By Gus Mastrapa in Pretension +1
Friday, February 11, 2011 at 9:00 am
Tura Satana is the best video game character that never was. The cult actress is best known for her sexy and terrifying turn as Varla in Russ Meyers' 1965 trash masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. The life she lived was just as lurid.
As a child she spent part of her childhood in a California internment camp -- her father was Japanese and Filipino, her mother Scots Irish and Cheyenne Indian. At the age of nine she was raped. Her attackers were acquitted. Tura led a gang to protect herself and friends from similar attacks. And she trained in karate to make sure that her bite matched her bark. Eventually Satana returned to California and became a burlesque dancer and actress. She dated and spurned Elvis. And in 1965 she joined starlets Lori Williams in Haji to star in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! the movie that would come to define her career.
On Friday Tura Satana died of heart failure in Reno, Nevada at the age of 75. And though she's never been cast in a video game I will continue to use video games to keep my personal hero's memory alive.
I rolled my first Tura in 1998. She was my primary Ultima Online character -- a headstrong adventurer with a talent for the bow. She rode a horse named Supervixen and called the town of Moonglow her home. Considering how dangerous life in Brittania was, I played Tura as a tough, but strong good guy. There were enough predatory villains in that world. It didn't need another. I do remember, along with the aid of my partner Wayne Newton, counseling a young player (he told us his parents were divorced and he played Ultima on computers at each of their houses) in the ways of chivalry and role-play. The kid started as a punk and ganker, begging for gold in town and we, at least a little, molded him into a decent Britannian.
In Everquest, Tura was a rogue flagged for PvP. I hadn't planned on killing or being killed by other players, but in those days I didn't read guides when I played an online role-playing game. I just rolled with the story. And when I saw a "Book of Chaos" sitting around I thought, "Yeah, that sounds like something Tura would want to read." I noticed, afterwards, that my name appeared red rather than light blue. But otherwise I didn't feel any different. I learned the hard way what I'd done when another player accosted me in the tunnel to the Commonlands and left me bleeding in the dirt.
Tura was a Mithra (get it?) thief in Final Fantasy XI. When she reached level 30 she became a practitioner of Ninjitsu. Her time in Vana'Diel was, in retrospect, something akin to a stay in purgatory. Sure, Tura had adventures there. But most of her time was spent looking for a group. And when she did finally find a good group, she spent way too much time killing worms and crabs.
In 2004 I rolled Tura as a Night Elf hunter, a character I still play to this day. The day World of Warcraft launched I created Tura on a role-play server. I can't remember the last time I typed "OOC" into the World of Warcraft chat window. I know some still practice that lost art, but on Silver Hand it seems all but dead.
Tura is not level 85 yet. I play her character with my sister, her husband and some of her co-workers. We're slowly working our way through the Wrath of the Lich King dungeons. I can safely say that Tura might not hit the level cap before the next expansion comes out. That's okay, because I have other alts -- a warrior named Satana and a death knight called Eufaula. But Tura will always feel like my main, because I played as her first and because I'm always Tura.
Not long ago I wrote about cross-dressing in games. I encouraged players to try the opposite sex on for size, because games offer the safest possible way to do such a thing. I've been doing just this as many incarnations of Tura. But Tura Satana the flesh and blood woman who lived a difficult, fascinating and thrilling life will always be the original. When I first saw Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! I couldn't take my eyes off of Tura. She was confident, angry, strong and sexy. Satana said that the role of Varla was always her favorite, because (apart from the coldblooded murder) it was the character that was most like herself.
I've always admired that dichotomy in her. Satana's life started out terrible, but through force will she made it better. On her own terms. To paraphrase Lori Williams from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Tura Satana was cute. Like a velvet glove cast in iron. And like a gas chamber, a real fun gal. I'm not sure I can ever live up to the original. But as long as they keep making video games I'll keep making re-incarnating Tura and doing my best to learn something from her. May she live forever.
Pretension +1 is a weekly column by Gus Mastrapa that explores ways that video games overlap with the rest of our lives.
Tags: Elvis, Everquest, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Final Fantasy XI, Lori Williams, Russ Meyer, Tura Satana, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft