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TURA SATANA

TURA SATANA INTERVIEW
by RANDY WAAGE

Tura Satana is one of the sexiest, toughest ass-kickers to ever grace a movie screen.  Her role as Varla, the badass tough girl with out-of-this-world cleavage in Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (which celebrates it's 40th Anniversary this year), is forever cemented as one of the greatest bad-girl roles in film history.  Had Uma Thurman's Bride character come across Tura during one of the Kill Bill films, she would have most certainly met her match. We got a chance to ask some hard-hitting questions of this sexy film legend, from her days as a burlesque dancer, to her relationship with Elvis Presley, and she didn't pull any punches with her answers!

1. What was reform school like? Did any of the girls fight or pick on you?

Reform school was a big drag, but it was also very educational for me. I learned that there was zero tolerance for anyone who was not white or black. Unfortunately, I fell in the in-between category. Since I was Asian and Japanese to boot, I had to show them that I wasn't there to be their punching bag or girl toy. Once I took out their leaders, I was left alone. I had all of the matrons and the inmates basically afraid to screw with me. It is the only way to survive in that type of atmosphere.

2. In your teen years you were in a gang. Were there any initiation rites or fights?

Basically I was in a girl gang prior to my teen years. Yes, our initiation rights were that we had to pierce our ears with a knife and there was no cheating by using ice cubes or potatoes as a lever. Of course you didn't want to go too deep, so you had to take it slow as you were pushing the knife blade through your lobe. I have to tell you that our gang was a gang for the protection of females in our neighborhood, especially I had been raped at 9 yrs. old. We made sure that it didn't happen to anyone else and no one messed with anyone in our territory.

3. At age 10 you were raped by 5 guys leading you to study Karate to protect yourself. Were the men ever arrested or caught? How has that affected your adult relationships with men?

Actually it was at the age of 9 yrs. I was a couple of month shy of my 10th birthday. Yes, they were caught and arrested, but one of the fathers bought the boys release and paid the judge a thousand dollars to clear them. I was guilty of enticing the boys and I was sent to reform school because of it. But, I did get even with each and every one of them. It took several years to find them all, but I did and I gave them back what they did to me. I guess I could have turned into a man hater but I didn't. I actually like men very much. My husband (who passed away), used to tell me that he was very happy that I didn't become a man hater.

4. By the age of 13 you were in an arranged marriage. How were you able to cope with an adult relationship at such a young age?

Yes, I was married at the age of 13 in Hernandos, Mississippi. You have to understand that my husband was only 17 when I married him. I had been engaged to him since I was born. We were both too young and too inexperienced to really cope with anything, let alone married life. He wanted to have his fun in the Navy and go out with his friends and I was supposed to sit at home and take care of his laundry and etc. FAT CHANCE!!! We eventually divorced and went our separate ways. When I ran into him again, I was an actress and dancer and he was fat and bald.

5. You were discriminated against for being part Japanese while growing up. Is that were your toughness or quick temper comes from? Do you think it's more of a protection mechanism because of all the horrible things that happened to you as a child?

Yes, I think it is a defense mechanism that springs up when someone pushes the buttons. I am actually a very happy go lucky person and love people, but when someone comes along and starts to tell me that I don't belong here, then I just left them know that I do belong, and in no uncertain terms.


Tura, from The Astro-Zombies (1969)

6. Do you have any good memories from your early childhood?

Yes, I have some wonderful memories of my family and my brother and sisters. When my father, brother and myself were interned in the camp, we became very close and protective of one another. I remember when my father took my brother and I on the train and I watched the scenery go by and was totally fascinated with the expanse of the country and the beauty of it as well. I remember going to church and being with people who didn't stare at me and whisper behind our backs. My mother teaching me to dance a little and my vocal coach telling me that I would one day sing operas. Those were dreams and fond memories.

7. Was the Japanese side of your family conservative? What did your parents think of your career later on?

To a major respect, yes, my father was conservative, but he was also permissive in many ways, because he had been a silent screen actor at one time. My parents were very supportive of me in any career that I wished to enter. I used to sing for all the school assemblies and for all of the major functions because of my voice. I had over 4 octaves in range. Not any more though. When I became a dancer, my father was again supportive. His only instructions were that if I choose to do something then I must do it with all of my heart and soul. He told me that as long as I strove to be the best then he would always be proud of me.

8. You dated Elvis for a time and mentioned that he made Priscilla look like you. Why do you think he did that? Did you see him do drugs or pass out? Did he ever make any unusual requests to you?

Yes, but our relationship was kept very secret and I think that you know why that is. Yes, if you see pictures of me when I dated him and then see Priscilla after that, you will see that she was looking almost my double. I don't know, but I finally had to tell him to stop and let her be herself. NO, when Elvis was with me, he never did drugs or pass out. He was always very straight with me, but you have to remember that he was younger then. I knew him in the 50's. No, I never got any strange requests from him, except when he asked me to marry him and I said NO. He told me to never forget him and I haven't.

