Posted June 26, 2002
THE TRUTH ABOUT GROUPIES
My friend The Mysterious Miss Havisham in Sydney sent me a link
to Groupie Central, "the
first website for groupies". She reckoned I should write a column about
it. "I think groupies have been under-represented on the I-94 for too
long," she said. Sure, the Barman HAD previously sent me a link to the
site for Cynthia of the famous Plaster
Casters - if you missed the '60, you can still look 'em up - but I hadn't
actually thought about WRITING anything about it. Lately, however, I've had
a lot more time on my hands than formerly, and I'd been secretly LOOKING for
Initially, though, I suggested she give it a whirl. The Alan Alda smug male feminist inside me coming out, I told her that the Bar could use a female perspective (not having had one since her friend, the sadly departed Miss Anne, penned a book review sometime last year). She wasn't so sure at first.
The Mysterious Miss Havisham: I think it'd probably sound bitchy coming from a chick. Besides, I'd be a little paranoid somebody might call ME one!!!
Ken: Remind me sometime to tell you about the death threats I got for downing the Hellacopters, or the European muso I got in a flame war with after 9/11.
MH: Aaaarrgggghhh!!! I get in enough close calls with crazy nasty chicks as it is!!!
K: Yeah, but how many of them 1) have Internet access AND 2) can read? Not to mention 3) know the Bar?
MH: HAHAHAHAHA! Too true! But I get a bit defensive about groupies. What IS a groupie? I've known a few guitarists! Aargh. I'm not I'm not I'm not.. It was THEM, not me! If you hang around places postal workers go and that's who you meet and that's who cracks onto you does that make you a postie groupie??? What, me defensive?!
K: Methinks she doth protest too much.
MH: HAHAHAHAHA! I know! But seriously...what DOES make a groupie (as opposed to a star fucker)?
K: According to the smiling folks at Groupie Central, "A 'star fucker' best describes a subcategory of groupies who tend to pursue sexual relationships only with famous people (and usually bragging about it later). Not all groupies are star fuckers; some groupies are looking for love and romance, while others only want a friendship. And some groupies are attracted to singers and musicians who aren't famous." Makes sense to me.
MH: Okay, well, what are you called if the singers and musicians are the ones attracted to YOU and pursue YOU?
K: Hmmm, lessee, there's nothing in the definition about intent or who initiates...I think you're still busted. You say you have a thing for guys with a "wild streak" (although I still can't believe you're serious about Chewbacca the Wookie) and musos at least have the romantic image of being outlaws/outcasts/outsiders, or possessing a degree of freedom unavailable to average civilians. Is it any wonder, then, that gals are attracted, even if the outsider in question (Iggy, say) is doing stuff like blowing his nose in his hand and then eating it (see "Please Kill Me")? It's that ANIMAL MAGNETISM thang. (Myself, I relate more to poor old Ron Asheton, "the fat Beatle," talking the castoffs down from bad acid trips and playing nursemaid to "the puking girls," but I guess that tells you more about me than it does about either rock 'n' rollers or groupiedom.)
Conversely, one of the things I always used to hear back in the glam/glitter days was that guys who play up their feminine side appear more sympathetic and less threatening to gurls than your normal ball-scratching, T-shirt wearing bozo (punk kinda threw a monkey wrench into this theory, I guess). Hence the whole appeal behind Mick and Keef, Rod Stewart/Ron Wood (who my future ex-wife always used to tell me I "felt threatened by"), Steven Tyler/Joe Perry (who I never liked after I was 19 and my girlfriend dumped me, then went up to New England with her parents, where she claimed to have hung out with Aerosmith...who always reminded me of the girls in my school, USUALLY Italian, who dressed like that before there WAS an Aerosmith, and used to show they liked you by spitting and throwing lit cigarettes at you...but I digress) and the like. And by the way, how come those guys always seemed to come in PAIRS? Now in the age of "Will and Grace," we have the phenom of the "gay friend" (and if I was 16 again, for real, I can't say that I wouldn't be PRETENDING to be gay, since it's the most reliable way I've observed of getting close to the opposite sex in this here Millennial age).
MH: HAHAHAHAHA! I can remember a particular gig way back when, it was an Exploding White Mice gig. They used to get heaps of chicks going to their gigs. You know how some bands are real "bloke" bands? Like the Rifles, their crowd's mostly big boofy guys. But EWM used to get HEAPS of chicks. Real dolled up chicks too. Anyways, EWM gigs were always adventures. For some reason, whenever you'd go to see them you'd end up having one of those nights where you'd never know where you'd end up or what you'd be doing. We used to LOVE going to those gigs. Me and Anne, Jenny, everybody else we used to hang with back then. And way back when, I used to get right up the front, right in the thick of things whenever I'd go see bands. We all did. Just 'cause it was the most intense place to be! So I'd elbowed and squeezed and dodged and got right up the front, like always. And I remember the whole front line there at the stage was just groupie chicks. Real groupie chicks. What I always thought groupies were anyway. And when they saw another chick edging in on their "territory," God help her. God help ME! They started slamming into me, elbowing me, tried ganging up on me. I just thought it was funny. I wasn't interested in any of those guys, I thought they were doofuses. I remember seeing the guy, what the frig's his name, anyway, the singer, he was watching this slag fight and he LOVED it. Who wouldn't I guess. Only I wasn't in on the act. He started playing up to me, giving me the eye, etc. I thought eieuuuuuww yuk! Just play, you knob! But this set the chicks right off. I thought it in my best interests to get the hell outta there. Moved back about half a dozen rows. Don't see many scenes like that any more.
