“It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.” —The Rolling Stones
“If you live in rock and roll, as I do, you see the reality of sex, of male lust and women being aroused by male lust. It attracts women. It doesn’t repel them.” —Camille Paglia
I began hanging out at the Whisky a Go-Go in the summer of 1964. The beginnings of the counter culture were in the air that summer: Jack Kennedy had been assassinated the year before and riots and protests were beginning to challenge the establishment. The country was increasingly in turmoil over civil rights, the Vietnam war, free love, psychedelic drugs, and rock and roll. Night clubs featuring rock and roll music and dancing were still something of a novelty, but the Whisky quickly became the newest hot spot on the L. A. Sunset Strip. People lined up down Sunset Boulevard, passing joints and tabs of acid, waiting to go inside where the music was loud and the go-go dancers shimmied in cages over the stage. The door bouncer would usher me and other celebrities through the jostling crowd into the raucous, smokey interior.
The Whisky incubated some of the greatest rock music of the day: the Doors, the Turtles, the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Byrds, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. After being the first woman to perform rock and roll on the movie screen, I still couldn’t get enough of it. As Camille Paglia said, women are attracted to the male lust in rock and roll. My view of sex has always been more male than female anyway—fulfilling my momentary passion rather than trolling for that white picket fence and a house full of kids—so the Whisky was like a magnet to me.
Just about any night you could find me in my booth at the Whiskey with my best friend and hairdresser, Don Morand. Don was the poster boy for the Love Generation, a Bob Dylan look alike, tall and thin, with long hair and a Jesus-beard.
If I wasn’t in my booth, I might be upstairs shooting pool, running the table on Jim Morrison one night. This training would later come in handy when I dated a notorious pool shark named Bo Belinsky.
Since this is a page-turner for Playing the Field, I’ll leave you with two teases. First, Don and I were Frugging it up one night at the Whiskey when I noticed someone else dancing next to me. After a moment, Don discretely sat down. I recognized Steve McQueen and we continued dancing together. It was the beginning of something special.
Second, when I was dating singer Johnny Rivers (“Mabelline”), a regular performer at the Whisky, he escorted me through the mob scene of photographers and fans one night to the booth where George and Ringo of the Beatles were sitting with Jayne Mansfield.
(The complete stories are, of course, in Playing the Field.)
When that wild summer of 1964 ended, work called and play took a back seat. My agent booked me to first headline at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas, then at the Latin Quarter in New York. It was one of those summers that resonates in the memory, like the rock and roll echoing through the Whisky, impossible to recreate or to forget.