On May 22, I took Pamela Des Barres rock tour of Hollyweird and Laurel Canyon as part of my road trip through the American Southwest, and I’ve been mulling about how I should relay my experience ever since.
The day I found Pamela’s 1987 memoir “I’m With The Band” is very vivid in my mind. I knew almost nothing of her at the time, and so when I stood in the rock memoir section of the bookstore perusing my options, it was pure chance that I noticed her book. Reading the memoir and hearing her stories of being a groupie in 1960’s – 1970’s Los Angeles set my brain on fire. Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf made up only some of her sexual adventures of the time. Not to mention her wild experiences at Frank Zappa’s log cabin babysitting Moon Unit and recording music with the GTO’s.
As soon as I finished her memoir I looked her up online. The front page of her website told me that she taught memoir-writing classes and that she was coming to Toronto for the very first time in just a month.
Before the class, I was so nervous that I sat in my car for a good ten minutes mustering up the courage to walk into the host’s house. Whether the nerves were led by being about to meet one of my idols, reading my writing in front of a group of women, a fear of the unknown, or an equal amount off all three, I’m not too sure.
There were about twenty women who had signed up, none of whom I knew, but many of whom knew each other. For four hours we sat around in a circle, wrote stories for exactly twelve minutes prompted by topics Miss P gave us, and then read our stories aloud to each other. The topics varied from writing a letter to our sixteen year old selves, to picking one person in history to have dinner with, to describing our very first love interests.
It was an experience akin to staring into a strangers eyes for three minutes straight and falling in love. I walked out of class that evening having met people I now call my best friends.
Let me be clear, I do not believe in fate, destiny, or any of the ilk. Yet, written in the most loose meaning of the phrase, finding her book, going to her workshop, and meeting some of my favorite people felt like it was “meant to be”. My life from that point forward took a very steep curve into uncharted, magical territory.
Fast forward three and a half years to when I decided to visit Los Angeles.
Soon after I booked my ticket, I messaged Miss P telling her when I would be in L.A. and asked what would be good around town. She offered to set up one of her famous rock tours. It was perfect.
On the day of the tour, I went along with my dad and brother to the tour’s initial meeting place of Amoeba Records at Sunset and Cahuenga. It didn’t take long for us to find our tour mates and pile into Miss P’s ten-passenger white van. There were eight passengers, one driver – fellow rock connoisseur/ musician who once opened for The Ramones/ Pamela’s friend, Kip Brown – and one Miss P. One by one we introduced ourselves and talked about our musical interests. Once we were all assured that we were in the company of like-minded free spirits, we took off.
The van carried us to various stops in Downtown LA, the Sunset Strip, Hollywood, and Laurel Canyon. At each stop, Miss P would read from her book, give a personal anecdote to what happened at the location and tell us what it was like to have lived through such a lauded time in rock history.
Posing outside of the Whisky A Go-Go
Photo Courtesy of Kip Brown
We went to the fountain in which Keith Moon decided to pour an entire box of Tide, to the doors of the venue where Miss P rolled around backstage with Jim Morrison while loaded on Trimar, to the studio where John Lennon insulted her by repeating her name over and over until it sounded like mush, and to the remnants of Frank Zappa’s infamous log cabin… among so many others.
The tour was about four hours long in total, including a lunch stop at a local taco joint, and was a completely informal, laid back experience. Fellow attendees were encouraged to pipe in and share their personal experiences with rock n roll at any time, and non-tour related banter included recent rock star deaths and groovy new bands.
We indulged ourselves in sweet, sticky nostalgia for the afternoon, the ones old enough to have actually been there unleashing their rose-colored memories onto us younger folk.
Not only was Miss P’s rock tour an amazing way to see Los Angeles for the first time, it was an incredible way to hear about the freewheeling ways of trailblazing rock stars from someone with first hand experience.