K: What do you think it is that made the EWM such a chick band and the Rifles not?
MH: Perhaps because the Rifles sprung from the Northern Beaches and that's a huge yobbo area. Parramatta by the Sea!!! Very traditional in that the blokes hang out with the blokes, they surf, their chicks wait on the sand. BLOKE BLOKE BLOKE. And ironically, they made up the biggest part of the crowd, especially in earlier gigs, and they just didn't get that what the Rifles were talking about shat all over what they were! Dipsticks! Also, maybe the Rifles were a bit more serious, had issues and causes. Exploding White Mice were just glammed up boys, playing R&R, and trying to get laid. They used to wear the makeup and the scarves, maybe that goes back to what you said earlier - guys in touch with their feminine side being less threatening? Plus, the types of chicks that those groupies were, that's what they were after. Peacocks to show up to parties and gigs with. The Rifles kinda growled out their lyrics and music, angry young men. Different type of thing.
K: Why don't you see many scenes like that anymore? Have chicks changed that much? My observation is that there seem to be more now who dig the music, rather than the guys in the bands, and here at least I'm seeing more who are at shows of their own volition, rather than being dragged along by their boyfriends. This happens at shows you wouldn't expect, like the Dictators (where none of the guys in the band are conventionally handsome, HDM's moniker notwithstanding).
MH: Maybe there still ARE scenes like that. Maybe it's just where people the same age as we were back THEN do that sort of stuff, and wherever they hang is where it's happening. The music scene shifted big time as you know, especially here in Sydney, and 20-year-old kids just don't have the same adventures open to them as we did. I'm not sure where they're going. Maybe if you rock up to nightclubs, there's young dolled up chicks beating each other up to get to the DJs, or maybe at those godawful Blink-182 type fallout bands get the young chicks there too. I'll bet there are.
K: A friend of mine (who's most definitely NOT a groupie, although she once dated one of the Mono Men) and I were discussing how America's become a nation of obsessives. We get addicted to anything and everything...drugs, alcohol, nicotine, food, TV, sex, relationships, uh, MUSIC...Anyway, she said, "I blame it on the nation's puritanical roots. We're ashamed/afraid of true liberation/freedom so we do things to a) do penance for anything that could be construed as 'impure' or out of the ordinary, and b) chastise/crucify anyone who dares to break out of this norm, while c) we secretly do all the things we'd like to be able to do freely." It reminded me of the time I made my ex-girlfriend watch the video of the Stooges at the Cincinnati Pop Festival and she asked me, "You'd like to act like Iggy, wouldn't you?" I told her, "Who WOULDN'T?" In the same way, doesn't at least part of the stigma against groupies stem from the fact that they're out there doing what a lot of women would like to but, for whatever reason, can't?
MH: So what makes this friend definitely not a groupie?
K: Doesn't follow bands. Doesn't go to shows.
MH: So if you secretly want to meet/date/have sex with musos and you're going to the gigs and you're sneering down your nose at the "groupies" at the front putting it out there and hanging around after the gig hoping to get lucky, and you're standing there watching the band and you're idolising them but you just don't act on your secret desire, are you really a groupie just the same? Like an alcoholic who might not be drinking, but they're still an alcoholic?
K: I dunno, but I figure that it's what you DO that defines what you are, not how you think of yourself. And no, I don't think that everyone who idolizes bands is a groupie.
MH: I disagree. I think you are how you think of yourself.
K: The alcoholism comparison is interesting...I know plenty of self-defined "alcoholics" who haven't had a drink in 30 years. Why they continue to define themselves as such is a whole 'nother discussion, and I think it has a lot to do with the nature of compulsive behavior and therapeutic approaches to it, and THAT has a lot to do with, uh, the mores of society. (Here in the States, the ultimate goal of treating alcoholics is total abstinence; in Europe, the goal is for the alcoholic to learn moderation. And each will tell you that the other's view is unrealistic.)
MH: Because in any language, it's their nemesis. And just because they're winning the battle doesn't mean it still isn't so. And isn't that what the battle between good and evil is all about (bit heavy here, seeing we're only s'posed to be talking bout groupies, but hey). Knowing what we WANT to do, or feel compelled to do, but doing what we think is RIGHT or what we're supposed to do. And that gets back to the point your non-groupie friend made, about our puritanical roots (and I don't think that's just America), WHO SAYS what is right or wrong?
