Exploitation film icon Tura Satana passed away on the evening of Friday, February 4, at her home in Reno, Nevada. The cause was heart failure. She was 72.
Satana was best known for her role as go-go girl gang leader Varla in Russ Meyer‘s 1965 cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, an ode to female violence for which she provided her own costumes, much of her dialogue, and did all of her own stunts. Satana also appeared on television shows such as The Greatest Show On Earth and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She had a small part as a prostitute in the film Irma La Douce with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine, and appeared in the Ted V. Mikels films The Astro-Zombies and The Doll Squad.
Satana’s personal life was even more sensational than those she played on screen. She was born in Japan and moved to California with her family as a child, where they were made to live in a Japanese internment camp. The family then moved to a rough neighborhood on the Westside of Chicago. During that time Satana was the victim of rape, the target of racism, sent to a reform school, and the leader of a girl gang – all before being married off by her parents at the age of 13.
Within a year, Satana left her husband to try her luck in Los Angeles. She worked as a pin-up model, and eventually became a highly acclaimed exotic dancer. During her life in showbiz she dated such luminaries as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, who Satana complained, “kissed like a fish.”
Satana drifted away from show business in the 1970′s, but continued to make the occasional appearance in cult film documentaries and at festivals. In 1981 she married a retired Los Angeles police detective, with whom she remained until his death in 2000. She is survived by daughters Kalani Silverman of Enoch, Utah, and Jade Fall of Reno; and six grandchildren.