Truth And Myths About Led Zeppelin And Their Groupies
During the golden age of rock 'n roll groupies, Led Zeppelin epitomized rock-star recklessness and excess. While any band might have groupies, Zeppelin took the debauchery to another level -- at least, that's what rock 'n roll legend says. How much of the Zeppelin groupie mythology is true?
The band was already known for their wild antics, which included trashing hotel rooms, driving motorcycles through buildings, throwing televisions out of hotel room windows, getting cursed by filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and the accusations of subliminal Satanic messages hidden in their songs. But perhaps the most infamous of their stories are the ones that involved the defilement of masses of females who threw themselves at the band.
They Were With The Band
Groupie culture was booming during this era and thousands of girls travelled around the world with these rockstars willing to please them. Groupie groups even emerged from the scene, most notably Los Angeles’s The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) led by one of the most famous muses Pamela des Barres, who was called Miss Pamela. Led Zeppelin was at the top of the list for sexual accomplishments so the bandmates pretty much had their choice for who they wished to please each night. Because of such an excess of sex, Led Zeppelin got pretty weird with their sexual encounters in order to mix it up, but often took it much too far. Here are some alleged strange and repulsive tales of groupies’ (and non-groupies) experiences with the no.1 band of the ‘70s.
The Whipped Cream Surprise
Because of their massive fame, Zeppelin had to lock themselves in their hotel rooms every night after concerts to avoid being swarmed by a mob of fans. The bandmates had to find creative ways to entertain themselves, and most of their ideas involved hardcore partying and sex with groupies. One night during their American tour, drummer John Bonham, aka “Bonzo,” and guitarist Jimmy Page became very inventive in how to escape their boredom. Bonzo dressed as a waiter and rolled Jimmy Page, fully naked and covered in whipped cream, on a service cart into a room full of groupies. Needless to say, the girls dove into their human sundae. The story has been neither confirmed nor denied by the bandmates.
The Infamous Mud Shark Incident
The most infamous and downright sickening tale of sex-on-the-road in rock ‘n’ roll history is the story of the mud shark. The story has not been confirmed or denied by Zeppelin and various versions have been released, but Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice has described his account with the following story.
It Starts Out Like A Fish Tale
Led Zeppelin was the opening band for Vanilla Fudge’s tour in 1969 so Appice witnessed firsthand the madness of the band. One night at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle, he and his fellow bandmate Tim Bogert were getting stoned with Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, singer Robert Plant, and Robert’s wife Maureen in the hotel room when a girl knocked on the door. The female had previously slept with Appice and was begging to make a movie with them. Appice, out-of-his-mind high, didn’t feel like responding to her so he went to the hotel room next door where Bonzo and his wife Pat were hanging with their tour manager Richard Cole and some crew members who were fishing outside of the window. They turned their bathtub into a “mini-aquarium,” and one of these fish in the tub was a 2-foot-long mud shark. After Appice told the group about the young redhead who knocked on the door he returned to the previous room.
A Series Of Unfortunate Decisions
Later that night Bonzo came storming in with Cole, who was known to be even more savage than the band, and some crew members along with a super 8 camera, professional lights, and what would soon be the prime perpetrator...a mud shark. They yelled, “You want to make [an adult] movie?’ ‘OK, let’s do it right now! Take your clothes off!” The woman was stripped naked and tied to the bed as they started whipping her with the shark. Appice wrote that every time the shark hit her, “its teeth ripped her skin and left tiny blood-red scars all over her back.” She “was bucking and screaming with pleasure, as if in the throes of [hedonistic satisfaction].” The group moved on and used the shark to -- according to this version of the story -- pleasure her, inserting pieces of it into orifices, all while having a grand laugh. Bassist John Paul Jones was so disgusted that he had to leave the room, and Appice said he would have also fled had it not been his own room. Eventually the proceedings got so loud that the hotel manager barged in and demanded an end to all the madness.
You Don't Want To End Up In A Frank Zappa Song
Many accounts of the story refer to the actual members of Led Zeppelin as the main offenders of the horrific scene, but according to Appice it was primarily their tour manager Cole, with madman Bonham the only bandmate involved. Bonham shared a deep and long friendship with Appice, but unfortunately alcohol turned him into a monster as Appice described him as, “the nicest, kindest, gentlest guy to be around — until the demon drink passed his lips.” Appice ran into Frank Zappa the next day at the airport and discussed the story with him, so Zappa turned it into his 1971 song "The Mud Shark." Fortunately, the young woman was able to move past the humiliation and still live out her life happily as she called into an interview with Appice years later stating she had a family and was living joyfully in Alaska.
American journalist Ellen Sander also reported a story that did not reflect well on Led Zeppelin’s behavior. According to her, she was sent to report on the band on the last night of their second United States tour when Zeppelin, primarily Bonham, tore off her clothes and started to touch and grab her all over. Sander said she was so scared and felt she was about to be raped, but fortunately their manager Peter Grant forcefully pulled Bonham off of her. Sander has described life with Zeppelin as “like being inside cages at a zoo where you get to smell the s*** first-hand".
The Age Difference
Lori Maddox (also spelled Maddix) has a place in rock history as a particularly famous groupie and the apple of Jimmy Page's eye -- despite being younger than the law allows. Maddox was a regular muse on the road heavily involved in the groupie scene, but because of her mature beauty, most never realized she was only 14 years old. Jimmy Page was infatuated with her and one night asked his roadie to bring her to his room at the Hyatt House in Los Angeles. There is a rumor that their manager Cole kidnapped the young girl by Page’s order, but Maddox has disputed these claims. When she arrived in the room, Page was wearing nothing but a hat over his eyes and was holding a cane. "He looked just like a gangster. It was magnificent,” Maddox says.
Tell It To The Judge
Page and Maddox both fell madly in love with each other and ended up dating secretly for years. Page hid the relationship completely from the limelight out of fear of statutory rape accusations and jail time. Maddox says she was locked up most of the time while the band was out and about, but she was willing to hide to protect herself as well. Eventually, Page broke up with Maddox and began his affair with the of-legal-age Bebe Buell, another big muse in the groupie scene. Maddox admitted to Thrillist in 2015 that she also dated Bowie months before Page and lost her virginity to the Starman.
The Starship: Mile High Debauchery
The Starship was the lavish Boeing 720 aircraft Led Zeppelin used to travel between their 1973 and 1975 tours. Music journalist Stephen Davis wrote about another appalling incident with Bonzo in his biography Hammer Of The Gods. While completely belligerent-drunk and wearing a bath robe, Bonham grabbed a flight attendant, bent her over, and yelled out he was going to “have her from the rear.” He opened up his robe as he was ready to penetrate, but she screamed ferociously until Cole and Grant found her and once again dragged Bonzo off of the innocent woman.
While the days of excessive partying and sex seemed like all fun and games in the beginning, bad-boy behavior crossed a line into arguably criminal acts. The members of Led Zeppelin weren't being nice to themselves, wither -- Page and Plant became heavily addicted to hard drugs, especially cocaine, and Bonzo’s alcohol abuse led to his death in 1980 when he passed out and choked on his own vomit. Grant passed away in 1995 of a heart attack. Plant has stated that as these issues began to really surface, the exuberance of the early tours was lost. Fortunately, the surviving members learned a healthier lifestyle as they aged and are living their lives happily these days.