." How's he going to tell my mother that he's going to meet this broad? So we made him a pimp. Then he got to pimp my mother off and then he tried to pimp us off.
Zappa: What are the fantasies you have about your parents?
Cynthia: My parents I don't have to fantasize about, they're so insane. I showed my father a picture of Hendrix, you know, on the first album cover, and I said I think he's really great, I think he's really gorgeous, just to see his reaction, and he took the album and the Jewish book where they have all the Jewish stuff and everything, and he seriously got down on his knees and said "Please God, let her go to heaven anyway. If she's going to go to hell for that, let me go to hell for that, please!" And he really thought seriously that that's a thing that you can be put in hell for! And like the "Two Roads" thing.
Zappa: "Two Roads"?
Cynthia: Well, my father had this speech that would express exactly how he felt about me and my brother turning into hippies. This is how he'd say it: "Cynthia, Mark: There are two roads. One road, you can be the dirty hippie, goddamn hippie, be a creep, you don't want to join the army, you lay in your bed with cockroaches all day long and you sit on your cellar steps and you think that's happiness. You drop out of school, you grow your hair crazy, kinked up ten inches off your head; beard, mustache, I'm so ashamed of you, you go in the elevator, the Thompson boys, they're crazy, who knows what they do all night long in the Village with groups with the long hair, they're horrible, they should be arrested for it ... But, there's another road and there's hope for you. Be a good boy, go back to school, cut your hair, you can go with nice Jewish girls, I'll give you an allowance, you can have the car, take them to the movies, you can wear diamond jewelry, anything. You'll be a good boy. Everybody will say that you menched up, menched up ..."
Zappa: What does Rossie's father do?
Annie: He's a narco, and he has to go around posing as a hippie with bell-bottom pants and he teases up his hair.
Zappa: How old is he?
Annie: About fifty-five. He has a Jewish accent. He's from Europe. Somebody looked at him and thought he was from a concentration camp from the numbers he still has stamped on him. He was in Auschwitz or whatever that's called. So he has to use the drugs because he wants to find out the people that sell it – the people that he can get it from.
Zappa: So Rossie's father shoots up?
Annie: Yeah. He told her he liked speed a lot and he, had to do everything to become a narco to get in with the people and you have to know where their head is. But he likes speed.
Zappa: Does he take acid too?
Cynthia: I don't know about that. He'd just go jumping out of windows. That's what my father said that Shelton did – that some creep like you gave him LSD, and that's why he jumped out of the window. A week before he was going crazy. His mother came down to the bench where all the old people sit and was bragging because this was at the end of June when he did it, and a few days later he was going to graduate from high school and go to college on the Dean's Honor Roll and he had a job with IBM starting at nine thousand dollars a year and he was engaged to a nice Jewish girl. My parents came up and they were saying, "Why don't you be like him, he's such a good boy, I'm so jealous of his mother," and going crazy like that, and a week later she came up and found out that Shelton committed suicide – jumped out of a sixteenth-floor window.
Jenell: He was drunk, then some creep gave him acid.
Zappa: A good Jewish boy?
Cynthia: Right. He couldn't have. He was a success. That's what my parents said. Somebody that successful couldn't have done it of their own free will, because he was such a happy boy.
Annie: With my parents, I can't even bring someone in my house.
Zappa: Where do you go?
Annie: Someone else's house. Jenell's parents are the most fantastic. Her parents just really understand. Like I was going with this spade cat, and I brought him around where I live and it was all over like, "Who's that monster she's bringing around with her?" They went insane. And then there were younger people on the beach. This was really disgusting. I was walking on the beach with him and, this was just awhile ago, and people looked – it was a thing to see, and we got to this bay where there were younger people, you know? All of a sudden, these really bastards started screaming "You nigger, nigger," and beating him up and they threw big sticks at us and they said like, "How could a white person lower themselves to a black person?" and all this bullshit, and so this girl came over to me and she punched me in the mouth, I had black and blue this big on my mouth.
One thing that was cool about it was the older people stood up for us and said, "Let them do what they want to." They thought it was disgusting when they first saw us, but once they see someone go violent, beating us up and everything, they stood up for us and said, "Let them do what they want, they're young. What do you give a shit what's going on in her life? She might love black people, why are you putting it down and everything?" And these people, they were all from gangs, from 1955, they were still in the gang, drinking beer, and now they're all junkies. It was really a messed-up scene. And I brought him around where I live and my parents would never – no matter what he looked like, and he was really freaky looking, that's one thing, but even if he wasn't freaky looking, just a colored boy, they wouldn't let me bring him up to the house. My parents are completely insane.
Cynthia: My father once bought a gun because I went to see the Electric Flag in November. It was Thanksgiving and they were at the Bitter End, and I saw Herbie [Rich] and he's a spade and has hair way kinked up about ten inches off his head, and like we met him outside the show and we were talking to him awhile and he was so cool. This is how he talked: He said, "Hello girls, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Herbie and you saw me on stage," and he starts talking like that and he says, "Girls, do you want to come to a party with me?" He was talking like that and we were really laughing.
Annie: He has an insane look and he has a strange look in his eye. He says, "Let me see what I can do for you girls. Would you like to come to a party tomorrow night?" He was beautiful, but he was like so bizarre, but we didn't want to start the groupie thing again. We got over that. Why be the groupie thing? And that's when we refused to go to the party. Because it's just like ridiculous, you go to the party, you fuck with them, but you have no relationship after that. Which we thought by that time was completely absurd, just like fucking and goodbye and just splitting. There should be something that is still there, a certain love for each other, and we didn't want to do the groupie thing with Herbie or any of the Electric Flag. I worship Mike Bloomfield for the guitar, you know, I think he's a fantastic guitarist, and I love watching him play because he really shows his expression, and so does B.B. King. I don't know them personally, but I won't go into the groupie thing with them. All I can do is say, "Wow, he's great, he does something really fantastic, but that doesn't mean I owe him something because he's so fantastic."
Jenell: The reason why we can't make that scene anymore is because we used to think then that, wow, you can be in a group and somebody else can have no musical talent, but they could be the same guy and they could give you the same love and everything that I want, no matter if they're in a group or not. Being in a group is just another job, and the only purpose for that other job is that it's entertainment, and I'll go watch a concert because it's great entertainment, but it's no more of a thing like you're a better guy or that you'd be better to have as a boyfriend than a plumber, because they can give me exactly what I want from them, the same love that I want. Like fourteen-year-olds, what are they most interested in? It's showing other fourteen-year-old girls that they have the best boyfriend. Now, we don't care as long as we have them for ourselves.