Tura Satana  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Tura Satana (July 10, 1938-February 4, 2011) was a Japanese-born American actress and former exotic dancer. She was best known for her role as "Varla" in Russ Meyer's 1965 cult film, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.


Early life

Satana was born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaidō, Japan. Her father was a silent movie actor of Japanese and Filipino descent, and her mother was a circus performer of American Indian (Cheyenne) and Scots-Irish background. After the end of World War II and a stint in the Manzanar internment camp in Lone Pine, California, she and her family moved to the Westside of Chicago. She developed breasts very early and, despite being an excellent student, was constantly harassed for her figure and Asian heritage. Walking home from school at the age of nine she was gang raped by five men. Her attackers were never prosecuted and it was rumored that the judge had been paid off. This prompted her to learn the martial arts of aikido and karate and, over the next 15 years, track down each rapist and exact revenge. "I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them," she said years later. "They never knew who I was until I told them."

Because of the rape and the bribed judge, she was sent to reform school as a teenager and became the leader of a gang. In an interview with Psychotronic Video, she said, "We had leather motorcycle jackets, jeans and boots and we kicked butt." At 13, she was married in Hernando, Mississippi, a short-lived union arranged by her parents and the family of her 17-year-old groom.

Satana then came to Los Angeles at age 13 with a fake ID and tried her hand at blues singing. When that failed, she started modeling as a bathing suit photography model and posed nude for the silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, who did not know she was underage. Lloyd told Satana she should be in films because she was photogenic. While working as a photographic model, Satana contracted makeup poisoning and could not wear any makeup due to the ensuing skin erosions. She returned to Chicago to live with her parents and started dancing. Satana danced at the Club Rendevouz in Calumet City, Illinois, where she was known as Galatea, the Statue that Came to Life. She was offered a raise to become a stripper. She eventually became a successful exotic dancer, traveling from city to city and working with Rose Le Rose, Maxine Martin The Skyscraper Girl, Tempest Storm, Candy Barr and Stunning Smith the Purple Lady. Satana credits silent film star and 3D photographer Harold Lloyd with giving her the confidence to pursue a career in show business: "I saw myself as an ugly child. Mr. Lloyd said, 'You have such a symmetrical face, the camera loves your face...you should be seen."" Because of her dancing, face and figure, she was ultimately voted one of the 10 Best Undressed Burlesque Dancers of the 20th Century by Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera.

At 19, Satana got pregnant, but continued dancing for the next eight months, earning a typical weekly salary of about $1,500.

Acting career

During her early career, Satana appeared on television shows such as Burke's Law, The Greatest Show On Earth, Hawaiian Eye, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. She also appeared as a dancer in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? with Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery. That same year, she had a cameo as a Parisian prostitute in the musical Irma La Douce with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine.

After starring in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Satana worked mainly with cult film director Ted V. Mikels in such films as The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Doll Squad (1974) and Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002). She has also appeared as herself in various documentaries and TV shows including The Incredibly Strange Film Show (1988), A & E's documentary called "Cleavage"(2003),Strip de velours (2005) and Sugar Boxx (2007) which is currently in post production and co-stars fellow Russ Meyer alumna Kitten Natividad.

Faster Pussycat! Kill Kill!

Satana's most noted screen role is Varla in the 1965 film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! - a very aggressive and sexual female character for which she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes.

Renowned film critic Richard Corliss called her performance "...the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest."

Originally titled The Leather Girls, the film is an ode to female violence, based on a concept created by Russ Meyer and screenwriter Jack Moran. Both felt at her first audition that Satana was "definitely Varla." The film was shot on location in the desert outside Los Angeles during days above 100 degrees and freezing nights, with Satana clashing regularly with teenage co-star Susan Bernard, because of Susan's mother disrupting the set. Meyer said she "was extremely capable. She knew how to handle herself. Don't fuck with her! And if you fuck with her, do it well! She might turn on you!"

She was fully responsible for adding key elements to the visual style and energy of the production, including her costume, makeup, usage of martial arts, dialogue and the use of spinning tires in the death scene of the main male character. Meyer cited the extreme tension on the set caused by Satana as the primary reasons for the film's lasting fame. "She and I made the movie," said Meyer. Meyer came to greatly regret not using Satana in his subsequent productions.

Later years

After making Ted V. Mikels' The Doll Squad in 1973, Satana was shot by a former lover. She later found employment in a hospital, a position she kept for four years. She had studied nursing at Firmin Deloos Hospital. She was then briefly employed as a dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1981, her back was broken in a car accident. She spent the next two years in and out of hospitals, having two major operations and approximately fifteen others.

Personal life

Satana dated Elvis Presley but turned down his marriage proposal.

Satana married a retired L.A. police officer in 1981, and remained married until her husband died in October 2000. She has two daughters from a previous relationship. Her older daughter Kalani had a cameo role in Mikels' Ten Violent Women. She had remained friends with Ted Mikels till her death.


Satana passed away on Feb. 4, 2011 in Reno, Nevada. Her long-time manager, Siouxzan Perry, stated the cause of death as heart failure.

Selected filmography


  • Alternative metal band Tura Satana are named after her.
  • Argentinian band Babasonicos has a song in her honor, ¡Viva Satana!.
  • Seattle industrial band Kill Switch...Klick released a four song EP in 2008 featuring Super Amanda on vocals performing four different mixes of the Tura Satana Tribute song "Hemi Charger."

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tura Satana" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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