Famous Groupies Who Died Without Much Fanfare

They were an indelible part of the daring, debauched, and party-hearty culture of 1970s rock 'n' roll, but the women collectively nicknamed "groupies" didn't live out the rest of their lives in the fame (or infamy) afforded to the musicians to whom they devoted their youth. Mostly in the '70s (and a little in the '60s, '80s, and '90s), groupies were as much a part of a major band's concert tour as pyrotechnics, giant speakers, and roadies. They'd follow bands from town to town, hang out backstage, and accompany their favorite musicians to the after-parties, often for years on end. Why? To party, to revel in the scene, and to be close to living legends and enjoy their company — often in a sexual manner.

But as the era of icons like Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and The Who came to an end, so too did the era of groupies. Many of these women got on with their lives that pulled them in all sorts of interesting directions and then, like everyone else, they died. Unlike their classic rock cohorts, their deaths went largely unnoticed or unreported by the collective culture. Here are some of the best-known groupies of all time who passed away with little mass acknowledgement.

Connie Hamzy

"I was determined to become a famous groupie," Connie Hamzy told Arkansas TV station THV11 in 2019. That's a goal she achieved. She attended most any rock act's concert tour if it made its way through Little Rock in the 1970s and beyond. She also provided intimate entertainment for a great many of those musicians and members of their road crews. She told "The Howard Stern Show" that when she was 15, she had an encounter with Steppenwolf drummer Jerry Edmonton, the first on a list that she says includes Keith Moon, John Bonham, two-thirds of Rush, Don Henley, both Van Halen brothers, Huey Lewis, Peter Frampton, all of ZZ Top, Neil Diamond, most of Kiss, Dan Fogelberg (and his manager), and the Allman Brothers. Hamzy was immortalized in music history; in Grand Funk Railroad's 1973 hit "We're an American Band," the lyrics reference a stop in Little Rock and mention "Sweet, sweet Connie, doin' her act."

Hamzy retreated into private life, and when she died in August 2021, Little Rock's Arkansas Democrat Gazette tentatively reported the death. Her funeral home didn't wish to be quoted and referred media to Hamzy's parents, who had both died years earlier, while relatives made reference to the apparent death on social media. "Connie was a character," cousin Rita Ann Lawrence said. "She was very colorful. She was always in the news." Hamzy was 66 years old.

Sable Starr

In Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's punk oral history "Please Kill Me," Sable Starr said she was a preteen troublemaker who attended her first rock show in Hollywood at the behest of a friend when she was 14. Among musicians she was known as a "baby groupie," who'd use a fake ID to get into shows at venues such as the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and Rainbow Bar and Grill. Starr also reportedly lost her virginity to Randy California of the band Spirit. By the age of 16, Starr was a regular companion to Iggy Pop (whom she lived with for a month), Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls, and Davie Bowie, and she had engaged in relations with members of Roxy Music and the J. Geils Band.

Sabel Shields (that's Sable Starr's real name) eventually settled in the Reno, Nevada, area, living with her partner and two children. For the last 16 years of her life, she worked at a local casino resort, dying from a brain tumor in April 2009. The former Sable Starr was 51 years old.

Tawny Kitaen

While still in high school in La Jolla, California, in the late 1970s, would-be model and actor Tawny Kitaen dated Robbin Crosby, a member of the band Phenomenon. As she told "Rock Talk with Mitch LaFon," she and Crosby moved in together when she was 15 or 16 years old, and she worked as the band's stylist and hairstylist. When Phenomenon evolved into Ratt, Kitaen posed for the covers of their first two releases, "Ratt EP" in 1983, and "Out of the Cellar" in 1984. In Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks' "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution," Kitaen said that she and Crosby split up in the mid-1980s and she entered into a relationship with Van Halen's tour manager, Pete Angelus. It lasted three years, during which time Kitaen began an acting career, appearing in "Bachelor Party" with Tom Hanks and in the video for "Here I Go Again," a No. 1 hit for Whitesnake in 1987. She wore flowing white garments and writhed around on a car for the duration of the clip; she'd be married to Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale for two years, and would star in three more Whitesnake videos.

The office of the Orange County Coroner told media outlets in May 2021 that Kitaen died at her Newport Beach, California, home. An autopsy later showed that Kitaen died from heart disease exacerbated by hardened arteries and prescription drug use. Kitaen was 59.

Tura Satana

Elvis Presley emerged as one of the first real rock 'n' roll superstars in the 1950s. And so too did Presley associate Tura Satana make history as one of the first rock 'n' roll groupies. The Japan-born, Chicago-raised Satana nude modeled and performed as an exotic dancer. Her routine in which she danced and stripped while accompanied by a Buddha statue transfixed Presley, and they began a physical relationship. "He was a very considerate lover and the old-type Southern gentleman," Satana told the San Francisco Chronicle. She claimed he proposed marriage, and she said no; when Presley did marry, he reportedly urged wife Priscilla Presley to adopt Satana's look: beehive and ponytail hairstyles and thick eye makeup. Satana later carried on a relationship with former baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio, after the end of his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, and would star in the 1965 cult classic B-movie "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"

Satana's manager confirmed that her client died on February 4, 2011. The former groupie and actor died of heart failure at a Reno, Nevada, hospital at the age of 72.

Cathy Smith

At age 16, Cathy Smith left school and her home in Burlington, Ontario, and in a bar in nearby Hamilton, saw a performance by a band called the Hawks — whose members would later find success as The Band. Smith connected with multiple Hawks, including Rick Danko, Levon Helm, and Richard Manuel. At age 17, Smith gave birth to a baby (whom she placed into adoption) she claimed was Helm's, which he denied.

