There’s something timeless about a Russ Meyer girl. The famed filmmaker had an eye for bodacious beauties and though all were busty, their powers of seduction went beyond their hot bods or their foxy go-go boots. Though some have tried, but bad girl sex appeal seen in Meyer’s movies are hard to duplicate. Thanks to Meyers and a slew of similar sexploitation offerings — ‘70s grindhouse cinema was shamelessly wacky but also super-sultry, with aesthetics that were voluptuous and beauty standards that were extremely diverse.
Personality was a big part of the appeal, too, and Mexican-born bombshell Kitten Natividad always had one as big as her bra size. She was effervescent in Meyer’s films, and smart enough to parlay her notoriety from them (and a brief stint in porn) into hundreds of mainstream credits, from Airplane to The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Currently working on a book about her life, Natividad continues to do burlesque shows and appearances around the country and will be meeting and greeting fans at Lethal Amounts Gallery for Westgate Gallery’s exclusive vintage XXX and exploitation movie poster exhibit, The Devil’s Playground, tonight in Los Angeles.
How did a kid in Mexico come to lead such a crazy life in California?
My parents sent me to L.A. to live with my grandmother. I worked for the actress Stella Stevens as a babysitter and housekeeper. My uncle was working for her boyfriend at the time at a nightclub and referred me.
You’ve always been proud of your heritage.
When I started performing, they told me to change my last name because it was too ethnic. But I said, “I’m Mexican and I’m going to be a star and they’re all going to dream about me every night and jack off.”
I read you got your boobs done in Mexico, but had some problems?
I didn’t have surgery. I had silicon injections in Tijuana. You’re not cut open; just loose fluid injections. That was when I started dancing. I was going back and forth from LA to Mexico. I wanted to enhance my breasts because I felt that if I was going to be doing topless, I might as well have a top.
So you weren’t naturally busty?
No, I had beautiful small cupcakes, like B-cups. I also had a great little body. I wanted to be different. Whatever, I went and got ‘em. It didn’t work out. I mean they worked for a very long time, and then they rotted and I got problems many years later. In the late ’90s, Russ paid to get them fixed. I didn’t have insurance.
How did you meet Russ Meyer?
I met him through a couple girls I knew from working at the Classic Cat Club; Shari Eubank (Supervixens) and Haji (Faster Pussycat Kill Kill). I didn’t know who the hell Russ Meyer even was back then. They said, “Oh, he’s gonna come in and see you dance.” Then when he did he said, “I’d like to hire you for a film.” It was scary because I never acted. I was just used to live performance. You do it once and it’s over. I wasn’t used to doing 30 takes. It was a learning experience. Frightening, but it worked out well and I ended up loving it. It changed my life. I fell in love with him and divorced my husband at the time.
What was your first Meyer film?
I was called UP! It was a Hitler thing with Germans, sex, orgies… Most Russ films had no real plot. It was about the T&A. Russ’s movies always had women with big breasts. That was the main selling point.
True. But I think, more than just the T&A, Meyer became known for a certain kind of campy aesthetic too. People today still try to emulate the look of his movies.
He was just an incredible photographer and he found great women. The movies were for men and men’s fantasies, but he didn’t make films to satisfy men, he made films to satisfy himself.
What was your favorite Meyer film to work on?
Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens. The one that I was the lead. It was my second film and I was not supposed to be the lead, just supposed to be a stripper, but he told me, “Nobody here could look better than you, you might as well be the star.” So he had Roger Ebert re-write the movie for me.
My favorite of all time, not a Meyer movie, was probably Takin’ It Off. It was a corny adult Disneyland style movie. I was proud of my body. In my prime and I had a lot of fun.
What was Roger Ebert like?
He did all those drugs. He went to all those parties. He knew people like that. He had a great, full life. Russ and I used to go to Chicago and hit all the jazz bars with him. They were best friends and they loved working together. They would talk for hours and hours.
