The life of Sable Starr seemed glamorous from the outside, but before long the child groupie found it to be more than she could handle.
A lot of people dream of being rock stars. Often, it’s not the music that makes the idea so appealing, it’s the lifestyle. For a certain type of person, the groupies are a big part of the allure, though like with many things about the rock star lifestyle, the stereotypical image of the groupie isn’t exactly the truth.
At the height of the 70’s, there was a far darker side to groupie scene. And Sable Starr, often described as “Queen of the Groupies,” was at the heart of it.
Sable Starr got into the rock scene at an early age. By 12, she was frequently attending concerts with her friends. At one of those concerts, she lost her virginity to the guitarist of the band Spirit. This first taste of the rock and roll lifestyle was intoxicating and Starr began frequenting trendy clubs in LA with her friends.
The clubs were frequent hangouts of some of the major figures from 70’s rock like David Bowie and Robert Plant. Dressed up in flamboyant clothing, the girls soon attracted their attention. Starr quickly became the leader of the ‘Baby Groupies,” named after their young age. Starr herself was just 14.
One night, she and her friend Lori Maddox, also 14, met David Bowie, who invited the two to his hotel room. According to Maddox, Starr demanded that Lori keep her hands off Bowie, which Maddox was fine with. But once in the hotel room, Bowie invited Maddox to his bathtub, and the two had sex. After seeing how upset Starr was, Bowie invited her into the bedroom as well.
Soon, Starr became “acquainted” with some of the biggest names in rock. It was a wild scene, full of drugs and sex, and few of the rockstars she met seem bothered by Starr’s age. Starr, meanwhile, enjoyed her position as queen of the groupies and the notoriety it brought her. She was even interviewed in Star magazine, where she discussed some of the details of her life and the famous men she was involved with like Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, and Rod Stewart.
At 16, Sable Starr met Johnny Thunders, the guitarist for the New York Dolls. Starr ran away from home to be with Thunders in New York.
Iggy Pop, who had long carried on a sexual relationship with Starr, memorialized the event in the song Look Away. “I slept with Sable when she was 13,” he wrote, “Her parents were too rich to do anything. She rocked her way around LA, ’til a New York Doll carried her away.”
But in New York, the relationship with Thunders soon grew abusive. Thunders, like many rock stars, had a serious drug problem. He was also violently jealous and possessive of Starr.
After a pregnancy and later abortion, Sable Starr decided to leave Thunders and move back to LA. After a few more years in the emerging punk rock scene, Starr retired from the life of a groupie.
Later in life, Starr moved to Las Vegas, where she worked as a card dealer at a casino. She died in 2009 of brain cancer. She was just 51.
In many ways, Starr has a complicated legacy. She never seemed to have been regretful about her life as a groupie. But it’s hard to see the fact that her relationships as a child with older men as anything but predatory. And the fact that many of them are the most respected rock icons makes it even more disturbing.
To some, Sable Starr remains a symbol of empowered female sexuality. But to others, she’s a reminder of the darker side of rock and roll.