Pamela Des Barres, 74, is a musician and actress known for being an American rock groupie. In fact, she wrote a famous memoir I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie which details her experiences in the Los Angeles rock music scene of the 60s and 70s. It turns out that she’s been running workshops all over the world for years. Her new book – Miss Pamela’s Writing School for Electric Ladies, A Collection of Greatest Tales Volume 1 – is the result of those workshops. She created a safe space for all sorts of women from 25 to 75 to write about their secrets.
You can buy it here.
Today we’re sharing the Preface and Chapter Six. One of the featured writers is Camilla Saly, a New Yorker and member of AofA.
Twenty-two years ago I asked my lifelong friend, Moon Zappa (she was six months old when we met!) if she knew of a good writing workshop I could attend to keep my creative flame burning in between my book projects. She recommended a lovely lady deep into the San Fernando Valley, and I signed up for a class. Halfway through the second prompt as I scribbled away, I was stunned by the thought that popped into my head. “I could be teaching this workshop!”
It took me a year or so to grab those reins and drill up the courage to post a notice on MySpace that I’d be holding writing workshops at my home in the Marina. Sure enough, several ladies signed up and as I opened my door to each one of them, I was struck with a new kind of love. Their bravery and sweet desire to enter into the profound universe of self-expression lit up my heart in a new way.
To get to the ripe old age of 52 and discover such unexpected bliss in “teaching” (more like “allowing,”) was yet another miracle in my life, and I’m still filled with gratitude and joy upon meeting each new student. As they walk through the door to reveal their deepest, darkest and brightest thoughts, their light fills the room and we are One. I know that sounds corny as fuck, but it happens every time. I don’t teach them anything, but somehow create a safe space, a haven, for them to remember things they’ve forgotten, to plumb the depths and climb to the freaking stars with their words.
After a few workshops I realized most women want to write about who they are, what made them that way, and how to become MORE of who they are, who we all are. We are all in this together, and sharing their lives so honestly and openly proves this fact over and over again. A rare kind of comfort sets in and a sense of relief that is indefinable, but potently felt. Since there is no criticism and no judgment, there is complete freedom for my girls to let it bleed all over the page.
I started at home, but soon branched out, traveling all over the country and even the world (London and Toronto!) beginning in Austin where my Goddaughter, Polly Parsons lives, and then New York, where my largest group meets twice a year. I travel to meet up with my dolls in a dozen cities now, including Las Vegas for my annual Doll Con with students from everywhere gathering coven-like to write, dance and groove. Due to the pandemic, I started teaching on Zoom, with women from Australia, Poland, Austria, the UK and all over the US, and we meet twice a month, discovering kindred spirits in each other, all over the world.
Many of the women (I call them my Dolls, and I’m their groupie Godmother) who come to my classes have read my memoirs, which helps them feel more comfortable to spill their own tales of woe and wonder—a built in bonus. Most are music-obsessed, and we connect in that glorious universal way. Def Leppard? Yes! Dylan? Yes! Leonard Cohen? BTS? Gaga? Some unknown band in your hometown? Yes yes yes!
I truly believe we can all write. All we have to do it DO IT. Everyone’s life is word-worthy, worth saving, worth sharing. People often tell me, “I don’t have the time to write. You DO have the time. The pieces in this collection were all written in 12 minutes during a workshop, which proves my point.
As I sit out those 12 minutes, listening to the clitter-clat of keyboards and the scratching of pens on paper, I’m in a trance, spellbound by the bounty of beauty being created in my presence.
Gathering these prompts from so many submitted has been quite a chore and I thank all that’s holy that my New York Dolls, Lori Perkins and Camilla Saly, came to our rescue. They’ve worked long and mightily on this tome, and I honor their sublime efforts and expertise. Thank you thank you thank you my Big Apple Angels! Lori! It was your idea and your publishing house! I’m so grateful!
Of all the many spectacular things I’ve done in my life, my workshops take the sweet, gooey, yummy cake. I feel like it may be the reason I was put on this exquisite spinning globe this time around—to create a space safe enough for women to own their experiences, to use their words to find peace and ecstasy, to cherish themselves and all they’ve been through.
