Web Cover Story: Famous People Are Just More Interesting—Do Today’s Groupies Deserve Public Scorn? - Features - Alternative Press

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Web Cover Story: Famous People Are Just More Interesting—Do Today’s Groupies Deserve Public Scorn?

March 15 2010, 3:37 PM EDT By Luke O’Neil


STORY: Luke O’Neil

In the first part of this story, we looked back at the evolution of rock groupies and how new websites like Fuck Yeah Groupies have started branding today’s groupies with a digital scarlet letter. In the final chapter, we speak to women who consider themselves groupies in one way or another to get their side of the story.

Whether or not notoriety is actually something that girls who sleep with bands are looking for--and many of them most certainly are not--it's simply a fact in today’s information-sharing world that nothing is secret for long, particularly when it involves a public figure. “If you sleep with someone whose sex life is a subject of public interest, there's a good chance that your sex life will be made public by association,” says music writer and “semi-retired professional groupie” Cheryl Mullen. “I think that's why [some] groupies do it. Being able to brag that you banged so-and-so is like a badge of honor to these girls.”

But why? Dr. Jenn Berman, a marriage, family and child therapist, says often this desire comes from a lack of a sense of self. “Or [it comes from] a lack of your own accomplishments,” she says. “For some of these people, sleeping with a famous person makes them feel more important and may give them a sense of identity and validation. We live in a society that has increasingly glamorized the celebrity and made every sort of association with a celebrity something that's really positive. In certain ways, it's hard for your average person to fight those messages because they really are so powerful. It takes a lot of insight and a lot of work on yourself not to fall into this trap [of] power by association. When we're in a relationship with someone--and I use that term loosely--that person mirrors back to ourselves who we are. For a lot of these women, when... that rock star looks into their eyes and wants them, that reflection of themselves as being wanted and desirable and needed in that moment can be addictive. It makes them feel important and feel good about themselves. ”

But sometimes the glow of celebrity can obscure the fact that there is a downside to involving yourself with someone famous. “They only see the glamorous side of fame,” says Mullen. “The star chose public life when he or she decided to pursue a career as an artist. The star knew or should have known that with fame comes the risk of having certain details of your life made public whether you want them to be or not.”

So what is it that compels people to seek out sex with someone simply because they're performing onstage? It's all about talent, says “Theresa,” one of a few young women we asked about what they see in performers. “I love when a guy can swoon me with his words or make my hips sway with his guitar,” she says. “Of course, it doesn't hurt if he's easy on the eyes. [It’s as] simple as that.” Another young woman who didn't want us to use her real name, “Jessica,” agrees about the nature of a musician's appeal. “It’s attractive when individuals are doing exciting things with their lives, like being on a national or international tour,” she says. “Their creative outlet is opening doors for them, and sometimes women want to be a part of something bigger and better than what is going on in their lives. Being with a band member may be an escape from their own boring reality.”

Another woman close to the topic, “Amy,” pursued a very famous New York City rock band during her youth. She says, “At the base level, confidence is sexy, and you need a certain level of that to get up on stage and perform. I'm fascinated by people who have talents I wish I had. I would probably rather be the rock star, but I suck at songwriting, so it's cool to be around someone who has the superpowers I lack. When I was 19, it was just validating to be accepted by people I found impressive.” But she says things are different now than they were during the golden age of groupiedom-the ’70s and ’80s. “I read [Pamela Des Barres’ book, I’m With The Band: Confessions Of A Groupie] and I actually think women back then were still in the sexual revolution mindset where they'd taken the freedom to fuck at will, but the actual act of fucking was still all about serving the dude,” she says. “They felt like giving [oral sex to] Jimmy Page [of Led Zeppelin] was an honor, which I think is bullshit. I think today there are more girls like me who just go out and fuck like a man to get off. Fucking the lead singer of a band is the same thing as fucking the head cheerleader. The challenge is fun. Like any dude would, I would high-five my friends about it after.”

Theresa agrees that times have changed. In terms of access and gaining a musician's attention, it's far easier than it was during the ’70s. “Back then, it was all about the big-name bands and trying to get that coveted backstage pass,” she says. “These days, bands are more approachable. I'm proud of my nights spent with bands. Why should I be ashamed? Why should anyone?” Does that mean she considers herself a groupie? “It depends on how you define ‘groupie,’” she says. “I wouldn't consider myself one, only because I’ve never made it my mission to seek out a musician. If it happens, it happens. But other people may perceive me as one.”

Some are able to embrace the designation of “groupie” and see delineation between certain types. Amy, for one, never particularly minded the term because she never considered herself to be part of a certain lower class of groupie. “[Being called a groupie] was just an identifier of the kind of dudes I liked,” she says. “There are two levels of groupie to me: girls who will just fuck any musician, roadie or manager they can get--those usually found on Kid Rock tour buses--and girls who hang around musicians and become attracted to specific individuals and behave like normal human beings about it. It was clear to everyone by my behavior which I was.”

On the other hand, some participants like Jessica still think that groupie is a dirty word. “It implies that they are willing to use their bodies or sex to get what they want,” she says. “Groupie is a code word for ‘fool,’ since the so-called rewards are often short-lived and demeaning. Most girls who are trying to get backstage or on a tour bus are hush-hush about their objectives. They may lie about or downplay what they are willing to do to get attention from the men they desire. They are afraid that society or their friends may judge them as 'users.'”

