Tura Satana, RIP. 1938 - 2011.

by Eric Kohn
February 5, 2011 9:08 AM
24 Comments
  • |


Above: Shade Rupe and Tura Satana.

Just a day after my interview with "Dark Stars Rising" author Shade Rupe comes news that "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" star Tura Satana passed away last night in Reno. Since Rupe listed Satana as one of his favorite interviews from the book, I asked him to share some thoughts, which he graciously supplied. You can find his reminiscence below.

Tura Satana, born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi, July 10, 1938, in Hokkaido, Japan, grew up in an Italian, Jewish, Polish neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, IL after her family were released from the Manzanar relocation camp for Japanese-Americans after the war. Asians didn't mix well in the neighborhood and Tura found herself constantly fighting with the African-American girls on her way to and from school, skills that would serve her throughout her life. At age nine an a half Tura was brutalized and raped by five boys from the neighborhood. She then formed a girl gang with her Italian, Jewish, and Polish girlfriends called the Angels. After her parents placed her with an abusive uncle, Tura walked away to start her own life, becoming a cigarette girl at the Moulin Rouge on Hollywood Boulevard.

By age 15 she was a burlesque dancer with a fake ID. She was discovered by Turk Prujan who hired Tura for his Trocadero nightclub, also on Sunset. She also earned money modeling, becoming a favorite of famed actor Harold Lloyd, with results printed in Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D. During her tour in New Orleans, Tura performed down the street from Lili St. Cyr before working for Harold Minsky, who was married to Lily's sister. While performing in Chicago at the Follies Theater, Elvis Presley became infatuated and the two started an affair resulting in a marriage proposal. She declined, but kept the ring.

While working the Follies Theater in Los Angeles, a Warner Brothers scout approached Tura and she earned her Guild card on Hawaiian Eye. Subsequent television roles including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Burke's Law. While working at the Pink Pussycat in West Hollywood, Billy Wilder and his wife came in one night and enraptured with Tura's performance realized they had finally found the girl to play Suzette Wong in the Shirley Maclaine-starring Irma La Douce. Tura's performance earned her additional roles as the nightclub dancer in Dean Martin's Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? and the job of Carol Burnett's choreographer for the film.

Tura earned her most visible role while performing in Irma La Douce. She got a call from her agent to come read for Russ Meyer. She didn't have time to change so she showed up in the wedding dress she was wearing for Irma La Douce. Russ handed her the script for "Leather Girls," the original title of Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill! and asked how she would play her. Tura replied, "I'd make her kind of feminine, but also a bitch on wheels." After her cold reading Russ told her, "You are definitely Varla."

Ted V. Mikels gave Tura two more classic roles in Astro-Zombies, and Charlie's Angels precursor The Doll Squad, where she starred alongside Francine York and Michael Ansara.

Deciding to spend her time raising her two daughters, Tura left show biz and returned to her nursing career which she first studied while in high school, and continued to go to nursing school while dancing. One night, a druggie who had been turned in to the police by one of the doctors came looking for him and shot Tura twice but only hit her once, in the stomach. In 1981 she was hit by a driver without a license, heading at her at 60 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone. She spent two years in the hospital. They told her she would never walk again but she told the doctor, "Not only will I walk again, doc, but I'm going to do everything else I used to do." She made that promise shy of her martial arts moves.

When I interviewed her, I asked her if she had any words to live by. "One of the things that I always said, and it was one of my father's favorite sayings, 'Always be good to the people on the way up, because you're going to meet them on the way down.' I have always lived by that philosophy.

"The one thing you've got to remember is that you just never accept defeat. Remember to never let life get you down, because there is always something new to learn tomorrow. Life is to be lived, and lived well."

Tura Satana passed away February 4, 2011, in Reno, NV.

A press release from her manager will be released in a few days.

You might also like:

24 Comments

  • Joel Vargas | March 1, 2011 9:35 AMReply

    Wow...I've finally met to know who she was, as I a kid ( I was born in 1967) I recall seeing bits of pics of her.

    My Condelenses and Respect to her Family members and I'm sorry to see some hurt family feelings.

    I've seen Beauties, But I've always wondered until now, who was that Hot, Tough, Pretty, Cool looking girl /woman in those black and white pics of Faster Pussycat.

    For sure Hollywood, will take notice of this as Movie, but it will be commercially better than Betty Paige (that one was good too), but WOW, Tura Satana - She was HOT and Awesome, but Bio and Warmth comments from others in her later years - says alot.

    My Condolences to her Family again, please Take light of my Wow of her, particular of the images she created on that Faster Pussycat character, even though time moved on. Maybe Quentine Tarantino can do the Movie and to bad that known porn actress something Tara Patrick can't act, cause she would bring Tura Satana image back again.

    Forget the Betty Boo images, I'm going to put Tura Satana (from that film character), in my bar, cause it's COOL.

    Take care and Thanks Pamela DeBarres for finally bringing forward who this person was on VH-1

  • Richard Freeman | February 17, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    The most beautiful woman the world has ever known.