And to get it on the page.
Pamela Des Barres
Hook Ups and Romance
Las Vegas, Nevada
Prompt: Write about something you’re addicted to
There is something about the thrill of being with a new person for the first time that I find myself so often drawn to. I love prepping for a new adventure with a new person.
Makeup, hair, cute bra and underwear, I never know where the night might lead me, but it is best to always be prepared, and maybe wear that dress that is a little more low cut and watch where his eyes wander down. I love the first everything: first hello, first flirt, first hug that lingers just long enough to catch their scent, first kiss, first fuck. I just need the butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I want to be in the moment sitting really close to a new person, taking in the feel of their skin as their hand grazes my thigh that gives me a rush like no other. I want sexual tension. I want passion.
Kiss me now or I am going to die.
One of my biggest fears is ending up as one of those people who sit around with a significant other discussing if we should marathon watch reruns of Law and Order SVU together while I have a honey and cinnamon masque gooped all over my face and I haven’t had a Brazilian wax in months.
I’m addicted to firsts—but I also fear a life where I only have firsts and I don’t find someone who, for the first time, asks me to take their hand, and becomes my first and last adventure.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA
Prompt: Write about losing your virginity
We walked out of the bar and headed toward the tour bus. “Are you cold?” He asked, putting his jacket over my shoulders. ‘What the hell is he doing?’ I wondered to myself. ‘Isn’t the whole point of this excursion to take my clothes off?’ I smiled as he took my hand, and stumbled along the sidewalk. Maybe that fourth shot of Jager wasn’t such a good idea. Thankfully the bus was only a block away.
He was still holding my hand as he led the way up the steps, and I wondered if he was being gentlemanly, or just knew at this point in the night I was way too drunk to attempt them on my own. “My bunk is in the back,” he said to me, with a coy smile. As we approached, I wondered to myself if I should inform this sexy guitarist that this was my first time. No, I decided, better he think I’m a sexy, experienced WOMAN. No way do I want this guy to think he is special enough to be the first.
Before I knew it I was lying down, naked, in the world’s tiniest bedroom. We were kissing passionately, as he began to poke around down there for what felt like an unusually long time. “Is something wrong?” I asked, unsure why this sexy rock God couldn’t figure out how to get inside me. “Are you a virgin?” He asked, spotting me for the inexperienced girl that I was. “WHAT, NO!” I yelled, wiping my forehead as if he had just stamped the label across my head. He looked skeptical, but took my word for it and kept at it.
Finally, after an eternity had passed, it was on. A sweaty sexy musician deflowering me: the stuff groupie dreams are made of. Five claustrophobic minutes later all I could think was, ‘Jesus Christ, can’t this guy speed it up and get it over with??’ “Can you please speed it up and get it over with?” I asked, as he looked at me, confused. “Uhhh..yeah… sure.” He replied.
A minute later I was up on my feet, and we were heading back to the bar. “That was fun,” he said to me. “But are you sure you’re not a virgin?” “Of course not! I do it ALLL the time.” I informed him. “I’ll be right back!” I told him as I headed to the bathroom. It was there in the stall that I saw the bloody mess and thought, “Oh great! How is he ever going to believe I’m a sexy experienced woman now?”
Los Angeles, California
Prompt: Write about bad sex
Can’t we write about good sex? It might be easier to pick out one specific example then. Bad sex is just like, expected.
Like, remember high school? What a waste of time. Tiny dicks doing tiny disservices day in and day out. Poor vagina. I’m sorry for all the mundane fire drills I put you through hoping one day there might actually be a goddamn flame.
I remember in high school, my stoner bullshit boyfriend who legit believed he was Jim Morrison reincarnated used to fuck me on his mattress on the floor in the missionary position, and I would just look up at the giant poster he had on the wall that had all the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven” on it. I memorized it 5,000 times over. I wish he could have had a poster with MLK’s I Have a Dream speech, or maybe, like, the periodic tables or something more useful for me to memorize. It’s funny: as girls we aren’t raised to think we deserve more, and boys could give a fuck less if we get off or not. We see ourselves as just a hollow receptacle for them to bust a nut in.