K: I once knew a fella who claimed that he could show how ANY form of human behavior could be traced back to a desire to get laid. In the same way, you could argue that there's an element of sexual tension in ANY interaction between women and men (assuming both are heterosexual), regardless of how innocuous it might seem on the surface. (And before I get busted by the PC police, sure, there are groupies and performers of all sexual orientations. That said, the authors of the Groupie Central site describe themselves as "young, female, and gorgeous," so I'd imagine they're a little more, uh, TRADITIONAL.) So, is it really so surprising that an audience member would make a performer an object of desire (and if they're bold enough, act on it)?
MH: So is it only having sex that makes someone become a groupie? Is it only the tension you're speaking of? If you're into the music you're into the music right? Plenty of guys go to see bands and get right into it, idolise the musos even sometimes. They offer themselves up as Roadies or Door Bitches, sound guys that do it for nix. Does this mean they aren't groupies because they don't have sex with the musos? So if it's only the having sex part that defines groupies, what about a chick who wasn't really good looking or sexy or just didn't put it out there very well, but she went to the gigs and got right into it and idolised the guys, offered up her phone number but didn't get taken up on any offers. So she ended up not having sex with any of them too. Would she still be a groupie?
K: According to Groupie Central's definition, they all are (I added the italics): "These days, the word 'groupie' can mean many things to many people, but it almost always means a person who pursues some kind of relationship (usually sexual) with a celebrity. The difference between groupies and regular fans is when regular fans meet their favorite celebrity, they're happy just to get an autograph or a picture, but groupies are more inclined to want to go home (or back to the hotel) with the celebrity. Regular fans may fantasize about getting to know their favorite celebrities better. Groupies actually go out and do it (or at least make serious attempts to do it)."
MH: I like those chicks! They know what they're talking about. So a groupie is someone who SEEKS OUT relationships??? What if the singers/musos are just people you're meeting anyway? Through other friends, at parties, other gigs? Got a lot to talk about, a lot in common? Similar taste in music whatever? Have a vibe happen....
K: Lessee...OK, looking at their definition again, I think I can get you off the hook on MOTIVE and INTENT. Are you happy now?
MH: Yes, thank you.
K: I'm curious what you think about this...hasn't the relationship between audiences and performers changed at all since, say, the seventies as depicted in "Almost Famous?" Are musicians REALLY idolized in that way anymore?
MH: I don't think the local music scene guys are on par with stadium-filling, limousine-using, supermodel-dating musicians. Think it's kinda hard to idolise someone when you see them walking round with an Australia Post bag delivering mail, or selling peanuts at the markets, or pouring beers at the Sandringham Hotel. Then again, everyone's gotta make a living. Unfortunately for those guys, their scene doesn't pay. But guess that's not why they do it. Gotta make a living too, and I like seeing people doing whatever they've got to to make a crust so they can continue funding what it is they do best. And it IS pretty impressive to see somebody in full swing, doing what it is they create so well.
K: Begs a whole 'nother line of inquiry: what's a musician? Most of the guys you see in the pubs work straight jobs (or are on the dole). Very few support themselves as musos, but I guess that's your point. For our purposes, maybe we can just say that a muso is anybody who performs music in public; a groupie is anybody who digs musicians ON ANY LEVEL (and remember, Groupie Central's definition says it doesn't HAVE to be about sex).
MH: And then again there are plenty of "real" musicians who make a fortune off session work, but I never hear of any chicks lining up to shag them.. Or any guys offering to be their roadies. Then look at the Ramones, they couldn't even PLAY! Well, some of them.
K: But back to your point, I have absolutely on idea about groupiedom at that more exalted level, 'cos I don't go to any arena/stadium shows.
MH: Me either! Although I DID go to a Pearl Jam outdoor concert that was pretty big back in...what, '93 or something? But from memory, that was mainly blokey too. And the biggest memory I have from that night, was how big the moon was, how different faces at a gig look lit by the moon. That, and how fucking cold it was. It was Canberra, and it was the middle of March. Felt like breathing in refrigerated water!
K: Not to pick on Patti Smith, but I think it's interesting that Sharon Osbourne and Cher are listed on the site, but she's not.
MH: AND Heather Locklear, AND Jerry Hall, who even though they aren't musos, they still have a huge amount of fame and fortune. They're way famous on their own.
K: And Winona Ryder. I also like the fact they have personal ads. I think every website should.
MH: Do they? I didn't look that far in there.
K: Yeah. They're about like you'd expect. Now that we've established definitively that you're NOT a groupie, I have to say that I think what makes groupies interesting IS the sex angle. Another question: bearing in mind that we're all male, middle-aged, and wretched (well, to be charitable, let's just say NOT GORGEOUS), are the BAR STAFF groupies? We've all written thousands of words for free, traveled far at personal expense, blahblahblah. (Personally, I'd say no; we're WHORES -- amazing what otherwise respectable people will do for free tixxx and recs.)
(Note: Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.)