  • Kalani SDS | February 12, 2011 10:07 AMReply

    Shade:

    FYI ... TerrySatana is not related to my mother. There are two sisters who prefer not to be named. There are two daughters (Jade and myself). There are seven grandchildren (Shawn, Danae, Dane, Glenn, Brady, Sharla Rae, and Candee). There are three cousins from my Aunt Kitty (who has also passed) ... Jerry, Eddie, and Robin. There is also another cousin who was my mom's personal hair stylist for all of her career, Peter Young (who continues to do hair at the Sportsmens Lodge Beauty Salon in Studio City, California). Then there are a ton of relatives from the Phillipines (none of which have the last name Satana).

  • Thomas Bissett | March 15, 2013 5:46 PM

    Hi Lalani,
    I knew your mother Tura for a short while in Chicago 1958 -59. Tura was interested in my dance experience in high school and we talked about it. We both liked the same 50's R&R music. I was 18 and tura was about 19-1/2. At the time I was in the Navy at Great lakes Naval base and was going steady dating your aunt "Kitty". Tura was one of the most beautiful girls I was ever priviledged to meet, and treated me very well. I liked your aunt Kitty very much, she had me over to her mom & dad's house on I think Thanksgiving day 1958 for a wonderful dinner, where Tura made a very short visit that day. Kitty had a wonderful laugh and a sincere spirit. . I also took Kitty to a big formal Dance on the Navy base, she was absolutly beautiful in her colorful sleek dress, as everone couldn't take their eye's off her. When the navy transferred me out, I unfortunatly lost track of Kitty, and never able to contact her again. I am greatly sorrowed at the loss of your mother Tura. and I am so sorry to hear (if I understand your message about your aunt Kitty) that Kitty has passed away sometime before. God bless them both. Kitty had a very young infant son when I met her, and It sounds like she also had two other children after that. Is that true, and how old are they now. Where did Kitty live for most of her life, and where did she live when she passed away. I would like to visit her cemetary and pay some sort of tribute to her if I ever get the chance to travel that way. Did Kitty or Tura ever speak of me as Kitty called me "Tommy-Son", the boy from Ohio. Kalani, I would love to hear from you if you have time and think it appropriate. As I write these words, the memories I share of Tura and Kitty bring both the joy of knowing them and the terrible sadness of their loss. Thank You from an old friend --- Tommy-son

  • Kalani SDS | February 9, 2011 6:51 AMReply

    Jade and I have had a moment to catch our breath now. DH ... thanks for your understanding. I know it is near impossible to control how, what, and when things get released on the internet about our mother; however, our outrage was really over someone trying to steal our Mom's Thunder and Glory by releasing information that was not true ... acting as if that person had the authority to speak for the family.

    Note to Jeff: Chill out Dude! Siouxzan, Tura's manager, had to start releasing the info to the press because of the situation I just described above. Someone putting out the incorrect info and making claims that were not true. By the way, Siouxzan is like a sister to Jade and I. We do refer to her as our "sister" because Mom loved and trusted her like a daughter/sister/friend/manager.

    We don't object to the fans and friends paying homage to our mother. We DO object to people putting out lies and offensive references while we are still accepting her passing (less than hours after)!

  • Clarissa | February 8, 2011 9:49 AMReply

    To Kalani and Jade, please accept my deepest condolences for your loss. I have known your mother's work for a long time, but I only recently found out from my siblings that we were distantly related to her on the Pascual side. We also lost our mother a few years ago, so we know how painful that could be.

  • David Priol | February 8, 2011 5:06 AMReply

    I also had the joy of interviewing the lovely Miss Tempura and she remains forever etched in my heart as a great lady, with a great send of humour, great pathos and sadness also followed her life and I was saddened with her loss but glad she no longer suffers the pain which has plagued her life these last few years. She brought joy to so many lives and I am all the better for having known her a little during these last 6 years....and best wishes to Tura's daughters whom she loved deeply....may they always know joy and have fond memories of their beloved mother....

  • Morbid Curiosity | February 7, 2011 11:55 AMReply

    http://www.examiner.com/dead-celebrities-in-national/tula-is-gone-may-she-and-her-massive-rack-become-heaven-s-newest-bosom-buddy

  • Ryan Bruce Levey | February 7, 2011 3:25 AMReply

    Hi kalani,

    My sincere condolences to you and your family. I adored your mother and was blessed to be her Chaperon and PR person during festival of fear in Toronto. I was amazed at her and was glad to be there to help smooth over what was a rather rough trip for her. I remember also being in Palm Springs with her and Kitten, and sharing a wonderful weekend together.

    She is one of the most amazing and wonderful women. She is a hero of mine, and I cherish every hour we had together and every phone call and online chat we had also.

    I hope one day to meet you, your mother was always gushing about her daughters and grandchildren.

