Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Nov. 30, 2007
The Groupie Chronicles
Morgana Welch was the girl next door – if you lived in Beverly Hills in the early 1970s. Hollywood Diaries (www.xlibris.com/hollywooddiaries , 150 pp., $27.89) is no torrid tell-all but, rather, Welch's self-published memoirs from her teenage diaries, written during her rise from Hollywood High School into the shiny ranks of supergroupies along the neon-coated Sunset Strip. In Welch's world, cavorting with Robert Plant is just another night. The unadorned entries are starkly beautiful: no revisionism but youthful fervor attempting sage assessment of a world barely in her grasp. She's Anne Frank with an all-access pass.
Dandelion: Memoir of a Free Spirit (St. Martin's Press, 240 pp., $24.95) is rock muse Catherine James' story, as painful as it is tenderly written. Fleeing an atrocious childhood of California-bred beauties and a gender-bending father, runaway James was befriended by Bob Dylan; lived with and had a child by Moody Blues/Wings guitarist Denny Laine; cohabited with Jackson Browne, then Mick Jagger; was immortalized by John Mayall in "Miss James"; and dallied with myriad more rock stars before pulling her life together (she's Diane Keaton's film double). Poor proofreading not withstanding, James' compact cautionary tale is engaging and readable.
No objectivity is intended in writing about Pamela Des Barres' Let's Spend the Night Together (Chicago Review Press, 400 pp., $24.95), since there's a chapter titled "Margaret Moser and the Texas Blondes." Yet the scope of Des Barres' subjects ranges across decades, race, economic class, and location in such a way as to create the first comprehensive document on groupiedom since Groupies and Other Girls in 1970. The author talks to classic groupies Cynthia Plaster Caster and Lori Lightning, true rock muses like Catherine James and Bebe Buell, and some surprise confessors, including cult actress Tura Satana, actress Patti D'Arbanville, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
These three books are triangle opposites on a wheel, yet they all juggle the double themes of innocence lost and too much too soon in Hollywood Babylon and Gotham. Had she taken a more academic angle, Des Barres would be the Margaret Mead of rock courtesans.