Smith then carried on a three-year-long tumultuous affair with married singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, then, while singing and writing for Hoyt Axton's band, started taking drugs like cocaine and heroin. She moved into dealing to celebrities, including John Belushi. It was Smith who injected Belushi with the heroin and cocaine that led to his fatal overdose at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood in 1982. Smith was questioned and released by police, but was charged after a damning interview with the National Enquirer. "I killed John Belushi. I didn't mean to, but I am responsible," Smith said. After agreeing to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and drug charges, Smith would serve 15 months in prison and be deported back to Canada.

The British Columbia Coroners Service in Canada told media outlets in early September 2020 that Smith had died of undisclosed causes on August 16 in the town of Maple Ridge. After suffering from health issues for years, Smith died at age 73.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Cynthia Albritton

Better known by the nickname derived from her artistic pursuit and groupie-adjacent hobby, Cynthia "Plaster Caster" Albritton was immortalized in a song by Kiss for her pursuits from the 1960s into the 1980s. In 1968, inspired by her art classes at Chicago's University of Illinois, she approached Jimi Hendrix backstage and asked to make a plaster reproduction of his reproductive anatomy. Using a dental molding compound over the decades, Albritton obtained recreations of dozens of rock star genitals, including members of the MC5, the Dead Kennedys, and Journey, the end result of a process of using whatever means she had at her disposal to ensure the men were at full attention. She'd later exhibit her work in a documentary and at gallery shows.

A celebrated, one-of-a-kind rock music side character for decades, Albritton returned home to Chicago and in April 2022 died from the results of an illness not disclosed to the media. Albritton was 74.

Cleo Odzer

In 1969, Steve Paul, who owned New York club The Scene, said in a Time exploration of the groupie phenomenon that "no more than 10" women could be called "super groupies" — the alluring, scene-dominant individuals who captured the hearts and attentions of the most high-profile of rock stars. Among them was Cleo Odzer, who featured prominently on a 1969 LP called "The Groupies," consisting entirely of interviews with women talking about their lifestyle and passion. Odzer's most famous relationship, which ended with a called-off engagement, was with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's Keith Emerson.

After leaving the rock world behind, Odzer worked in the drug trade and became a writer, earning a Ph.D. in anthropology and publishing one of the first books about sex in the internet age. Odzer settled into the bohemian expatriate community of Goa, India, about which she wrote extensively, according to Arun Saldanha's "Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race." Odzer died in March 2001 at age 50, the cause of which was later revealed to be AIDS-related illnesses.

Miss Mercy

At age 15 in 1964, Judith Peters left her family home for San Francisco, changed her name to Miss Mercy (after Don Covay's song "Mercy, Mercy") and started to dress in a Victorian fashion, inspired by her friends in a band called the Charlatans. Within a year, she was hanging out with the likes of Brian Jones and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and soon became close friends with Christine Frka, an employee of Frank Zappa. When Zappa met Mercy, he placed her into a band he was putting together. That band, Girls Together Outrageously, or the GTOs, comprised seven women, all of them big players on the LA groupie scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mercy titled the GTOs only album, "Permanent Damage," and then resumed hanging out and working with rock stars, including Gram Parsons, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Lee of Love, and guitarist Shuggie Otis, to whom she was briefly married.

Pamela Des Barres announced on her Instagram account in July 2020 that her friend, bandmate, and fellow ex-groupie Miss Mercy had died. The former Judith Peters had been ill for years before dying at the age of 71.

Miss Christine

According to Alta, on the day of her high school graduation in 1967, Christine Frka set out for Hollywood and wound up part of a loose collection of artists in the Laurel Canyon neighborhood. With fellow groupie Pamela Des Barres, she became part of a roving support dance crew called Vito's Dancers, who played parties, clubs, and gigs around Los Angeles, which led to a job as housekeeper, secretary, and nanny for Frank Zappa and his family. When Zappa put together the GTOs, a supergroup made up entirely of well-known groupies, he included "Miss Christine." Among Miss Christine's other 1970s musical connections: She inspired Alice Cooper, appeared on the album art for Zappa's "Hot Rats" and Todd Rundgren's "Runt," and dated singer-songwriter Arthur Brown, Russell Mael of Sparks, and David Robinson of the Modern Lovers, whom she was visiting in Massachusetts at the time of her death.

Born with a spinal deformity that led to a number of health issues, Miss Christine was outfitted with a corrective body cast in 1972, according to Perfect Sound Forever. Just after it was removed, she was found dead from a drug overdose, likely a mixture of pentobarbital and quaaludes. Miss Christine was 22.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Barbara Cope

According to Keith Richards in Bill Janovitz's "33 1/3: The Rolling Stones' 'Exile on Main Street,'" Barbara Cope, aka the Butter Queen, "did loads of wonderful things with butter," with rock stars. What, exactly? "Those who know, know, and those who don't, wish they did," Cope said on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1987. During that same interview, she estimated that she'd entertained about 2,000 musicians. 

Cope told the Los Angeles Times (via DavidCassidy.com) that she started her groupie life at shows in 1965 in her hometown of Dallas, then moved out west. She toured with Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, and Joe Cocker, and encountered members of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. According to The Dallas Morning News, when Led Zeppelin played Texas in 1973, singer Robert Plant asked the crowd about the whereabouts of "the Butter Queen." Around that time, she appeared on the cover of Buddy magazine, billed as "Dallas' leading groupie" and inspired a line in the 1972 Rolling Stones song "Rip This Joint": "Down to New Orleans with the Dixie Dean/Across to Dallas, Texas, with the Butter Queen." After living large for a few years, Cope left the music scene at the age of 22 and retired to private life in Dallas.

In January 2018, Cope's home in Dallas caught fire, and she couldn't make it out in time; authorities found her body near the front porch. Barbara Cope, the Butter Queen, was 67.