Tura Satana, Actress With a Cult Following, Is Dead
By DAVE ITZKOFF from http://www.nytimes.com/
Tura Satana, an actress whose authoritative presence, exotic looks and buxom frame commanded the attention of viewers of Russ Meyer’s 1965 cult movie “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” died on Friday in Reno, Nev.
The cause was believed to be heart failure, her longtime manager, Siouxzan Perry, said. She said Ms. Satana was 72, though other sources listed her birth date as July 10, 1935, which would have made her 75.
Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi on the Japanese island of Hokkaido to a father of Japanese and Filipino descent and a mother who was Cheyenne Indian and Scots-Irish, Ms. Satana spent part of her childhood in the World War II Manzanar internment camp for Japanese-Americans in California before her family settled in Chicago.
Her Asian background and appearance and the fact that her physique developed early led to frequent harassment and assaults, and she lived an itinerant life, working as an exotic dancer and nude model.
After playing a supporting part in the 1963 Billy Wilder comedy “Irma la Douce,” Ms. Satana found her breakthrough role in “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” a Meyer exploitation film that, in stark opposition to the director’s later works, featured no nudity. In the film she played Varla, the leader of a gang of go-go dancers who kidnap a couple, murder the boy and force the girl to follow them on further lawless adventures.
Ms. Satana’s portrayal of Varla as a brazenly violent but unapologetically feminine woman who frequently upbraids the men who dare to ogle her — when a gas-station attendant tells her he believes in “seeing America first,” Varla replies, “You won’t find it down there, Columbus!” — earned her a cult following that endured long after the drive-in era.
During the 1960s, Ms. Satana appeared on television shows like “Burke’s Law” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” She also acted in “The Doll Squad” and “The Astro-Zombies,” both by the B-movie director Ted V. Mikels. More recently, Ms. Satana was featured in the 2002 film “Mark of the Astro-Zombies,” also directed by Mr. Mikels.
In recent decades, the influence of Ms. Satana’s no-nonsense attitude could be seen in pop-cultural artifacts ranging from “Xena, Warrior Princess” to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies.
Ms. Satana is survived by two daughters, Kalani and Jade, and two sisters, Pamela and Kim, Ms. Perry said.
In an interview with The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Ms. Satana explained that her performance in “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” was convincing because she was essentially playing herself.
“I was getting rid of a lot of anger!” she said. “A lot of things when I was growing up and as young girl — that anger I kept inside of me all those years — I think I finally let it loose.”