The GTOs (not to be confused with the all male group who recorded for Parkway Records) were a "groupie group" that consisted of Miss Pamela (Pamela Ann Miller, later Pamela Des Barres), Miss Sparky (Linda Sue Parker), Miss Lucy (Lucy Offerall, later Lucy McLaren), Miss Christine (Christine Frka), Miss Sandra (Sandra Lynn Rowe, later Sandra Leano), Miss Mercy (Mercy Fontenot, aka Judith Edra Peters) and Miss Cynderella (Cynthia Wells, later Cynthia Cale-Binion). The group hailed from the area around Los Angeles in the late 1960s, with most of the girls being denizens of the Sunset Strip scene. Their only album, Permanent Damage, was released in 1969.
Miss Pamela and Miss Sparky met while attending Cleveland High School. Miss Christine had travelled to Los Angeles from San Pedro with Miss Sandra, and both lived in the basement of Frank Zappa's log cabin in the mid-1960s. Miss Christine was the live-in nanny for Zappa's eldest two children, Dweezil and Moon Unit, before Miss Pamela took over the position during the late 1960s. Miss Mercy had emigrated from the Haight Ashbury hippie scene to LA due to "boredom", alleging she "couldn't be a hippie forever." Miss Cynderella was an addition to the group brought by Mercy after the nucleus of the group had been formed. This accounts for Cynderella's presence in some, but not all of the GTOs' publicity shots. Miss Lucy was also not an original member and joined after the recording of Permanent Damage.
Originally known as "The Laurel Canyon Ballet Company," they changed their name to The GTOs on the advice of Frank Zappa, their financial supporter and producer. The new name is an acronym which, as Stanley Booth wrote, could mean "Girls Together Outrageously or Orally or anything else starting with O." The acronym has also been defined as “Girls Together Occasionally”, “Girls Together Often” and “Girls Together Only”. Miss Lucy stated in a filmed interview that the latter name is what it stood for.
The members were connected by their association with Zappa, a complex musician who encouraged their artistic endeavors, despite their limited vocal skills. Performances by the group were infrequent, although they created a strong impression at their 1968 performance at the Shrine Auditorium. A mix of theatrics, singing, and dance were staples of their act. Their only album, Permanent Damage, (Straight Records) was produced in 1969 by Frank Zappa with the assistance of Lowell George and Russ Titelman (tracks 7 and 11). The latter track also features Titelman's brother-in-law, guitarist Ry Cooder, both of whom appear on Captain Beefheart's Safe As Milk album. Track 5 "The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes" is a GTO comment on Beefheart's taste in footwear (his cousin Victor Hayden had also effected Beefheart's introduction to Pamela Des Barres). The songs are mixed in with conversations between the members of the group, friends, and others, including Cynthia Plaster Caster and Rodney Bingenheimer. The album features songwriting contributions from Lowell George, Jeff Beck and Davy Jones. A young Rod Stewart also pops up on the vocals of one track. Permanent Damage was re-issued on CD in 1989 by Enigma Retro.
Miss Pamela (born September 9, 1948) is the most famous and commercially successful of the GTO's. Prior to joining the group, she had been a member of Vito Paulekis' dancing troupe. Des Barres is the author of three memoirs, the first, I'm With The Band (1987), is based primarily on a diary she secretly kept from her high school years all the way through her marriage, due in part to the encouragement she received from her group's future producer, Frank Zappa. The book spent several weeks in the US top ten best sellers list. The books contains different perspectives on the author's life during the 1960s and, in particular, the groupie scene - a scene which Des Barres defends in her 2007 book, Let's Spend the Night Together, a collection of interviews with fellow rock groupies. Miss Pamela married British actor/musician Michael Des Barres (he would eventually take the place of singer Robert Palmer in the 1980s rock band The Power Station). Together they have a son, Nicholas Des Barres, who is now an editor for a video game magazine in Tokyo, Japan, where he currently resides.
