Before Pamela Des Barres was known as a writer and the now ex-wife of rocker Michael Des Barres, she was a Pamela Miller, a girl from Reseda, California. She lived for rock and roll and wanted to be around all of that musical energy. However, she didn’t just go to concerts and hang up posters of the Beatles on her bedroom wall. “Miss Pamela,” as she was later nicknamed, actually met many of her favorite rock stars, had relationships with them, and lived to tell the tale.
Pamela got hooked on rock and roll at a very young age. She loved singer Dion, the Beatles and later became a fan of the Rolling Stones, which made her a bit of pariah among her friends who found the Stones dirty and repugnant. Before long Pamela ditched her bouffant for long hippie goddess tendrils and fully embraced the counter-culture lifestyle of the 1960s.
Whereas Pamela’s high school classmates went off to college or to the work place after graduation, Pamela hightailed it to Hollywood and joined the scene. Getting close to musicians was a lot easier back then and it wasn’t long before Pamela started meeting musicians like the Doors (she made out with Jim Morrison), Frank Zappa, and the Byrds.
Macking on Jim Morrison was a fleeting moment, but Frank Zappa and the Byrds truly became a part of Pamela’s life. Pamela befriended Frank’s wife Gail and later acted as a nanny to the Zappa’s young children. Blown away by Pamela and her friends’ unique style and energy, Frank turned them into the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). The GTOs weren’t so much a band as they were a living and breathing piece of performance art.
As for the Byrds, Pamela fell hard for bass player Chris Hillman. Pamela and Chris struck up an on-and-off again romantic relationship, and Pamela later followed Chris when he formed after the Flying Burrito Brothers after the Byrds broke up.
Pamela had romances, dalliances and hook-ups with other musicians and famous folks. Among them included Keith Moon, Mick Jagger and Waylon Jennings. She loses her virginity to Nick St. Nicholas from Steppenwolf. And has her first orgasm with Noel Redding who was in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And she also nearly gets her hands on the King himself, Elvis Presley!
Pamela falls hard for Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and he flies her all over the United States until dumping her for Lori Maddox who was all of 13 at the time. Poor Pamela, who must have been in her early twenties at the time, felt ancient against the pubescent Maddox. How could she possibly compete?
Pamela also has a romance with a pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson who later takes up with a very young Melanie Griffith (damn, what is up with men and their obsession with adolescent tail?). Interestingly, enough Pamela remains friendly with Mr. Johnson and she and Melanie have become total besties. Pamela doesn’t allow bitterness to get the best of her.
When Pamela wasn’t indulging in carnal delights, she tried her hand at acting, traveled all over the United States and Europe and pretty much tried to find herself during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. She admits to experimenting with drugs. Fortunately for her, drugs never took the toll they did on others and she escaped being a casualty.
As Pamela approaches her thirties she begins to embrace maturity. She marries rocker Michael Des Barres and they have a son, Nicholas. Though the marriage doesn’t last (Pamela covers this in her follow-up Take Another Piece of My Heart), she and Michael remain friends. Pamela continues to write, teaches creative writing and is considered quite an inspiration to groupies and rock fans everywhere.
What I love about I’m With the Band is how it gives me a front row seat to a time I can only imagine. Pamela doesn’t just give the reader a sneak peek; she flings the curtain wide open and nearly shouts, “Take a look, dolls!” We get a glimpse of the good, bad and ugly of rock and roll excess. Plus, in an age where reality show starlets think sex tapes are the road to fame and politicians text their junk, Pamela’s sexual exploits are downright quaint!
But what truly makes I’m With the Band work is Pamela’s lively and distinctive writing voice. It’s honest and descriptive, with a fun, gossipy flair. And Pamela’s never afraid to show her real self, sharing her personal journal entries, which could be quite cringe-inducing. And despite heartbreak and the loss of friends, Pamela remains an optimist and a total sweetie. She’s a lover of men, a supporter of women and still believes in the power of rock and roll.