Tura Satana, best known for her portrayal of the violent, buxom Varla in the 1965 Russ Meyer film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, died on Friday in Reno, Nevada. Satana was born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in 1935 in Japan to a Japanese/Filipino father and Cheyenne/Scotch-Irish mother. After moving to the Unites States, her family was confined, with thousands of other Japanese-Americans, to the internment camp at Manzanar. Following the end of World War II, the family relocated to Chicago, where Tura grew up in a very tough neighborhood. She was constantly harassed by classmates and strangers for her Asian appearance and prematurely developed figure, and was raped at a young age. Afterward, her father taught her martial arts; in interviews she shared many tales of dustups in her teen years and adult career. Though she aspired to be a singer, she ended up dancing burlesque, and while performing in Los Angeles was spotted by producers from Warner Bros. Her first film appearance of note was as Suzette Wong in Irma LaDouce (1963), and she appeared on television numerous times in the 1960s, but her performance in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (which director John Waters has described as “the best film ever made”) overshadows everything else she did.
She was always good for a quote:
Zuri Zone: “There are a great many similarities between Varla and myself. Varla was an outlet for some of the anger I felt growing up. She was also a statement to women all over the world that you can be a take-charge person and still be sexy.”
San Francisco Bay Guardian: Ray Barlow, who played the all-American boy who tussles to the death with Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, “was afraid I was going to hurt him, and believe me, I came to the point where I really wanted to! Not that I did—I just dislike anybody who’s a wuss, and that’s exactly what he was.”
Time Out Chicago: “Elvis [Presley] kissed like a fish. Frank [Sinatra] was built like a studhorse and he knew what he was doing.”
For several years, Tura had been working on an autobiography and possibly a film of her life. Here’s a trailer of sorts for the latter: