I’m With the Groupie

April 25, 2017

“When you write a book, trust me, you have no idea anyone is actually going to read it,” Pamela Des Barres says. The author is best known for her memoir, I’m With the Band (Chicago Press, 2005), an account of her wild days as a Los Angeles groupie, hanging out with the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimmy Page, Gram Parsons and Keith Moon. It followed her passage from Beatles-loving teenage valley girl to glammed-out Sunset Strip scene queen, providing a snapshot of the rock ’n’ roll world at the height of its ’70s outrageousness.

“I am proud that I was one of the first ‘unknowns’ to tell their tale,” she says. “It helped others to tell their own stories. And it gave me a writing career.” Des Barres is continuing to help other women tell their stories through her writers’ workshops, which have been held across the country and return to Las Vegas August 30-31.

During her youth, the sunny-spirited Des Barres took her own shots at acting and music, but her real claim to fame originated in a childhood gift. “My mama got me a diary for Christmas when I was 8 or 9, and I felt obligated to write in the darn thing. I found I really enjoyed expressing myself,” she recalls. “As the years went on and my life became so wildly fabulous, my diaries got filled to the brim with thrilling ups and dastardly downs.”

If I’m With the Band wasn’t a direct inspiration for the current legion of female autobiography, it’s hard to imagine that Elizabeth Wurtzel or Amy Schumer didn’t spend at least a few day-job lunch hours thumbing through a copy. Des Barres has written four other books and numerous articles; her workshops grew out of her own continuing education. “I would take creative writing courses between my books just to keep ‘fresh,’” she says. “Halfway through the class I realized I could be teaching it!”

Des Barres’ workshops are intimate, female-only and focus on first-person work. She leads the group with bubbling enthusiasm and a genuine interest in her “dolls” (as she calls the attending writers). Even if the product isn’t quite a “Light My Fire” or I’m With the Band, Miss Pamela is still encouraging and inspiring.

By Lissa Townsend Rodgers

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