Miss Mercy (born February 15, 1949) was born in Burbank, California. She has been referred to by Miss Pamela as "the human facsimile". Having moved to Florida with her parents and older sister at an early age, the family eventually settled in San Mateo, California. Then, in 1964 (when she was 15), she dropped out of high school and told her parents she was ready to become legally independent. Despite their disapproval, she filed for emancipation, becoming a ward of the court within a couple of weeks. Miss Mercy went to live with a group of friends in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, California. Some of their neighbors included members of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and a young Charles Manson. Eventually, Miss Mercy and Miss Pamela heard that Los Angeles was the mecca for meeting entertainers and especially rock & roll musicians. In addition, Miss Pamela wanted to pursue her acting career in Hollywood, and in early 1969, they moved south, immersing themselves into the local scene. Then, one of Miss Pamela's childhood friends, Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart), took the girls to a large castle-like compound in Laurel Canyon where they were introduced to musician Frank Zappa. Soon after the breakup of the GTO's she became romantically involved with blues guitar prodigy Shuggie Otis, the son of rhythm & blues pioneer Johnny Otis. They married and had a son, Lucky Otis, who became a world-renowned multi-instrumentalist / musician in the likeness of his father and grandfather. A few years later, Miss Mercy and Shuggie divorced. For the next 15 to 20 years she moved around northern and southern California, living a life of heavy drug use and sporadic public appearances. Miss Mercy remarried in 1991 and in 2000 divorced her second husband and quit all hard drugs and cigarettes. She has been clean and sober ever since. Miss Mercy currently resides in downtown Los Angeles and works for a thrift store in Hollywood. A chapter of "I'm With the Band", entitled "Miss Mercy's Blues", is an account of her life. She has worked for five decades in magazines, books, radio and television, and contributing to award-winning feature-length documentaries. She had a ten-minute segment dedicated to her life in the cult hit The Mayor Of Sunset Strip starring alternative rock pioneer KROQ disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, who is a close longtime friend of the GTO's.
Miss Mercy and Miss Pamela remain close friends. As of 2011, Miss Mercy is working closely with an author / biographer to help document her life.
Miss Cynderella married John Cale of Velvet Underground in 1971, but the marriage was rocky. Cale's song "Guts" opens with the line, "The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife" (referring to Kevin Ayers' sleeping with Miss Cindy in 1974). They divorced in 1975. Miss Cynderella died on February 19, 1997, in Palm Desert, California; however, her death was not widely reported until 2007, when Pamela Des Barres mentioned it in her book Let's Spend the Night Together (where she inadvertently listed the wrong death year).
Miss Christine appeared on the front cover of Frank Zappa's 1969 album Hot Rats. She is shown halfway through emerging from an empty swimming pool on the infamous Errol Flynn estates in the Hollywood Hills. She also dated rock and roll singer Alice Cooper, as well as Todd Rundgren from Utopia fame and a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Miss Christine died on November 5, 1972, of a heroin overdose in a house in Cohasset, Massachusetts, which at the time was being rented out by musician Jonathan Richman and his original group, The Modern Lovers. Her death occurred shortly after she had spent nearly a year in a full body cast to correct a crooked spine.
Miss Lucy appeared in Frank Zappa's underground film 200 Motels. in which she had a moderately sized role in portraying a promiscuous groupie. She was married to the late Gordon McLaren (bassist for the New York City group called, coincidentally, The Groupies from 1975 to 1981), with whom she had a son, Coleman. Years later, she was impregnated by a close friend and bore another son named Dallas, only to find that she had contracted AIDS, still a fairly new and little-known disease for that time. Miss Lucy died in 1991. Dallas died at the age of ten, having been born with ARC (opportunistic diseases related to AIDS virus), in 1991 of complications from AIDS.
Miss Sandra was in the group only a short while before becoming pregnant by Frank Zappa's official artist-in-residence, Cal Schenkel, with whom she had a daughter named Raven. She soon moved back to her hometown of San Pedro, California with the infant Raven, and after the GTO's breakup she met and married Bradley Harris. They had three children. Miss Sandra died in Albion, California of cancer on April 23, 1991.
Miss Sparky recorded a vocal track (credited under the pseudonym "Sharkie Barker") on the song "Disco Boy" on Frank Zappa's album Zoot Allures (1976), and was once employed by the Walt Disney Corporation.