By John Burks, Jerry Hopkins, Paul Nelson
The GTOs are a sociological creation of Frank Zappa's. He didn't create the GTOs; he merely made a "group" of them … and now is presenting them. According to Frank, G.T.O. stands for Girls Together Occasionally, Girls Together Only, or Girls Together Often. Girls Together Only are lesbians. But the GTOs (the group) are not lesbians; they are merely girls who happen to like other girls' company.
The GTOs in all their freaky splendor are … outasite. Each has a personality all her own, and together they are not to be believed – tummeling, chattering, laughing, telling stories, leaping about. The visceral reaction is full freak, but once you get into it, you don't even notice.
"Girls don't show the emotions like they should," one of the girls said. "When I say: 'Sandra, you have the most beautiful breasts in the whole world,' that's not homosexual, it's just what I feel. You know how it is when you don't have a boyfriend and there's a girl there to hold your hand, to kiss you, to say nice things to you. It's so important."
Sparky says: "We don't ignore each other at all."
Cinderella says: "We compliment each other. There are closer relationships between girls than boys."
Mercy says: "We love boys to death. But you shouldn't be pushed into things. Some people think we're dykes and they're disappointed when they find out we aren't."
Miss Christine says: "This is Hollywood, and Hollywood's Hollywood … but in Ohio, maybe they aren't ready for this. We're trying to spread our philosophy."
Mercy's Story: She first went to the Fillmore Auditorium when it first opened, moving into the Haight-Ashbury when she was 16 ½, leaving her family in one of the San Francisco suburbs. She remained in the Haight until 1967, hanging out on the street, panhandling some, very much a part of the scene, spending a lot of time in Golden Gate Park. During 1966-67 she spent six months in juvenile hall, in several installments. "All the things my parents thought I would avoid by being in jail, I learned in jail," she says. "My parents didn't care; they thought jail'd be good for me. So I was in with dykes and junkies and the rest. I finally left the Haight when it lost its magic. Besides, I couldn't see being a hippie the rest of my life."
In 1967 she moved to Laguna Beach, traveling back and forth to S.F. and then to New York for five days in the fall of that year, finally returning to LA, where she now lives in room No. 229 of the Landmark Hotel (one of the motels where groups stay) with Miss Christine and Cinderella. Mercy is a heavy girl, with a predilection for loose-fitting clothing made from antique (sometimes rotting) cloth, boots, and black eye makeup looking as if it were applied with a canoe paddle.
Sandra's Story: Sandra is a native Southern Californian and she joined "the scene" by hanging out at the Insomniac, a now-defunct coffee shop in Hermosa Beach. She also frequented (with Miss Christine) a similar place called the Intangible Tangerine, where, she says, "everybody was insane." She's from San Pedro, "where everybody cruises." She went to New York when Miss Christine moved in with Tony Melendy, a Santa Monica sculptor. For a while she was in art school somewhere, and finally she found her way to Tom Mix's old house in Laurel Canyon. At that time, Carl Orestes Franzoni ("he is freaky right down to his toenails," Zappa said on the liner notes of Freak Out) was living there in one of LA's wilder communes. (The house rents for $700 a month and later Zappa moved in, gathering his own commune to supplant that of Franzoni.) Miss Christine had been reunited with Sandra by now and they lived together in the vault in the basement of the house (right next to the bowling alley.) Her "fave raves" are Bob Dylan and Calvin (who is the artist Zappa uses for all advertising and album cover art).
Miss Christine's Story: She, too was born in San Pedro of Yugoslav parents. She was a "sickly kid," she says, and had a "big complex about being skinny." (She is tall and lean, the type of girl who would have been called "beanpole" by her schoolmates.) "Pop music brought it all together for me socially," she said. "It brought people together, it gave me friends." She says she is the cold, cruel one in the group, but she's not. She's bright and quite outgoing. She met Zappa when he returned to LA from New York for a concert, when she was living in Franzoni's commune. "We talk about groups a lot," she said. "That's because it's glamourous and because we're very young. If you have a fave rave in a band, it's like having a soldier in the war; you write him letters and you worry about him." When Zappa returned to LA for good, she became his housekeeper and governess to Moon Unit, Frank's daughter. "Mercy and I sent the Velvet Underground a dozen roses with our pictures on the back," she said. "You can't be subtle." Miss Christine loves clothing and makes all her own, which can only be described as junkshop harlequin. The night of our interview she was wearing a knitted patchwork jump suit in a hundred colors, colored pipe cleaners coiled into her frizzed character; not a bad description.
Pamela's Story: It started with Elvis, she said, when Elvis went "off to war" and she marked the days off one-by-one for two years on a calendar hanging in her bedroom. Later, she sent Paul McCartney a poem every day for several months. She also fell in love with Chris Hillman (Byrds), and once took him some soup. Still another time she "chased the Stones" and once banged on Mick Jagger's hotel room door … and he said he was in the shower … and she kept on banging, so he came to the door and opened it and he was nude … and she ran down the hall. She is from Los Angeles (the San Fernando Valley) and grew up there with the "greaser groups." She studied acting for a while. Her fave rave is Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf, and one side of their upcoming single (on the Bizarre label), is called "Ooo-Ooo Man," a song written about this blonde bass player she loves. (Nick doesn't know about it.) Pamela has kept a diary reflecting her interest in groups and according to the Plaster Casters of Chicago, it's beautiful. Pamela is blonde and fragile, yet hearty.
Cinderella: Isn't sure of her story. "I'm the chronic liar of the group," she said. "Frank said write fourteen songs and I did," she said at another point. "I can't remember anything." "I don't know what you can put down." "I don't know how old I am, I'm from everywhere, I have no fave raves." Cinderella is a little "spaced," by somebody else's terms; gentle and sad. She apparently writes most of the GTO's material, as indicated; she has chopped blonde hair and likes diaphanous mini-dresses.
Sparky has always liked all music, she said, emphasis on all. Along with Sandra and someone named Miss Lucy they danced together at clubs (Cheetah, etc.), wearing diapers. They became known (to Frank Zappa) as the GTOs … and later Frank broadened the size of the group of dancers and introduced them as the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company. (They appeared with him at least twice: at the Shrine and Cheetah.) "Frank just saw us dancing, I guess," Sparky said. Sparky is small and dark and sexy.
As Rolling Stone's photographer took photo after photo, the dialogue was as scattered as the poses they hit. "I'm the Mae West of 1968," said Mercy. Then: "No, I'm the Theda Bara." Sandra says: "I'm the Italian widow of the group." Someone else says: "I'm the bull dyke of the group." (All describing Jimmy Carl Black as "the Indian of the group.") A radio was playing in the background. "Ahhhhhh … Smokey Robinson!" "Wake up, little Suzie … " Sing-along time, and trading stories about groups, between leaping and posing and making comments, and laughing a lot.
What they have going for them is, really, a dream come true. They're a group now. Making records. Appearing in public. Once it had been decided they would be known (on future Billboard charts) as the GTOs, they rehearsed nearly every night for two months. The act they debuted at the Shrine Exposition Hall here a few weeks ago was beautifully choreographed and so what if one of the Mothers thinks they're astonishingly flat, can't carry a tune in a bucket.
This 2-page article is part of a longer 15-page special called "The Groupies and Other Girls".
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