The Groupie Who Inspired Penny Lane Gets Angry Over ‘Almost Famous’: ‘This Character Is Pathetic’

Pamela Des Barres says Penny Lane's overdose in "Almost Famous" is "horribly misogynistic."
"Almost Famous"
"Almost Famous"
Everett Collection

Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, but not everyone is head-over-heels in love with the coming-of-age classic. Rock n’ roll groupie Pamela Des Barres was one of Kate Hudson’s biggest inspirations for Penny Lane, along with fellow groupie Pennie Lane Trumbull and singer Bebe Buell. Hudson would earn an Oscar nomination for Penny Lane, but “Almost Famous” mostly remains a point of contention for the woman who inspired the actress’s portrayal. In an interview with Vulture, Des Barres says she was “actually dumbstruck” when she first saw the film considering how much Penny Lane resembled her.

“That character was basically more me than Bebe Buell or Pennie Trumbull. She looked way more like me.” Barres says, noting her issue was with Crowe never consulting her about the project. Barres says Penny Lane was “stolen” and “ripped off” from her considering Hudson told her she read her book, “I’m With the Band,” for research and hung up photos of Des Barres in her dressing room.

Des Barres wrote a film script based on her life but “Almost Famous” and Penny Lane’s popularity “made it impossible for me to sell my film.” The actress added, “I confronted [Crowe] after this film came out, and he basically dismissed me. But then I saw him a few years ago, and he sort of apologized. He actually said, ‘What can I do to make it up to you?’ I said, ‘I should have been a consultant.’”

As for the film itself, Des Barres dislikes the moment in which Hudson’s Penny Lane corrects the film’s protagonist for calling her a groupie. Penny Lane says, “We are Band-Aids. We don’t have intercourse with these guys. We support the music. We inspire the music. We’re here because of the music.”

“It’s a pussy line,” Des Barres said. “And ‘pussy’ in a bad way. I hate that the word is used in a negative way, but anyway — [Penny Lane] was not owning herself, not owning groupie-dom and what it actually means…I’ve been trying to redeem the word ‘groupie’ for most of my life.”

However, the biggest sin of “Almost Famous,” according to Des Barres, is showing Penny Lane nearly dying from a drug overdose after being rejected by a man. Des Barres told Vulture the plot point is “a horribly misogynistic look at what a groupie-muse is.”

“That made me so angry,” she continued. “This character, the groupie like she’s portrayed, is pathetic. I knew all the main groupies in the heyday of groupiedom. None of them would have done that. There was always someone else coming to town. That really turned me off. No actual music-loving goddess-groupie would do such a thing.”

Head over to Vulture to read Des Barres’ “Almost Famous” interview in its entirety.

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