Tura Satana, Cult Actress, Is Dead
By DAVE ITZKOFF
Tura Satana, the actress whose authoritative presence, exotic looks and buxom frame commanded the attention of viewers of Russ Meyer’s 1965 cult movie “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”, died on Friday evening in Reno, Nev.
The death was announced by her longtime manager, Siouxzan Perry, who said the cause of death was believed to be heart failure. Ms. Perry said Ms. Satana was 72 when she died, though other sources listed her birth year as 1935.
Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan, to a father of Japanese and Filipino descent and a mother who was Cheyenne Indian and Scots-Irish, Ms. Satana spent part of her childhood in the Manzanar internment camp near Independence, Calif., before her family settled in Chicago. Her Asian background and looks and the fact that she developed early led to frequent harassment and assaults, and she led an itinerant lifestyle, working as an exotic dancer and nude model. She even posed for erotic photographs taken by Harold Lloyd, the former silent comedian, who suggested she pursue an acting career.
Her breakthrough role came in “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”, a Meyer exploitation film that, in stark opposition to the director’s later works, featured no nudity. In that film, Ms. Satana played Varla, the leader of a gang of go-go dancers who kidnap a couple, murder the boyfriend and force the girlfriend to follow them on further lawless adventures.
Ms. Satana’s portrayal of Varla as a brazenly violent but unapologetically feminine woman who frequently upbraids the men who dare to ogle her — when a gas-station attendant tells her he believes in “seeing America first,” Varla replies, “You won’t find it down there, Columbus!” — earned her a cult following that endured long after the drive-in era. In later decades, the influence of Ms. Satana’s no-nonsense attitude could be seen in pop-cultural artifacts ranging from “Xena, Warrior Princess” to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies.
Ms. Satana is survived by two daughters, Kalani and Jade, and two sisters, Pamela and Kim, according to Ms. Perry. Ms. Perry said a memorial service was being planned for around July 10, Ms. Satana’s birthday.