Girls learn to make loud noises, and scratch backs, and boys learn…. nothing.
Once, when I was living on Fountain Avenue behind the House of Blues, me and my roommate had an epic and amazing evening. She had come home from the bar with some dude, and suddenly had to puke and made it to the bathroom just in time, but not in time to lift the toilet seat up, so vomited all over the top of the toilet seat, and that shit splattered all over her bathroom walls and everything else. Me, I was at a hotel with this guy Travis who was Southern and cute and the lead singer in some band I don’t even remember the name of, or even what they sounded like. I don’t even know where I met Travis. I just remember he called me every time he came through town, and I was like, “Ooh, lucky me,” because I was in my 20s and could give a fuck less about basically anything.
Anyway, I was at this hotel with Travis and he was going down on me, doing such a bad job that when he fell asleep, face first in between my legs, I didn’t even realize he was asleep for a few minutes. I probably kept faking some oohs and ahhs, and then I remember grabbing his long brown hair, lifting his head up, seeing he was asleep, and just fucking laughing. I let go of his hair and let his dumb stupid face fall back against my unsatisfied, undernourished vagina, and then I just went to sleep and let him sleep where he lay. Fucking men, always falling asleep on the job! What an utter waste of my time.
Why don’t they want to do better? I’m sick of pencil dicks, and never-hards, and shove-it-ins, and jack-hammer sluts, and minute-men, and marathon-misogynists, and, honestly, just egotistical fuck sticks who only have their own (fore)skin in the game. Fuck off, boys.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Prompt: First love
I had a lot of boyfriends, But Malcom Harriman was my first true love, and not only because he was the man who took my virginity.
I was a senior in college, and Malcom was a freshman, which made him a younger man for sure. He was tall and lanky with a Prince Valiant haircut, and styled himself as a young Rimbaud. I was smitten the first time I saw him.
Malcolm was also a poet himself (of course), and a pretty damn good one, too. The night I lost my virginity—on the living room floor of a married friend’s apartment who had lent it to us—“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was blasting on the stereo. What a gorgeous beat that was to fuck to for the very first time! And yeah, it hurt a bit at the beginning when he first put his penis in—which was covered with a glove bag he found in Claire’s drawer because he didn’t have a condom. But the pain didn’t last long, and we were soon able to do it again on the bed. This time, it was perfect, and so was the poem he recited after we were lying there, both smoking cigarettes: “hush quiet hush/where love stands gleaned/ we lie appalled.”
That was the most romantic way ever to lose my virginity. But I found out later it wasn’t written for me. He had written it earlier for another woman and repurposed it! That made sense later on, when I found he had many faces, and I was only seeing one.
We were inseparable for a while. I remember that going home for Thanksgiving vacation was agony—four whole days apart! But we talked dirty on the phone to each other, and when I came back we ran straight into each other’s arms and went to a big party at a friend’s apartment, where we actually fucked on the floor (somewhat discreetly) in the middle of it all, with scarcely a thought for anyone else. We were in our own world.
The magic carpet ride continued for a few months, like the night we went to see Eric Anderson at La Cave, who Malcolm somehow knew, so we got to hang out backstage. Then we fucked in the back seat of the car all the way home.
This great romance came to an abrupt end not long after, when he went off with a little freshmen bitch called Susie Morgan who wasn’t even all that cute! Or all that smart! He didn’t even really ever break up with me, he just took up with Susie and that was that.
Revenge is sweet: A couple years ago I did a search on him. And what came up was a mug shot of this creepy guy who’d been picked up on a DUI. Apparently he’s some kind of therapist in Florida now. Boy, do I pity his patients.
New York, New York
Prompt: Conversation between the devil and the angel
Do it! Fuck her, why should you care what she feels? It’s about you! “Do what thou wilt,” remember? Jimmy said it. It was inscribed on Led Zeppelin III. That’s rock’n’roll 101. Do what thou wilt and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.
