TURA SATANA , the iconic screen star and former burlesque star of Russ Meyer’s seminal sex-crazed go-go girls revenge flick Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! has died suddenly in Reno, Nevada.
Tura’s manager announced the sad news on the star’s Facebook page and said Tura suffered heart failure.
Born in Hokkaido, Japan in 1935, the exotic beauty suffered internment in the US during World War Two.
Reportedly, she had been brutally raped at the age of 9 by a gang of thugs and later served time in juvenile prison after joining an all girl crime gang.
Tura first found fame as a burlesque dancer in Los Angeles, having landed the job with a fake ID at age 15.
She made extra cash modeling and was a favorite of former silent screen star Harold Lloyd, then a preeminent Hollywood photographer who’s 3-D imagery of Tura were included in a best- selling collection of nudes.
While stripping in Chicago at the Follies Theater, Elvis Presley’s eyes bulged out of his head when he saw Tura and the two started a torrid afair.
He proposed, she declined, but kept the ring.
A Warner Brothers TV scout approached Tura and she began her TV career on Hawaiian Eye. Other TV roles included The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Burke’s Law.
She was soon spotted by Some Like it Hot director Billy Wilder who cast her in Irma La Douce with Shirley MacLaine.
Small roles in other major Hollywood films followed but it was adults only, cult film director Russ Meyer who made her an international icon as Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
In the 1965 film Tura played one of the most highly influential ultra -violent sexually aggressive female character ever seen on celluloid, doing ALL of her own stunts and fight scenes in the blazing desert sun.
Former Time mag film critic Richard Corliss called Tura’s performance "…the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest."
After making Invasion of the Astro Zombies and The Doll Squad for director TV Mikels (a film that was the inspiration for Charlie’s Angels) Tura was shot by a former lover.
After recovering, she was briefly employed as a dispatcher by the Los Angeles Police Department and in a hospital after studying nursing.
In 1981, she broke her back in a car accident and spent the next two years in and out of hospitals, having had two major operations and 15 others.
With the advent of the VCR, formerly obscure B-movies became accessible and Tura’s unique charisma was discovered by a new generation of fans.
Becoming an icon of the internet, Tura’s image, much like Bettie Page, became revered around the world as a symbol of female sexuality, courage AND rebellion.
Kill Bill guru Quentin Tarantino once said Tura is "part Japanese, part Cheyenne, and part something else — AWESOME!!!"
first posted: 2/5/11 6PM EST