Pamela Des Barres aka Miss Pamela (born Pamela Ann Miller on September 9, 1948 in Reseda, California) is a former rock and roll groupie, author and magazine writer.
Des Barres' parents were from Kentucky. Just before she was born, her father moved the family to southern California. Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked for Anheuser-Busch and occasionally as a gold miner. Des Barres idolized The Beatles and Elvis Presley as a child, and fantasized about meeting and dating her favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney. Later, upon discovering the Rolling Stones, she daydreamed of Mick Jagger, while growing up in Los Angeles in the early 1960s.
Rock music groupie:
A high school acquaintance, Victor Hayden, introduced Des Barres to his cousin Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, a musician and friend of Frank Zappa. Van Vliet in turn introduced her to Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, which drew her to the rock music scene on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. She started to spend her time with The Byrds and other bands, and when she graduated from high school in 1966, she took various jobs that would allow her to live near the Sunset Strip and pursue relationships with rock musicians. One high school art class assignment was to visualize an object that showed both texture and color. Having fantasized about Mick Jagger's genitalia, she made them the subject of her painting, which earned her an "A" grade. After securing a position as the babysitter for Zappa's children, she at last found herself a few years later finding multiple opportunities to compare the drawing with the actual object. She famously paired up as a friend to a lot of old school rockers, as well as with future sexual partners Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon,Nick St. Nicholas, Noel Redding, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Waylon Jennings, and actors Brandon deWilde, Michael Richards, Woody Allen and Don Johnson.
Des Barres was also a member of the GTOs, which was what is believed by many to be the world's first all-girl groupie "musical" group sponsored by Frank Zappa. The group started out as the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company, and began performing as an opening act for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The GTOs set was an eclectic mix of music, spoken word, and performance art, all backed by Zappa's band (since none of its members were formally trained to sing or play an instrument). In 1969, they released their only album entitled Permanent Damage on Zappa's record label. Various music and lyrics were co-written by Zappa and some of the girls. Some of the personnel featured on the project included vocalist Rod Stewart, guitarist Jeff Beck, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Additional production credits went to Little Feat guitarist / bandleader Lowell George. The GTOs had only one performance under the actual name along with the Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart at the Shrine Auditorium in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles during the summer of 1969. The entire concert lasted for six straight hours and was considered by many to be to this day one of the most influentially pivotal concerts in rock & roll history due to its nature. The group dissolved just a month after the album's release due to some of its members being arrested and detained for drug possession. A couple of them went on to record with Zappa on his own original material in the late 1970s as well as land sizable roles in his 1971 underground cult film classic 200 Motels. Another fact worthy of note is the reference towards Des Barres and bandmate Miss Mercy that appeared on page 1 in the Best Seller's List book The Hammer Of The Gods: The Unofficial Led Zeppelin Story, where they were interpreted as being 'the life of the party' as the British group would always call them when they would travel to Los Angeles on tour. As Des Barres explained in her diary, The GTOs are still something of the enigma that complimented the musicians in the true sense of the word muse, rather than focusing on being the musicians themselves.
In the 1970s Des Barres decided to pursue a career as an actress, and acted in a few movies, including Zappa's 200 Motels, commercials, and a year acting on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow in 1974. She continued to work as a nanny/babysitter for Zappa, who urged her to continue to keep writing the diary she had begun in high school, in which she had faithfully recorded the important details of her life. When her acting career stalled, she continued to work for the Zappa family as a nanny for Zappa's children, Dweezil and Moon Unit.
On October 29, 1977, she married Michael Des Barres who had been lead singer for Detective (signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records label) and Silverhead, and who, in 1985, would be tour vocalist for Power Station. They have a son, Nicholas Dean Des Barres (GameFan magazine's Nick Rox). The couple divorced in the summer of 1991.
Des Barres wrote two memoirs about her experience as a groupie, I'm with the Band (1987) and Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up (1993). Conjecture has been published saying that Cameron Crowe drew from these memoirs to create the groupie character Penny Lane for his film Almost Famous; however, Crowe has written that the character was a fictionalization of events he witnessed as a young music journalist, a composite of a handful of girls calling themselves the "Flying Garter Girls," primarily one named Pennie Trumbull who went by Pennie Lane. The memoirs by Des Barres still have a connection to the film: actress Kate Hudson read them for inspiration as she portrayed Penny Lane.
Des Barres has written two non-fiction books, Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon and Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies (Chicago Review Press, 2007). An updated edition of I'm With the Band was released in 2005.
Des Barres currently writes articles for online and print publications and teaches in Los Angeles; her students have become known as "Pamela's Girls," and have achieved their own notoriety in the music industry. In 2013, she launched her clothing line, "Groupie Couture." She is a breast cancer survivor and yoga devotee.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license