Legendary groupie, published author and self-proclaimed James Dean fanatic, Pamela Des Barres has been attending the James Dean Festival for two decades. This year’s event took place from Thursday, September 26 to Sunday, September 29 will take place on in Fairmount, Indiana.
The James Dean Festival & Car Show draws crowds of up to 20,000 people throughout the weekend with a huge car show, grand parade, street vendors, carnival rides. It ends with a memorial service commemorating the actor’s life. Des Barres will also be teaching a writing workshop on October 3 in Fairmount.
I attended one of Des Barres workshops in Fairmont and it was an amazing experience to have focused writing sessions with her and share in an open environment with no judgement. She has upcoming workshops in Las Vegas, Nevada, Seattle, Washington and Nashville, Tennessee.
The Travel Addict got the chance to catch up with Des Barres who spoke about her love of James Dean and this annual event, her writing, favorite travel destinations, her connection with musicians and she spills the tea about bedding one of the most famous rockstars.
What does the James Dean Gallery, in Indiana, mean to you?
Like I said we have been coming here for 20 years next Spring and I am a James Dean fanatic. I have been a crazy Dean fanatic my entire life. He died when I was not quite eight years old. I have just been really obsessed with him and spiritually connected with him all my life. So I came here and met Dave and Lenny who run this place, and they are like brothers to me now. I even performed their marriage ceremony.
Are you a minister as well?
Yes, I actually married them. One of the best days of my whole life.
You do some tours in Los Angeles, your old stomping grounds, can you tell us a little bit about those?
I’m with The Band Rock n Roll Tours. I take people to my old hang out spots in LA and we have a blast. I take them to places where these wild and crazy things happened with these various Rock stars in places I used to live, where Zappa lived, where Jim Morrison lived, where I did crazy things with Keith Moon, so it is very personalized. It is very different than other Hollywood tours. I rent a big van and my dear driver Kip Brown takes us on the adventure. He drives and he has his own stories too. It is really fun. We usually have about a dozen people all day.
Do you have any new books on the way?
Yes I do. I am writing my sixth book. It is called Blinded By The Light: Sex, God, and Rock n Roll. It is about my spiritual journey which went right along with my Rock N Roll journey. I also have another set of guide books coming out.
Has the groupie culture has changed? As a music photographer, I don’t notice groupies to be found as much anymore.
There are groupies everywhere.
It is much harder to get access today.
Well it is much harder to get access. They are nervous. It is a weirder world there now than it used to be. You have to be careful. There are always groupies, there always will be, there always have been. They are not going anywhere. I hear from them.
How are super fans different than groupies?
Super fans are not groupies. Groupies always want to take it to the next level, not necessarily sexual, but they want to meet them and be part of the reality, which is such a heavy experience for people when they are around people who inspire them and change their life for the better.
A lot has changed in the past few years with the #MeToo movement. I think there is a big difference for me as a female between wanting to be there and then being in an uncomfortable position and not wanting to be there.
I have personally never had any of those experiences with musicians. People expect me to say something horrible about Jimmy Page, but it is not going to happen. It didn’t happen. There is nothing to report. But of course I have had my share of #MeToo, people I worked for in my regular world. I worked for a photographer and he chased me around a desk and expected various things. And I have almost been raped- almost- I escaped but it was never with a musician or actor. It was often behind the scenes people.
I have had a few producers hit on me really hardcore. It is uncomfortable and then you leave. I have never had that experience where I wasn’t allowed to leave except that one time hitchhiking where I was almost raped. I screamed really loud and all the people turned their lights on in the neighborhood and he threw me out of the car. Other than that I haven’t had any close calls.
Almost every person I know has had one of these uncomfortable experiences, and we write about it in class a lot. This is very cathartic, this class, it’s not frivolous.
Do you still have any contact with the Zappas?
All the living ones. Dale and Frank are gone. Of course I am very close with all of those children.
I know they weren’t getting along at times.
I know and I stay right down the middle. I have to because I love all four of them. It is really sad.
What’s some new music you listen to?
I really like a band called The Struts. They are a British band. They are my favorite new-ish band, they aren’t that new. I like it, so many of these bands even the good ones like Arcade Fire, there are good bands but they don’t dress up.
Any thoughts on Greta Van Fleet?
Yes I saw them at The Troubador and they are good but they don’t dress up. I want to dress that singer so much. I want to style the singer. I want to dress him from head to toe, do his hair and makeup to his boots, I want to dress him because he has an amazing voice.
Do you travel to see bands?
Absolutely. I just got back three weeks ago from seeing Dion DiMucci. That’s my next tattoo, his signature. He probably wouldn’t like it. He is such a humble guy, but I am going to do it. I have Elvis and James Dean signature tattoos. I went to New Jersey from LA to see Dion. I have gone to New York twice to see him. He doesn’t play much but he is brilliant. His voice sounds the same. We danced to “Runaround Sue,” came in second this year at the festival.
What is your favorite travel destination?
I have a few. I love Israel. I am a real Jesus nut. It started with him really – he was the first Rock star. Mary Magdalene was the first groupie. I had an amazing experience in Jerusalem. That whole experience blew my mind. I need to go back before I die. I just turned 70 and I have to fit it into my life somehow. London is my other favorite. I love it. I go any chance I get. My book just came out there in the Spring so I spent a lot of time there this year. I am going to Australia for the first time this year.
You have often time called yourself a muse who took care of musicians. I am sure you became a sounding board for them over the years. Why do you think that was an important role?
Every guy, all of us, but especially men like to be appreciated for what they do. I think if you appreciate what they do, love and understand what they do, they want you around. I made sure to listen to the words. Words are very important to them. They just love to know what they are being appreciated for. Any guy, no matter what he does.
And you have talked about before that is what attracted them to you?
A lot of that. Appreciate, admire, respect, I feel connected there. I feel a connection too because of my appreciation and admiration of what they do.
Do you stay in touch with the other groupies from the day?
Yes, a lot of people think I should hate Lori Maddux. She was 14 when Jimmy Page ran off with her. I don’t [hate her]. We are really good friends. Have you seen my documentary? It is from a night together; she is in it. We have a laugh. Now we laugh. We are now close in age. It seemed so far apart back then.
The Rolling Stones are still going; I love Mick Jagger as well. What was your favorite Mick Jagger story?
I can’t really.
Sure you can.
Well, he was amazing in the sack. Let’s face it. He was very attentive and funny. It was a joyous romp, not a serious romp but a spectacular connection in the sack.