Sable Starr, taken in 1973 at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco
|Born||Sabel Hay Shields
August 15, 1957
Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||April 18, 2009 (aged 51)
Reno, Washoe County, Nevada, U.S.
|Occupation||Rock and rollgroupie|
Sable Starr (nee Sabel Hay Shields; August 15, 1957 – April 18, 2009) was a noted American groupie, often described as the “queen of the groupie scene” in Los Angeles during the early 1970s. She admitted during an interview published in the June 1973 edition of Star Magazine that she was closely acquainted with Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, and Marc Bolan.
Life as a groupie
Starr first attended concerts around Los Angeles with older friends who had dropped out of school in late 1968. She lost her virginity at age 12 with Spirit guitarist Randy California after a gig at Topanga, California. She had a younger sister, Corel Shields (born 1959), who was involved with Iggy Pop at age 11. Pop later immortalized his involvement with Starr herself in the 1996 song “Look Away.”
I slept with Sable when she was 13,
Her parents were too rich to do anything,
She rocked her way around L.A.,
‘Til a New York Doll carried her away…
Starr became one of the first “baby groupies” who in the early 1970s frequented the Rainbow Bar and Grill, the Whiskey A Go Go, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco; these were trendy nightclubs on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. The girls were named as such because of their young age. She got started after a friend invited her to the Whiskey A Go Go at the age of 14. Starr later described herself at that period as having been “nuts to begin with. I always liked getting into trouble”. She had considered herself unattractive, so she had a nose job when she was 15. During the time Starr was a groupie, she continued to live at home with her family and attended Palos Verdes High School to placate her parents.
In 1973 she gave a candid interview for the short-lived Los Angeles-based Star Magazine, and boasted to the journalist that she considered herself to be “the best” of all the local groupies. She also claimed that she was closely acquainted with some of rock music’s leading musicians such as Jeff Beck, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan, and Alice Cooper, adding that her favorite rock star acquaintance was Led Zeppelin‘s lead singer, Robert Plant. When asked how she attracted the attention of the musicians, she maintained it was because of the outrageous glam rock clothing she habitually wore. She was often photographed alongside well-known rock musicians; these photos appeared in American rock magazines such as Creem and Rock Scene.
Starr admitted to having gotten into fights with rival groupies and she allegedly had a confrontation with Bianca Jagger, who at the time was married to Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. According to Starr, she knocked on Bianca’s hotel room and when the latter opened the door she was told “in a few four-letter words to ‘get lost'”. Her closest friends in Los Angeles were fellow groupies Shray Mecham and “Queenie”. Model Bebe Buell described Starr as having been one of the two top Los Angeles groupies of the era, adding that “every rock star who came to Los Angeles wanted to meet her”.
She ran away from home when she was 16 after meeting Johnny Thunders, guitarist in the glam rock band the New York Dolls. She went to live with him in New York City. Their relationship didn’t last, mainly due to his violent jealousy and drug addiction. He had wanted to marry her after she became pregnant with his child, but she refused and instead had an abortion. Tired of the physical abuse Thunders often inflicted upon her, and unable to adjust to the New York lifestyle, Starr moved back to Los Angeles. She claimed that “He [Thunders] tried to destroy my personality. After I was with him, I just wasn’t Sable Starr anymore. He really destroyed the Sable Starr thing”. She made frequent visits to New York where she had an affair with Richard Hell, befriended Nancy Spungen, and participated in the local burgeoning punk rock scene. By the early 1980s, she was no longer part of the groupie milieu.
Later years and death
Starr died at her home in Nevada on April 18, 2009 of brain cancer at the age of 51.
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