’Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’ Star Dies
Haji, best-known for starring as one of three homicidal bikers in Russ Meyer's "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" died over the weekend, L.A. Weekly reports Monday. She was 67 years old.
Born Barbarella Catton in Quebec, Canada in 1946, she caught the eye of sexploitation kingpin Meyer dancing at a topless bar. He cast her in "Motor Psycho," one of his earlier grindhouse efforts. It was the first of five films she appeared in directed by Meyer.
In "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" she played Rosie, a go-go dancer and lover to Varla, the trio's leader played by Tura Satana. According to L.A. Weekly, "she claimed to not know the character was supposed to be a lesbian and did not play it that way, despite explicit references to the fact in dialogue."
"Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" is Meyer's best-known film. What made it memorable was not so much its sexual content as its depiction of women as violent sociopaths. It was said to be a huge influence on John Waters, who called it "the best movie ever made, and possibly better than any movie that will ever be made." It clearly influenced such Waters' films as "Pink Flamingoes" and "Female Trouble."
Haji also appeared in Meyer’s first (of two) major studio projects, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," released by 20th Century Fox in 1970. Originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 film, it evolved into a trashy satire (written by Roger Ebert) of Hollywood culture in the late 1960s. "This is not a sequel--there has never been anything like it," read the ads. Commenting on the film, Ebert said it was "like a movie that got made by accident when the lunatics took over the asylum."
During the 1970s Haji appeared in numerous films not directed by Meyer, including "Bigfoot," "Wham! Bam! Thank You, Spaceman!" and "Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks," as well as John Cassavettes’ "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie."
With the revival of interest in 1970s B-Movies, sparked by Quentin Tarantino in the late 1990s, brought Haji new-found fame. "In 2001, she appeared in the direct-to-video retro camp effort ’The Double D Avenger,’" reported L.A. Weekly.
"The year 2003 saw her in ’Killer Drag Queens on Dope.’ Steve Sullivan’s ’Glamorous Girls of the Century’ listed her as one of the 1,000 most glamourous women of the 20th Century, while B-movie actress Jewel Shepard interviewed her for her book ’Invasion of the B-Girls.’"
She largely lived in a private life in Malibu, Calif. Though never married, she had one daughter, Cerlette Lamme.
"You can catch her spiritual children shimmying and shaking their tail feathers at burlesque clubs, bikini bars and drag nights from West Hollywood to Echo Park," the L.A. Weekly report ended. "Try as they might to channel her raw female sexuality, they’ll never be her equal. When Haji created herself, she broke the mold as soon as she was done."