We all have certain experiences that have a profound effect on us. One of mine's when, as a teenager, late night on Channel 4, I first watched Russ Mayer’s cult exploitation movie Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! The plot involved three go-go dancing, leather-clad, ultra-violent girls, who, in search of thrills, go on a spree of killing, robbery and seduction. John Walters once described it as ‘the best movie ever made’.
Leader of the three violent femmes was Varla, a raven-haired, voluptuous killing machine with the cruelest and most beautiful eyes imaginable. She was played by the actress Tura Satana whose real life was even more amazing than any of her screen rolls.
Her real name was Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi. She was born on July 10, 1938 in Hokkaido, Japan. Her father was a silent movie actor of Japanese and Filipino descent. Her mother was half Cheyenne Indian and half Scots-Irish. The mix gave Tura her unique and unforgettable looks.
Her family moved to the USA but with the anti-Japanese feelings during the war they were forced to live in an internment camp. African-American girls tried to bully Tura at school but she soundly beat them. She developed quite young and was horrifically gang-raped on her way home from school by a gang of youths. After this she took up martial arts and these would serve her well for the rest of her days. The youths who raped her were never brought to justice on account of a bribed judge. Tura was sent to a reform school and at the age of just 13 had an arranged marriage to 17-year-old John Satana.
After all this you can’t blame the girl for developing a rebellious streak. She ran away a year after her marriage to Los Angeles with a fake ID and ended up modelling nude for Harold Lloyd (yes that Harold Lloyd). After a while she returned to Chicago to live with her parents and started dancing. She became a successful erotic dancer, earning about $1,500 per week.
Her peerless beauty secured her many acting rolls in TV during the 60s including The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Burke’s Law, Hawaiian Eye, and The Greatest Show on Earth. Soon she was in demand on the big screen and appeared in such films as Doll Squad, Irma la Douce, and The Astro-Zombies (the latter being an amazing B-movie about a mad scientist who, having been fired by the space agency, decides to create superhuman monsters from the body parts of innocent murder victims, as you do. The creatures of course go on the rampage).
She dated Elvis Presley for a while and turned down his proposal of marriage. She finally wed a lucky LA policeman Endel Jurman in 1981 and remained with him till his death in 2000.
She left acting in the 1970s and became a nurse. During this time she was shot by a former lover who was high on drugs. In the 80s she was involved in a car accident that broke her back. She spent the next two years in and out of hospital, having a total of 17 operations. She was told that she would never walk again, but typically for her she refused to accept this and learned to walk again.
Recently she had returned to acting including a sequel to Astro-Zombies entitled Mark of the Astro-Zombies.
Last year she became a friend of mine on Facebook. I found her to be a delightful lady, now 72 but showing little signs of slowing down. She told me about her early life and I was amazed that she was not bitter about all the awful things that had befallen her. She told me that those things had made her into a stronger person, the person she was today.
Tura passed away on February 4th in Reno, Nevada, of heart failure.
Goodnight, sweet Tura. The world will not know your like again.