Tura Satana (July 10, 1938 – February 4, 2011) was a Japanese American actress, vedette and exotic dancer.
From 13 film and television credits, some of her work includes the exploitation film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), and the science fiction horror film The Astro-Zombies (1968).
John Satana (m. 1951–52)
Endel Jurman (m. 1981–2000)
Satana was born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaidō, Japan. Her father was a Japanese silent movie actor of 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 Manzanarinternment camp in Lone Pine, California, she and her family moved to Chicago.
Walking home from school just before her tenth birthday, she was reportedly gang raped by five men. According to Satana, her attackers were never prosecuted, and it was rumored that the judge had been paid off. She tells how this prompted her to learn martial arts, such as aikido and karate. Over the next 15 years, she tracked down each rapist and exacted 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." Around this time, she formed a gang, "the Angeles", with Italian, Jewish, and Polish girls from her neighborhood. In an interview with Psychotronic Video, she said, "We had leather motorcycle jackets, jeans and boots...and we kicked butt." Because of frequent delinquency, she was sent to reform school. When she was 13, her parents arranged her marriage to 17-year-old John Satana in Hernando, Mississippi, which lasted nine months.
Satana moved to Los Angeles and by 15, using fake identification to hide the fact she was a minor, began burlesque dancing. She was hired to perform at the Trocadero nightclub on the Sunset Strip, and became a photographic model for, among others, silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, whose photos of her appear in Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D.
She returned to Chicago to live with her parents and started dancing 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. After singer Elvis Presley saw her perform at Chicago's Follies Theater, the two began a romantic relationship that some reports say ended in a marriage proposal she declined. She eventually became a successful exotic dancer, traveling from city to city. She credited 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.'"
Satana's acting debut role was a cameo as Suzette Wong, a Parisian prostitute in the film Irma la Douce, which starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Her next role was as a dancer in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963), which starred Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery; Soon after, Satana appeared in the television shows Burke's Law (1964) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964).
Satana then starred as "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 when the weather was more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and freezing nights, with Satana clashing regularly with teenage co-star Susan Bernard due to Bernard's mother's reportedly disruptive behavior on the set. Meyer said Satana was "extremely capable. She knew how to handle herself. Don't fuck with her! And if you have to fuck her, do it well! She might turn on you!"
Satana was 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. She came up with many of the film's best lines. At one point the gas station attendant was ogling her extraordinary cleavage while confessing to a desire to see America. Varla replied "You won't find it down there, Columbus!" Meyer cited Satana as the primary reason for the film's lasting fame. "She and I made the movie", said Meyer. Meyer reportedly later regretted not using Satana in subsequent productions.
After Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, she primarily worked with film director Ted V. Mikels in such films as The Astro-Zombies (1968), and The Doll Squad (1973). After making 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 Desloge 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.
In 2002, she returned to acting, reprising the role of Malvina Satana in Mark of the Astro Zombies (2002), the sequel to The Astro Zombies.
Satana dated Elvis Presley but turned down his marriage proposal, although she did keep the ring. Satana married a retired Los Angeles police officer in 1981, and remained married until her husband died in October 2000. She had two daughters from a previous relationship.
Satana died on February 4, 2011, in Reno, Nevada, and was survived by her daughters, Kalani and Jade, and her sisters, Pamela and Kim. Her long-time manager, Siouxzan Perry, gave the cause of death as heart failure.
- Irma la Douce (1963) - Suzette Wong
- Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963) - Stripper (uncredited)
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) - Varla
- Our Man Flint (1966) - Stripper (uncredited)
- The Astro-Zombies (1968) - Satana
- The Doll Squad (1973) - Lavelle Sumara
- Man Hands and Swollen Glands (1990)
- Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002) - Malvira Satana
- The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels (2008) - Herself
- Sugar Boxx (2009) - Judge #1
- The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009) - Varla (voice)
- Astro Zombies: M3 - Cloned (2010) - Malvina (final film role)
- The alternative metal band Tura Satana is named after Satana.
- The Argentine rock band Babasónicos created a song honoring her, titled Viva Satana!.
- "Song For Tura Satana" is the sixteenth track on Zopilote Machine by The Mountain Goats.
- Australian punk-pop band Ratcat had a b-side called Tura Satana in 1989.
- 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.
- Las Vegas burlesque performer Elaina Satana adopted her stage surname as a tribute to Tura Satana.
- Frasier, David K. (1998). Russ Meyer: The Life and Films : A Biography and A Comprehensive, Illustrated, and Annotated Filmography and Bibliography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0472-8.
- McDonough, Jimmy (2005). Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-07250-1.
- Meyer, Russ (2000). A Clean Breast: The Life and Loves of Russ Meyer (3 Volume Set). El Rio, Texas: Hauck Pub Co. ISBN 0-9621797-2-8.
- Des Barres, Pamela (2007). Let's Spend The Night Together. ISBN 978-1-55652-668-8. Chapter 1 features Tura Satana.
- Paul, Louis (2008). "Tura Satana". Tales From the Cult Film Trenches; Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 199–203. ISBN 978-0-7864-2994-3.
- Rupe, Shade (2011). "Tura Satana". Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms. London, England: Headpress Books. pp. 348–375. ISBN 978-1-900486-69-9. Features a 27-page interview with Tura Satana illustrated with photographs.
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