February 9, 2011

The Face That Launched A Thousand Drag Queens

On Monday, actress Tura Satana, known for her legendary role in FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!, died of heart failure.  I think an actor's career can often be measured by their influence on other performers and Ms. Satana, with her fierce attitude and sassy style, clearly inspired not only a generation of ass-kicking female stars but also more than a few drag queens as well.  I've always felt her role was the inspiration behind the look and attitude of many of today's biggest drags.  And, like a true drag star, even her age was a mystery, officially listed as 72 but quite possibly 76 or older.

Tura had a tough upbrining as a Japanese-American, including time spent in an internment camp during WWII.  When she took on show business, it's no surprise to learn that she started out as a burlesque star before transitioning into the world of B-movies.  There she truly made her cultural mark with the role of Varla, the spitfire woman-warrior who has all the best lines, not to mention a few good left hooks.

Tura's big role had a massive impact pop culture, with her influence today seen in places like Quentin Tarantino movies and the TV show XENA. Tura's life has also inspired a documentary film, which I found a trailer for on YouTube.  It has some great clips from FASTER too.  As you'll see, not only was she a true cult star but also a true original.