Sable, on the right, outside the English Disco in 1972.
I've been meaning to write this post for awhile- I started it several months ago, but had trouble finishing it when I heard Sable Starr had died of cancer in April. Somehow it seemed distasteful to discuss someone who had just passed solely in terms of the clothes they had worn as a teenager. This post is going to be longer than what I had originally planned, but I feel that she deserves some greater detail.
Lori Maddox, Dave Hill from Slade and Sable Starr in 1973.
For those who don't know, Sable Starr was pretty much the Super Groupie of the 1970s LA scene. Pamela Des Barres and Bebe Buell might be more famous, but Sable was the real deal. Born Sable Shields in Palos Verdes in 1958, she started going out on the scene as a 12 year old and lost her virginity to Iggy Pop at 13. Sable instantly became the queen of the new scene that sprang out of Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco and the Whiskey A Go Go with every visiting rock star eager to meet her. She had affairs with everyone- Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, David Bowie and many more.
Queenie, Shray Mecham ('Star Magazine' model) and Sable at Rodney's 'English Disco', from "Star" Magazine last issue, July 1973.
When she learned that the New York Dolls were coming to town in 1973 Sable got all of her friends together to buy them gifts to surprise them. She bought Johnny Thunders Frederick's of Hollywood silver lingerie, and when they met they quickly fell in love. Renouncing her groupiedom (at 15!), she moved to New York to be with him and they got an apartment together. Their happiness did not last too long due to his jealous rages and increasing heroin use. His psychotic moods led Sable to slit her wrists, but was found in time and then sent back to her parents. Thunders and Starr continued their dysfunctional relationship, causing her to run away to Atlanta where she met Keith Richards. Johnny continued to pursue her so she went back to live with him in New York until their relationship ended in 1974. Of him, she said, "We didn't work it out, but we planned to marry. I even got pregnant, but had an abortion. He wanted to change me: Johnny is Italian, he wanted me to stay at home all the time. He made me feel bad, 'cause I was a hot girl and suddenly I was the lady of the house".
After this she began to split her time between LA, living with her parents or her sister (who was dating Iggy), and NY, where she stayed with Debbie Harry or Nancy Spungen (her best friend and a notorious Sable-wannabe). Sable stayed friends with Johnny, who introduced her to his band mate Richard Hell- the two fell in love and she moved full time to New York. After they broke up she moved home and gave up the scene forever, at age 17. For the last few years she has lived in Nevada as a croupier with her two kids, until she succumbed to brain cancer this spring.
Debbie Harry and Sable at the Whisky A Go Go in 1980.
Her story is quite something when you consider that it all happened over such a short time period and to someone so young. From the later interviews I read with her she came out remarkably well-adjusted, and from what I know of her at the time Sable was like a ray of sunshine in the scene. In all of the photos of her she glows with youth and excitement, all the time wearing amazing outfits. Fashion for her was all about attention grabbing outfits, lots of glamour so she wore tons of bootie shorts, sequins, 1940s furs and hats, metallic platforms and leotards all topped off with her mane of blonde curls.
"The crowd at the club ranged in age from twelve to fifteen... nymphet groupies were stars in their tight little world. Some dressed like shirley temple; others wore dominatrix outfits or 'hollywood underwear,' a knee-length shirt, nylon stockings, and garter belts. These stargirls streaked their hair chartreuse and like to lift their skirts to display their bare crotches." David Bowie
Sable and Lori Maddox in 1973.
Johnny Thunders and Sable in 1973.
Sable and Iggy Pop in 1973.
Sable at John Bonham's 24th birthday with Lori Maddox, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Morgana Welch, Tyla, Rodney Binghenheimer, Peter Grant and Queenie Glam at Rodney's "Rainbow Bar and Grill" in April 1972.
Sable and Johnny at the Whisky in 1973.
I have many more pictures- it was hard just to choose a few!
Labels: glam, groupies, Los Angeles, sable starr, Style Icon