However, both Jessica and Amy concur that whatever your stance on groupies, the motivation behind blogs like Fuck Yeah Groupies that expose groupies as “users” is suspect. As we revealed in the first installment of this story, “Kate,” the 19-year-old Floridian who started the site says, “Girls have a hard time enough as it is being taken seriously in the music industry. Last thing we want is for someone to automatically think that the reason a girl wants a job as a merch girl or tour manager or band manager or even on Warped Tour is because she wants to sleep around.”

Laura Goldfarb, founder of Red Boot Publicity, finds this explanation hard to swallow. “If this is really about women in the music industry trying to be taken seriously, then I think this blog is counterproductive,” she says. “If you don’t like the fact that some women are trying to be a part of the magic of the industry by exploiting themselves, then why are you trying to be a part of the industry by exploiting them? Why not rely on your own merit? If you deserve to be the merch girl, tour manager, band manager or on Warped Tour, you’ll get there based on your credentials. I would never take someone seriously enough to hire them if they thought using and exploiting the private lives of others was a way of proving themselves. I am a successful professional woman in the music industry. I run my own PR firm and people respect me and take me seriously. I did not get to this level by using anyone. I got here by working my ass off, and respecting and loving those around me.”

Amy says the issue at hand has nothing to do with breaking into the music industry and that it’s simply the way the world works. “Dudes are always going to try to bone chicks, whether you work in a corner office or at a hot dog stand,” she says. “This isn't unique to music, so should we have some asshole website for every profession just to make sure women get taken more seriously?” Amy also questions the personal intentions of the creators of such sites. “How many musicians do you have to fuck to get on the list?” she asks. “Or do you just have to piss her off and she'll put you on the list?” Jessica agrees. “I don’t sympathize with [the site’s creator] at all,” she says. “The blog is aimed at outing groupies to punish them for their behavior. She’s hoping to alter how these women behave by humiliating them. It seems like an extremely insecure, desperate move--having to put down others to clear your own name.”

Whatever the real reason, it would seem that sites like Fuck Yeah Groupies continues an age-old tradition of scolding women for their promiscuity and pushing one’s own personal morals onto others. “The people who are trying to humiliate these women have got to be pretty misogynistic themselves,” says Dr. Berman. “If you're running a site like this, you're anointing yourself as the sexual police, essentially giving tickets to people who committed violations based on your values.”

In addition to what we’re allowed to talk about in public, the rules on whose sex lives we're allowed to talk about has also shifted recently says Nick Given of Boston metal act BANG CAMARO. “I believe the dynamic used to be fundamentally different,” he says of the difference in interest between a public and a private person's sex life. “For example, we’re allowed to put politicians under such a fine microscope. They’re public citizens. In the past, famous entertainers were the same, and it would be unfair to subject private citizens to the same sort of public scrutiny. Not to mention, no one would care. Now everyone is a public citizen broadcasting their lives to anyone that will listen.”

Now that a cell phone is all it takes to be a 24-hour news source, privacy is nearly impossible for anyone to maintain. “It’s no surprise sites like this are popping up,” says Given. “For years, we’ve referred to ours as a voyeuristic culture feeding on the 15 minutes we can all achieve with our important tweets and status updates. Sites like [Fuck Yeah Groupies] are the inevitable consequence: people talking shit about who’s doing what to whom. Sometimes a fuck or two is just a fuck or two, and it’s nobody’s business. Are people so jealous of celebrity that we have to invent our own paparazzi-esque blogs and message boards?”

Steve Five of Brooklyn indie band THE LIBRARY IS ON FIRE says that leveling the playing field between celebrity and fans has affected the essence of the groupie dynamic as well. “If you look at the metamorphosis of the music industry, you can draw parallels. The day of the groupie as a 'celebrity' doesn't come about anymore, but that's because the notion of a 'rock star' has changed. I'm sure it still exists in the way bloated, posturing corporate-rock still exists, but the groupies that pander to these jokers are probably the least interesting of an already uninteresting group.” It’s no surprise then that he finds gossip blogs to be a waste of time. “Something like this blog is worse than hearing about bad porn from someone else,” he says. “It’s over the line to reveal someone's private business, but if you're a groupie or an artist who runs his or her mouth, it's your own fault. Perhaps the groupie is an exhibitionist. Bad call for the artist. Think with your brain, not your dick, at least long enough to find someone discreet. The old adage 'What happens on tour, stays on tour' has probably saved a lot of marriages and relationships.”

Red Boot's Goldfarb says that maybe the entire argument--whether groupies and sites that call them out on being groupies--goes against the very fabric of rock music in the first place. “Rock ‘n’ roll will always have groupies,” she says. “But it will also always respect any man or woman who has the balls to say, ‘Fuck you,' to whatever anyone thinks or says about them. Let the groupies be who they are, let the fans and musicians do what they wish, and let the men and women who work in this industry stand tall and fight for recognition and respect because they deserve it.”

Using that definition, does that make the people behind these sites rock stars in their own way? After all, people do visit. “People are always rattling off [that people who create and use the site don’t have] a life, but that person comes to the site, too,” says Kate of FYG. “As long as girls keep sleeping with band guys, I don't see this thing dying anytime soon.” That, according to Theresa, is likely a safe bet. “As long as there are bands, there will be groupies willing to sleep with them,” she says. “Everyone wants to fuck a rock star. All you need is a pretty face and a set of tits.” alt

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