Manners And Morals: The Groupies

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Stage-door Janies have always been more demonstrative than stage-door Johnnies. Juvenal railed bitterly against flirtatious Roman ladies in whose eyes any gladiator, however ugly, was "transformed into a Hyacinthus." No Ziegfeld girl ever inspired a male reaction remotely comparable to the mass hysteria of Sinatra's swooners in the 1940s or Elvis Presley's frantic fanatics in the 1950s. Such adulatory demonstrations were mild, however, compared with those of a new and even more liberated breed of female hero-worshipers. They are the "groupies." Their heroes are rock musicians—and their worship knows no bounds.

Frank Zappa, leader of a wel known rock group that calls itself the Mothers of Invention, defines a groupie simply as "a girl who goes to bed with members of rock-and-roll bands." Zappa, a 28-year-old musician with a sociological bent, notes: "Every trade has its groupies. Some chicks dig truck drivers. Some go for men in uniform—the early camp followers. Ours go for rock musicians."

And quite frequently get them. The basic distinction between yesterday's hysterical fans and today's groupies is that the groupies—also known as "rock geishas"—usually manage to fulfill their erotic fantasies. Says Anna (few groupies use last names, perhaps out of kindness to their families), a pretty, 25-year-old San Franciscan: "A girl is a groupie only if she has numerous relationships. A groupie will maybe sleep with three people all in one night from one group—from the equipment man to whoever is the most important."

Class Strata. Though everyone on the rock scene is aware of the groupie phenomenon, it is next to impossible to know how many there are—mainly because rock stars, like most young men, tend to brag about their conquests. They come, says Zappa, "from any home that has contact with rock and roll and with radio and records. That's everybody." Zappa contends that there are thousands of them, ranging in age all the way from 50 ("Although they have to look damned good at that age to get any action") down to ten.

Their appeal is obvious. Says "the Bear," a 280-lb. singer and harmonica player for a Los Angeles group called the Canned Heat: "I've got an old lady now, so I don't mess around when I'm in L. A. But when I'm on the road, it's different. I mean, here are these chicks padding around the hotel corridors after you, and it's great." Some musicians, however, profess to find them a nuisance. Mothers Manager Dick Barber complains that groupies are in such ready supply that it is "pretty hard" to get rock bands to morning practices or recording sessions, "and sometimes hard to get them on the bandstand at night." Josephine Mori, public relations girl for a rock record company called Elektra, calls groupies "piranhas" and says: "They have no appreciation of the person they go to bed with." Marty Pichinson, a drummer with a rock band known as the Revelles, disputes that description—but he sometimes does find groupies too much of a good thing. "Going to bed with a girl is nice," he says. "But sometimes you just want to have a pillow fight with the guys."

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