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The term groupie is derived from group, in reference to a musical group, but the word is also used in a more general sense, especially in casual conversation, to mean a particular kind of female fan assumed to be more interested in relationships with rock stars than in their music. A groupie is generally considered a devoted female fan of a band or musical performer. The term originates from the female attaching herself to a band. A groupie is considered more intense about her adored celebrities than a fan and tends to follow them from place to place. A groupie will attempt to have a connection with the band and may seek sexual or intimate contact. Obsessive groupies will almost certainly involve themselves sexually with any members of the band including the roadies. Further, there are now groupies of sports teams and other types of celebrities.
Groupies became prominent in the music scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Female groupies in particular have a long-standing reputation of being available to celebrities, pop stars, rock stars and other public figures. Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant is quoted as distinguishing between fans who wanted brief sexual encounters, and "groupies" who traveled with musicians for extended periods of time, acting as a surrogate girlfriend often taking care of the musician's wardrobe, and social life. Nancy Spungen, who became the partner of Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols, is one such example; women adopting this role are sometimes referred to as "road wives." Cynthia Plaster Caster, Cleo Odzer, and The GTOs ("Girls Together Outrageously"), with Pamela Des Barres, in particular, as de facto spokeswoman, are probably the best known groupies of this type.
Musician Frank Zappa organized "The GTOs" in the late 1960s. The band consisted of 7 young women: Miss Pamela (Pamela Des Barres), Miss Sparky (Linda Sue Parker), Miss Lucy (Lucy McLaren), Miss Christine (Christine Frka), Miss Sandra (Sandra Leano), Miss Mercy (Mercy Fontentot) and Miss Cynderella (Cynthia Cale-Binion). The young teenage girls who dominated the backstage scene beginning in the early seventies were sometimes referred to as the "Baby Groupies" by certain musicians. These girls started going backstage when they were fourteen years old and set a precedent at the time. The best known of this group were Sable Starr, Lori Maddox, Queenie, and Geraldine Edwards, who was one of the inspirations for Penny Lane, played by actress Kate Hudson, in the 2000 comedy-drama film Almost Famous.
Early descriptions of the groupie phenomenon were given by the Rolling Stone issue of 15 February 1969, the Time article "Manners And Morals: The Groupies" (28 February 1969), and the 1970 documentary Groupies.
A characteristic that may classify one as a groupie is a promiscuous reputation. Connie Hamzy, also known as "Sweet Connie", a prominent groupie in the 1960s argues in favor of the groupie movement and defends her chosen lifestyle by saying, "Look we're not hookers, we loved the glamour" (Pop & Hiss). However, her openness regarding her sexual endeavors with various rock stars is exactly what has enhanced the negative connotations surrounding her type. For example the article "Pop & Hiss", found in the Los Angeles Times, states, "Hamzy, unlike the other groupies, was never looking to build relationships. She was after sex, and she unabashedly shared intimate moments with virtually every rock star – even their roadies – who came through Arkansas."
Des Barres, who wrote two books detailing her experiences as a groupie – I'm With The Band (1987) and Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up (1993) – as well as another non-fiction book, Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon, asserts that a groupie is to a rock band as Mary Magdalene was to Jesus. Her most recent book, Let's Spend the Night Together (2007), is a collection of wildly varied interviews with classic "old school" groupies including Catherine James, Connie Hamzy, Cherry Vanilla, DeeDee Keel, Margaret Moser, and Patti Johnsen, as well as modern groupies Lexa Vonn & the Plastics. According to Des Barres in Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies: "One of the most intimidating dolls was Dee Dee Lewis (Keel), a slim strawberry blonde who won the highly prized job of Whisky office manager after her predecessor Gail Sloatman, met Frank Zappa and became what we all wanted to be." Des Barres, who married rock singer / actor Michael Des Barres, also persuaded cult actress Tura Satana, singer and model Bebe Buell, actress Patti D'Arbanville, and Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark to talk about their relationships with musicians.
"Apple Scruffs", from George Harrison's album All Things Must Pass, refers to the Apple scruffs, a group of teenage girls who staked out The Beatles' Apple Corps offices, Abbey Road Studios, and Paul McCartney's home, often sleeping outside in rough weather, waiting for a glimpse of a Beatle. The Beatles' song "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" refers to the day a few Scruffs climbed into Paul McCartney's house through an upstairs bathroom window and raided his closet for a pair of trousers, which they took turns wearing. They also took a framed photograph, which they later returned at McCartney's request.
The movie Almost Famous revolves around the life of groupies (although they call themselves 'band aids' in the film). The famous "band aid" comment originated from a statement that Bebe Buell made in an interview in the seventies. Cameron Crowe incorporated it into his screenplay. In 1970 Groupie Girl was released by American International Pictures and was written by director Derek Ford and Suzanne Mercer based on Mercer's experiences as a groupie.
Groupies also play a role in sports. For example, "buckle bunnies" are a well-known part of the world of rodeo. The term comes from a slang term for women ("bunnies"), and from the prize belt buckles awarded to the winners in rodeo, which are highly sought by the bunnies. According to one report, bunnies "usually do not expect anything more than sex from the rodeo participants and vice versa".
In a 1994 Spin magazine feature, Elizabeth Gilbert characterized buckle bunnies as an essential element of the rodeo scene, and described a particularly dedicated group of bunnies who are known on the rodeo circuit for their supportive attitude and generosity, going beyond sex, to "some fascination with providing the most macho group of guys on earth with the only brand of nurturing they will accept". Similar individuals are seen in other sports, such as the "puck bunny" in Hockey, Baseball Annies and the "snow bunny" in skiing.
During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs, there were undoubtedly astronaut groupies—women who would hang around the hotels of Clear Lake and Cocoa Beach "collecting" astronauts. Joan Roosa, wife of Apollo 14 LMP Stu Roosa, recalled "I was at a party one night in Houston. A woman standing behind me, who had no idea who I was, said 'I've slept with every astronaut who has been to the Moon.' ... I said 'Pardon me, but I don't think so.'"