  • Mark | February 7, 2011 1:55 AMReply

    The family would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers. Tura was an amazing woman, who lived a full and rich life. She will be missed by her family, friends and fans.

  • Mr Davidson | February 7, 2011 1:23 AMReply

    wow ,there are so many totally amazing people I've never known about,my deepest condolences .ADE

  • dh | February 7, 2011 12:30 AMReply

    I feel badly for the family that obituaries and other pieces are being written before they had a chance to release an official statement. Unfortunately, it's probably too late too expect such niceties. The internet has made reporting and commentary instant, and not particularly concerned with fact-checking or other processes that used to be standard procedure. This is sometimes a bad thing, sometimes a good thing, but at this point it's a done deal. You can't expect folks to hold off on such things anymore--they just don't see it as their responsibility to wait for permission, out of politeness, or any other reason.

  • John Glendenning | February 6, 2011 7:34 AMReply

    I came across Tura one night as I watched a late late night movie, I'd never seen her before and didn't know who she was but I was mesmerized by her beauty and became an instant fan and follower.

    Needless to say I am devistated by her passing, This is truely a sad moment for all of her family, friends and followers.

    I give my utmost sympathy and condolences to her daughters and anyone else who saw her as the sunshine that she'd became in all our lives.

    She was deeply appreciated and will be missed even more by those of us who followed her career or were fortunate enough to have been a part of her life or hers in theirs.

    Love forever and Always,

    A fan.

    John Glendenning
    Kissimmee, Florida

  • Jeff Case | February 6, 2011 5:27 AMReply

    If you're gonna blame anyone, blame the manager. She's the one who told the press. If your family needed time to grieve, she should have known better than to release information. It's not the fans' faults or the blog posters faults for paying homage to your mother.

  • Mark | February 6, 2011 3:16 AMReply

    Has anyone given thought that Tura Satana was a mother, a grandmother, a sister and a the matriarch of a large entended family? To most of you she was a "cult" film star. She was not a part of your daily life, you will not have the emptiness that we all feel with her passing.
    The family knew that there would be a media circus surrounding her death. Maybe we needed time to grieve in private before all this was made public.

  • Kalani SDS | February 6, 2011 3:07 AMReply

    Shade ... I know when the above picture was taken. It was at the Chiller Convention in New Jersey last year. The red bag next to my mother on the chair belongs to my service dog, and I was the one who snapped this picture of you sitting on my mother's lap.

    Mike: Please don't start an attitude with my sister and I. My mother has barely been passed for 24 hours. I don't think it is unreasonable to be allowed time for our family to grieve before we put out a full press release, and if you all didn't feel that the presses/internets rights were more important than our family's ... then I guess it wouldn't be an issue. However, if they are going to release information ... it should, at least, be accurate.

    My mother was born on July 10th, 1938 which makes her 72 at her passing. She was beautiful and amazing every day of her life, so back up and grant us a few moments of grief before we release much official information.

    Francis, Bryan, Terry, and Dusty: Thank you for your gracious comments in honor of my mother. She would appreciate your standing up for her and our family.

  • Francis | February 6, 2011 2:18 AMReply

    My sincerest condolences. Your mother was an inspirational woman.

  • Mike Justice | February 6, 2011 1:49 AMReply

    I read about her passing in Indiewire and the New York Times, and at this writing at least a dozen other news sources on the web are making mention of it. So if y'all are waiting for some sort of press release or confirmation before anyone writes about her, you've got a lot of people to take this up with.

  • Kalani SDS | February 6, 2011 1:03 AMReply

    My sister, Jade, and I ...as well as our aunts (Tura's sisters) do not have our feelings "hurt." We are asking that you all respect our family's time of mourning, and honor our mother and the memories of her by not going off on wild tangents of "I heard ...[such and such] ..." without consent and affirmation from our family or Siouxzan Perry (Tura's manager). NO less than you would each want for yourselves or your family's in the same situation.

  • Shade Rupe | February 5, 2011 11:38 AMReply

    Hi Terry, her birthday was listed as 1935 at Wikipedia. I told Siouxzan and she changed it. Also I had told Siouxzan I was posting. Sorry your feelings are hurt. I loved your mother and have been in touch with her for years and just saw her last year. I sent this article to Siouxzan and allowed her to comment and offer changes. I was not told the family had to consent first.

  • Bryan | February 5, 2011 11:02 AMReply

    She was born July 10, 1938, so she was 72.

  • Terrysatana | February 5, 2011 11:01 AMReply

    True inspiration! And yes, she was a genuinely nice person, regardless of her image otherwise.

  • Jade Fall | February 5, 2011 10:37 AMReply

    Thank you for your posts about my mother....however I think it is extremely poor taste to 1. List her birthday incorrectly and 2. announcing her passing prior to the official press release without concent of the family!!!

  • Dusty Summers | February 5, 2011 10:07 AMReply

    I admired Tura not only for her professional accomplishments but because she was a genuinely nice person!

Follow Me

Most "Liked"