Director Russ Meyer was defined by the female form, building a successful and profitable career on his personal breast fetish. The first thing you remember about Meyer’s filmography, after the initial reminisce of the pictures in their own right, are the beautiful and glorious women who have graced his celluloid. However, it wasn’t just those who starred in his films that had an impact and influence on the man himself and here I present the Top 10 Women in Russ Meyer’s life and career…
#10 – LORI WILLIAMS
My second favourite Pussycat next to Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Williams is memorable for being the most girl next door dancer out of the bunch. Whilst Satana has the classic stinging one-liners, Williams has lines that are dripping in innuendo and lust as she tries her best to seduce The Vegetable and even got royally drunk whilst filming the dinner scene. Those drunken slurs are real folks!
#9 – USCHI DIGARD
Undoubtedly the star of Meyer’s 1970 menage a trois Cherry, Harry & Raquel!, Digard was the last minute savior for the film when the lead actress left the shoot early and Meyer had twenty minutes of footage left to film. Digard appears in intercut scenes memorable for having nothing to do with the plot and only wearing an Apache headdress. An actress loyal to Meyer until the very end, Digard appeared in cameos in his later films whilst having a career on pornography.
#8 – LORNA MAITLAND
The star of Lorna (1964) and Mudhoney (1965), Maitland entered Meyer’s filmmaking world at the time when he started to move from shorts, scenario films and burlesque movies to pictures that had more of a structured plot. Alongside Satana, Maitland ranks as one of the most iconic women from his gothic period, with Meyer using the only colour stock footage of her in his mondo documentary Mondo Topless (1966).
#7 – ALAINA CAPRI
One of the few actresses to appear in Meyer’s film who was not only genuinely beautiful but actually had some acting ability. Capri only starred in two of the director’s films which were both released in 1967, Common Law Cabin and Good Morning… and Goodbye!. With hips that shook perfectly when she walked and a mouth that could give off acid tongued attacks, Capri is only second to Tura Satana in her sassy attitude and deadly looks.
#6 – TEMPEST STORM
The burlesque queen captivated Meyer with her voluptuous form which led to the two working together on numerous photo shoots, pictures of which were distributed and published in girlie magazines. Storm was the subject of Meyer’s first film, The French Peep Show (1952), for which the director got his first credit as Director/Cinematographer. Produced by Pete DeCenzie, the film is presumed lost having been out of circulation since its theatrical release.
#5 – ERICA GAVIN
Star of the first couples-porno Vixen! (1968), Erica Gavin is the reason Meyer wound up at 20th Century Fox making Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970. Gavin’s incredibly good looks and ability to appeal to both men and women made Vixen! one of Meyer’s most successful films of all time, arousing the interest of the major studio. Gavin is brilliant as the ‘sexual healer’ Vixen and was given a memorable role in Beyond… as lesbian fashion designer Roxanne, whose on-screen relationship with Cynthia Myers just sizzles with eroticism.
#4 – KITTEN NATIVIDAD
With a cleavage that rivaled Tura Satana’s, the narrator of Up! (1976) and star of Beneath the Valley of the UltraVixens (1979), Natividad went on to become Meyer’s on-off partner for the fifteen years. Probably one of the only women Meyer really did love, second to wife Eve, Kitten and Russ had some serious chemistry. Incredibly loyal to Meyer until the end, she nursed and looked after him at times when his dementia became worse and even visited and cared for his mother Lydia in the final years of her life.
#3 – EVE MEYER
Meyer’s second wife and pin-up beauty queen, Eve was an important factor in Meyer’s early filmmaking career. An intelligent business woman, Eve helped cut film deals as early as Meyer’s first picture The Immoral Mr Teas (1959), co-financed Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and helped to bail Russ out of financial trouble to ensure that the successful Vixen! got made. The producer of thirteen of Russ’s pictures (under the banner of Eve Productions) both during and after their marriage, Eve was the lead in his 1961 feature Eve and the Handyman in which she is truly mesmerizing. A gorgeous Playboy Playmate (June 1955), Eve sadly passed away in 1977.
#2 – TURA SATANA
Arguably Meyer’s most iconic actress, Tura Satana epitomised the director’s vision of a glamorous Amazonian statuesque woman. Whilst she only ever starred in one of his films, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Satana is without a doubt the most iconic of all the women to ever be cast in one of his films. She is on fire playing the murderous, highly sexually charged and venomous Varla in the film that is usually one of the first seen by Meyer virgins. If you’ve never seen the film, chances are you’ve seen Satana as Varla whose influence can be felt in Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007), Lady Gaga’s music video for Telephone and the countless female leads with attitude across the film world.
#1 – LYDIA MEYER HAYWOOD
As much as I love Mother Monster, it really is all about Mother Meyer. This is the woman who, as legend goes, pawned her own wedding ring so that Russ could go and buy his first camera, the UniveX Cine 8, starting an obsession with film that lasted the rest of his life. Lydia was very supportive of Russ’s ambitions and endeavours, letting him develop his pin-up photography in the family bathtub, but none of the women Russ ended up with were ever any good for him in her eyes. Upon her death, Russ would visit her gravesite every Christmas. A fiercely independent woman, this was the one girl who Russ never got over.
Whilst more a personal Top 10 then a definitive list, notable exceptions include Meyer regular Haji, Cynthia Myers, June Wilkinson, Phyllis Davis, Candy Samples, Edy Williams, Marcia McBroom, Raven De La Croix, Shari Eubank, Babette Bardot and Dolly Read amongst a plethora of others!