I’ve been reading about George, from the point of view of Chris O’Dell, Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd. He did what he willed, didn’t he? He fucked whomever he felt like, and fuck what Pattie wanted. Pattie was supposed to be the faithful wife. I wanna be George.
I remember in college I fucked Alissa. She asked me “Why?” and I said, “Because I felt like it.” When I wanted a threesome I got my then-husband to pick up some hot girl, or I picked up a hot girl. I wanted to be a guy, and I was. Why not use people? Why not fuck ’em, and fuck their feelings. So what if someone gets caught in our tangled web. It’s fun, right? It’s fine to have our way with some one vulnerable who doesn’t know how it works. That was the voice inside me.
This is the other voice inside me that is caring and careful and wants to know exactly how you feel, the person that you really are. How delicate you are, and how softly I approach you and get you to trust me because I can be trusted. I am safe because I am seeing you, really, for who you are. I am safe and you can surrender to me and I won’t hurt you. I promise.
I just want to use and be used, too. I want to feel free. I don’t want to have to play by the rules. I want sensate fun—dive into the experience of flesh against flesh, of softness and touch and discovering you. I want to bathe in the bliss of coming alive with your newness. I want your touch.
The Angel voice I always listen to: The carefulness. I haven’t been so careless and fuck-your-feelings do-what-thou-wilt since the Jimmy Page days, and just a few years past that. I haven’t been so callous and careless since college.
Why can’t I just get what I want and be done?
But I listen to the Angel, and so instead I fuck my friends and the people I care about, and we stay in touch and I call them on Christmas and things like that. Yes, the people I fuck are friends.
How did I get here, and what happened to that happy-go-lucky hedonist of yore? Gone the way of the 70’s, I guess. My favorite probably misquote is Robert Plant saying about himself, “Who was that guy??”
Yeah, that guy is still inside me, and sometimes it wants to come out. But I have to be careful. Careful. There’s a hunger roaring inside there. There’s an all-consuming fire. There’s a thirst that, Dorian-Grey-like, cannot be quenched. There’s a part that doesn’t want to care, just wants to get filled up. I don’t like that part, but it’s part of me.
The voice, like an angel: Care, take care of others, be good, be just and careful and supremely understanding, don’t want; don’t get greedy.
I cannot be either of these voices entirely, but I split them into two parts so that I could do each of them to some extent—so that I could figure them out, explore them, but not let them rule me.
What makes me this way? What makes me twist and turn into this complicated pro-sex human being? What is it that balances ice with fire? Probably, really, I don’t want to harm, so I hang back from being my former self. I don’t want to hurt.
I want to celebrate and find passion in all of us and have it be a joyous thing, not an angry thing like it was in the 70’s, not a revenge-on-those-patriarchal-bastards type thing. More like a kinky, cool, loving thing. More like a fun, let’s get this done thing. More like a “we’re all one” thing.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA
Prompt: Write about someone you love
A year ago today I was with him in Berlin on the greatest trip of my life. Three weeks in Europe, and it was music that brought us there. He was my first ever boyfriend in Grade Seven, and 15 years later we found love again at a music festival. It only made sense that we brought our love to Europe for a music festival with the best rock lineup of the year: Tame Impala, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Jack White, Pearl Jam…. These are the bands we loved.
It still breaks my heart to think of him. To remember his thick, lion mane hair. Rub my fingers over the bass clef tattoo on his bicep. I miss sucking on his neck and squeezing him so hard I can’t breathe. There isn’t one day that goes by that I don’t think about him, and the fact that it’s been a year to the day that we were together on the best trip of my life has been fucking me up lately.
He had an addiction. An addiction that he seemed to love more than he loved me. I loved him so much that I tried to love his addiction, too, but I couldn’t. I’ve learned the value of loving yourself before you love anyone else, and he had to go off and figure that out for himself….
What I loved most about him was his carefree nature. He made it seem like everything was going to be OK no matter the outcome of the world. I felt that as long as we had each other and we had our music that’s all we ever needed… but we lived in a dream.
