Written By: Ken Hulsey
Source: NY Times
The cult movie genre lost one of it's most infamous icons on Friday when actress Tura Satana passed away from heart failure. The 73-year-old actress was the star of some of the most notable independent films of the 1960s and 70s including "The Astro Zombies", "The Doll Squad" and "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!". Satana's portrayal of Varla in the Russ Meyer film would forever establish the Japanese born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi (Real Name) as a pop culture icon.
To say that Satana lead a full and colorful life would be an understatement. As a young woman she had to endure the tribulation of being held in a Japanese internment camp in California. At thirteen she began a career as an exotic dancer after she developed the curvy figure that helped propel her to stardom. After that she became a nude model and then actress. At one point she even dated Elvis and turned down his marriage proposal.
In later life Satana continued to act and enjoyed interaction with her legions of fans at conventions and special appearances.
According to Tura's long-time manager Siouxzan Perry a memorial service will be held on July 10th which would have been her 74th birthday.
Fans by the hudreds have been leaving heart-felt messages of love for Tura on her Facebook page. If you would like to express your feelings about her life and career you can do so at: http://www.facebook.com/tsatana
Here is Tura Satana's bio (From Wikipedia):
Tura Satana (July 10, 1938 – February 4, 2011) was a Japanese-born 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 Scots-Irish 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 the Westside of 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 at the age of nine she was gang raped by five men. Her attackers were never prosecuted and it was rumored that the judge had been paid off. 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."
Because of the rape and the bribed judge, she was sent to reform school as a teenager and became the leader of a gang. In an interview with Psychotronic Video, she said, "We had leather motorcycle jackets, jeans and boots and we kicked butt." At 13, she was married in Hernando, Mississippi, a short-lived union arranged by her parents and the family of her 17-year-old groom.
Satana then came to Los Angeles at age 13 with a fake ID and tried her hand at blues singing. When that failed, she started modeling as a bathing suit photography model and posed nude for the silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, who did not know she was underage. Lloyd told Satana she should be in films because she was photogenic. While working as a photographic model, Satana 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. Satana danced 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. She 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." Because of her dancing, her face, and her figure, she was ultimately voted one of the 10 Best Undressed Burlesque Dancers of the 20th Century by Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera.
At 19, Satana got pregnant, but continued dancing for the next eight months, earning a typical weekly salary of about $1,500
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 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 (1974) 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 (2007) which is currently in post production and co-stars fellow Russ Meyer alumna Kitten Natividad.
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 Deloos 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 has 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.
Tura Satana Photos:
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