9. Have you dated any other famous actors or mobsters?

I. Yes, I have some of both.

10. You used to have a Tassel Twirling class. Do you have any helpful hints for our readers who want to twirl?

Not really, they would have to come to me and then I can show them how to properly twirl tassels, but you can just write it down. I am even thinking of opening a burlesque training school, so that I can show these ladies how to use a stage. There will be no poles to hang from and they will learn how to use and stage and make their audience want to watch them.

11. Being in Burlesque business for 18 years do you have a favorite performance or costume? How were the knives and swords integrated into your act? Are there any ground breaking or unusual acts that have been forgotten by the general public that should be remembered?

Yes, I think that my Buddha and the kimono's that I wore were something that you will not see today. The knives and swords were used in the Hari Kari part of my performance. Oh there are many lovely ladies that are not around anymore. Stunning Smith, the lady with the Purple hair, Maxine Martin, The Skyscraper Girl, Galatea, Kiva and her fans, Virginia "Ding Dong" Bell, Christie Cherie, Carrie Finnell, and many more. A lot of Lili St. Cyr's routines are out there, but they are not done with her finesse or style.

12. What would you say was your worst out of control, stalker fan from your shows? How about people from the convention circuit?

Oh, I don't get stalker fans. For one thing most of them are afraid of me. For another thing, my fans know that I can take care of myself. I once had a guy hide in my hotel room closet. After my show, I came in and proceeded to get ready for bed. When I went to hang up my clothes, there he was. He reached to grab me, but I got there first. He went flying across the room and wound up with a broken arm and busted nose and badly twisted leg. The house detective carried him out of my room and then I went to bed.

13. Are there roles you've played in the movies or on TV that you’re most proud of?

Yes, I loved my role in FPKK. Probably because Varla was so much a part of me. I loved playing in Our Man Flint, but my favorite TV roles were the ones that I played on Girl From UNCLE. Noel Harrison and I had lots of fun on the set in between takes. He never realized that a gal could be strong and (as he put it), flat out gorgeous at the same time. I loved my role in Irma La Douce, even when I broke my leg. The most fun was had on Who's Been Sleeping in my Bed? with Dean Martin, Liz Montgomery, and Carol Burnett. I choreographed her strip routine for the film.

14. What type of recent movies do you tend to watch?

I watch a lot of Jackie Chan and Jet Li films. I love martial arts films. I also watch Chuck Norris. I got a kick out of Charlie's Angels, Boy what I couldn't do with special effects?

15. How did you keep cool while filming, “Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!” with Russ Meyer in the desert?

I didn't! There was no cool spot in the desert in the middle of July through September.

16. Do you still own or wear Go-Go boots?

Yes, I still wear boots, I don't know if they are called Go Go boots anymore, but I still own quite a few pairs of boots.

17. Do you have any other unusual hobbies or collections we’d be surprised by?

Yes, right now I am taking kick boxing classes and resistance training. I am trying to get back in fighting shape for my next film.

18. You are a survivor. You’ve been in a major car accident and shot in the stomach. Not to mention the many fights you’ve had. What do you attribute your longevity to?

I would say, it is in my genes. I think that whether the fans like it or not, God has been on my side. He never gave me anything that I couldn't handle although sometimes I think that he had more faith in me than I did. I also have a very loving family with my remaining sisters and my children and my grandchildren. They give me the strength to go on and to check out the next day to see what is in store for me and for them.

19. If a movie is made of your life who would you like to see portray you?

If that were to happen then I would say that the only ones I think might be able to handle the role is Lucy Lawless or Angelina Jolie. They have the bodies and the physical abilities to do the job.

20. Do you think that with age has come wisdom? What piece of advice would you tell your younger self?

Yes, I found that out long ago. The older I got, the smarter my parents were. It takes the trials and errors of your youth to learn from your own mistakes. I think that all things happen for a purpose and that purpose is to teach you. Hopefully you learn the lesson the first time, if not you go through it again. I really have no advice for my younger self, but I will share a bit of wisdom that my father gave me as a child. LEARN, something new everyday. Make sure that you learn something. If it enriches your soul then you have learned something worthy. If it doesn't, you will know not to do it again! The only thing that I can say to my fans is a very humble THANK YOU. If it were not for my fans, I would have faded away a long time ago, but their love and devotion have kept me, not only alive, but KICKING ASS. 

I still do personal appearances at conventions and special shows. I will be appearing at  the Bridge theater in San Francisco with Peaches Christ for the Midnight Mass on July 1 and 2nd. I would love to go back to Europe and see my fans there, one last time before I retire totally. I probably would have done that years ago, if my friend and manager Siouxzan Perry hadn't talked me into making some personal appearances. If not for her, I would have closed down my website and retired gracefully into oblivion. She wouldn't let me.


Visit Tura Satana's official site at WWW.TURASATANA.COM!

-Randy Waage
randy@retrocrush.com

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