I heard you were involved with the infamous Ebert and Meyer project with The Sex Pistols, “Who Killed Bambi?” It’s the stuff of Hollywood legend. Malcom McClaren and Julien Temple made The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle afterward, but fans still wonder that the original movie would have been like.
We lived in London for that. I was supposed to be Johnny Rotten’s girlfriend in the film. We met each other. But we didn’t like each other. I found him disgusting and gross. He had pimples that we would squeeze constantly to annoy me. And he thought I was disgusting too, with the big tits. We were supposed to be screwing in the movie but it didn’t happen. Russ was directing it, but Malcom McClaren wanted to change everything and have it his way. Russ couldn’t deal with it and he left.
What was about your relationships with the other Meyer girls, like Tura Satana and Haji from Faster Pussycat and the ladies from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls?
I had a relationship with all the girls because we all lived in LA and we’d get together. Russ would take us to fancy restaurants…. He was great, and even after we broke up he was good to me. That’s why I helped take care of him in the later years when he had Alzheimer’s disease. We were all very close. There was no competition with the girls because in those films everyone knew who the stars were. Haji was never the main star, but she was the one probably in most of his films. Faster Pussycat didn’t make money at first. As the years went along it did. It was a fertile turtle.
Why did your relationship with Russ Meyer end?
It lasted 12 years. I was 30. He was 65. I’m one of those wild, independent women. I liked to make my own money. I liked to fuck different guys and everything. He caught me in bed with a guy and he forgave me, but he was very jealous and possessive. He did not like me doing films for other people. He didn’t like me to go to parties. Or do porn. We would break up for six months and then get back together. It was too much for me. But at the same time we couldn’t stop loving each other. I respected him. For 12 years it was pretty good. We never married. I knew it wouldn’t work, ultimately.
Russ was always a part of my life whether I was married or not. We always reconnected. But by the last time he was losing it. He was not the same Russ… He started drinking a lot and got more crazy and more eccentric, and he wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t. It took us all a long time to know that he had lost it. Maybe we were in denial. I think he started to have the Alzheimers maybe 10 years before anyone realized it.
You enjoyed being a sexually free woman in the ’70s and ’80s. Did you ever date anyone else in the entertainment world?
Yeah. Tom Selleck and Tony Curtis, that guy from Get Smart [Don Adams]… Redd Foxx….
Redd Foxx? Wow.
Being young back then you could fuck whoever in Hollywood. You dated, then you became friends, then you fuck, and then you just stay friends. It wasn’t like they were looking to marry me or anything. It was before AIDS; I never even got one venereal disease. I don’t know how that happened.
What led you to do adult films in the ’90s?
I was going through a divorce, I didn’t want to dance or travel anymore. I ran out of money, so I did porn. But I stopped. I didn’t look good because I was sort of an alcoholic. I don’t drink now. Not a drop for 17 years, but back then I was hanging out with the wrong people and drinking too much. Whatever. I have no regrets. I learned from it and decided it wasn’t what I wanted in my life.
One thing that seems to stay consistent with all your roles, even your mainstream ones, is that you know what you want and aren’t afraid to go for it. That was established with your Meyer roles wasn’t it?
In his films you will always see that women are in charge. They were the aggressive ones and they fuck around a lot. Every film was an extension of his life and what he liked. He used to tell me to get up and go to the bathroom when we were at restaurants. He’d say, “I want to see these guys drop forks as you walk by.” He got a kick out of it.
So he liked his women strong, on and off screen.
That’s right. When I talk to men about the Russ’s movies, they always say oh, I just notice the tits. But I ask them, “Didn’t you notice the women are the heroes?” They’re the ones doing the screwing around. Russ understood that we have the pussy and it’s always the most powerful weapon.
Lina Lecaro is an LA-based music, nightlife and pop culture journalist, photographer and radio host/DJ. Best known for her regular work in LA Weekly, she also freelances for Paper, Los Angeles, LA Times, LAist, Thrillist and many more. She wrote the book, Los Angeles’ Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in the City of Angels and is currently finishing her second, a rock n’ roll-themed self-help guide called Nevermind The Rules.