Every time I listen to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s album Sex & Food I think of him because we listened to it throughout our entire trip. My favourite song on the record is “We’re Not In Love We’re Just High” and I always repeat those words in my head. Were we really in love? Were we just on a high and chasing the fun that we lived for? Fuck responsibilities. Fuck the pain. Let’s just feel good and make each other feel good.
But love isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It tears you apart into a million pieces, and brings you back together again over and over. I wonder if he’s moved on and if he thinks about me as much as I think about him. I wonder if we’ll be able to be friends again. All I know is that I’m so grateful for our relationship, and if it brought me anything in my life it brought me that trip. It brought me flamenco in Barcelona that literally beat my passion for life out of me. It brought me the Madrid heat and my first international music festival. It brought me sex clubs and my first experience with psychedelics that changed my life forever. We listened to only one song on headphones during the psychedelic trip in the park: “Within You Without You,” by The Beatles and I swear to God I felt George’s words manifest in me. It brought me Berlin and its many mysteries. It brought me to the land of the boys I love the most… Liverpool. The Beatles. It brought me to London and its horrendously hot and packed trains. And then it brought me home.
It brought me closer to him. Or so I thought…
Now that we’re apart I send him thoughts through my satellite mind. And I say: I hope you learn to love yourself as much as I love you.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA
Prompt: Someone who gave you a helping hand
I know they say never work with animals or babies—but you know me, I couldn’t help myself and it was my damn show so in they go.
I wrote this great scene for this great dog, and all the dog had to do was sniff my crotch—now that should be easy, right? So we get the dog wrangler in, and the famous yellow lab dog Lucky, and he’s perfectly trained and has been in so many films. We were so lucky to get him on our little low-budget TV show.
My ex and I are trying to have this romantic moment and rekindle our love, when this dog is supposed to come over and put his snout in my crotch and not take it out—ruining this romantic moment. Only problem is, this famous world-trained acting dog would have nothing to do with my crotch—and I mean nothing. He just looked the other way when his trainer told him to go smell! Nope, he wouldn’t do it.
Now at first this was funny—maybe he was too polite—but then again there are about 100 crew people waiting to get this shot and this dog just won’t budge. Am I not starting to get the vibe my crew thinks it’s my crotch that is the problem? And I am starting to feel this is not so much fun for me as a first time writer-creator, and at the start of my own show. Ahh, how fast things can go from funny to tragic and then back! I mean I didn’t want that travelling around the crews of Toronto: her crotch is so unsavory, not even a dog would sniff it! I mean…!
So just as I was starting to panic, the most handsome grip, Trevor, came up to me. He has a super thick Canadian Pedwawa accent—so picture a cross between Newfoundland and Ontario, and he, yes—He was hot!! Too hot. I mean so hot. And he says in that thick accent—“Oh ya, aye, he just probably needs a ball of meat.” And there out of nowhere, out of a small, knee-high stocking—he produces just that—a ball of meat. Liver-bacon and chicken scraps. And I look at him like he is nuts and say, “What’s that?” and he says, “Oy aye, ya, this is some of lucky’s favorer treats! He won’t be able to resist you.” And I say, “Ok, but where are you planning on putting that?” And he says, “Well I’ll just pin this to your lovelies—your underwear—under your dress, and no one will be the wiser—it will be our little secret.” Of course 100 crew people are standing by waiting, so the hot young Trevor takes me behind a screen and gently pins this ball of fresh meat on to my underwear. It looks like a low hanging testicle. Other than that, the whole act is kind of sexy. He covers me back up and pulls my skirt over it and says, “Lucky is about to get very lucky. He can’t resist you now.” And sure enough Lucky hits his cue and spot, every time, with great vigor I might add. And the crew laughed and everyone laughed, and everyone was totally relieved—most especially me—and that cute Grip, Trevor, would give me a thumbs up from the sidelines knowing he saved the day. And it was gonna be our little secret.
So of course it was obvious what I had to do. I had to fuck Trevor a lot—I mean for the rest of the shoot. I mean it was the only right thing to do for giving me such a helping hand with a heaping ball of meat. I only prayed, for my sake, that he liked the smell of bacon, ’cause I could not get that scent out for weeks.
Luckily he did.
We’re dancing still.