Famous Groupies Who Are Completely Unrecognizable Now

Being a groupie in the 1970s was a glamorous but complex way of life. It could bring fame, status, and opportunities to the people who embraced the lifestyle. On the other hand, groupies could have mental health issues or struggle with addiction, and could be at risk of sexual abuse. 

Unfortunately, rock 'n' roll life can take a toll, and much like many musicians of the era, several of the most famous groupies of classic rock have passed away. However, not every person who became known as a notable groupie has died without any fanfare. Some people who made a name for themselves as groupies back in the day are still very much alive, though as you might expect, they've gone on to pursue other things. Here's a look at what some of the most famous groupies are up to these days, and how much they've changed over the years. 

Pennie Lane Trumbull

Pennie Lane Trumbull is one of the most famous groupies in history, thanks to filmmaker Cameron Crowe. Right down to her name, she was the inspiration for the groupie character Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) in Crowe's 2000 rock comedy-drama "Almost Famous." That rock comedy-drama was about one of the best fictional rock bands of all time, Stillwater, and the various people around them — including young music journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit), based on Crowe himself. The real Trumbull and Crowe had a very similar relationship to their fictional counterparts.

Though fellow groupie Pamela Des Barres has also claimed that the character was based on her, Crowe has confirmed that the fictional Penny Lane is based on the real Trumbull. "She, the real Penny Lane, is a woman named Pennie Trumbull, and she's still consistent to the same person that I met in the day," Crowe said in a 2022 interview with SiriusXM. "She's in love with the music. It was all about the music. She never wrote a tell-all book. I think Dreamworks paid her a little bit of money for her life rights."  

Trumbull herself hasn't been particularly vocal about her groupie days, and specifically asked for her identity to be obscured when "Almost Famous" was made. After leaving the groupie life behind her, she returned to ordinary life and had a stellar career in marketing and consulting, with a side hustle in farming. 

Pamela Des Barres

Pamela Des Barres, aka Miss Pamela, was a musician herself, thanks to her Frank Zappa-created band The GTOs. However, she's best known as a prominent groupie who was a part of the 1960s and 1970s rock scene, both in London and in the U.S. She associated with some of the biggest rock names of the era, from Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix to members of Led Zeppelin and The Who drummer Keith Moon, who tragically died in 1978. She even ended up marrying (and later divorcing) a rock star — namely, Michael Des Barres of Silverhead and The Power Station fame. 

Decades after her groupie heyday, Des Barres remains proud of her groupie days. In fact, she's leveraged her experiences in the rock circles into a many-faceted career as a writer and content creator. In 1987, she published a best-selling memoir, "I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie," which detailed her life and times with many of history's biggest rock musicians. She has also written several other books, teaches in women's writing workshops, arranges Los Angeles rock tours based on her memoir ... and, of course, has a podcast where some of her old acquaintances turn up as guests.  

Bebe Buell

Model, singer, and mother of one Liv Tyler, Bebe Buell isn't exactly your average groupie. In fact, she dislikes the term quite intensely, preferring the term "muse" instead. Buell's fondness for rock music — and rock musicians — led to dating major names from The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler to David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and perhaps most famously Todd Rundgren. In 1974, she also posed for Playboy. 

Buell's rock 'n' roll relationships eventually transitioned into a music career of her own, starting with the short-lived rock group Bebe Buell and the B-Sides in 1981. Buell has released music since then, and her most recent album, "Baring It All," came out in 2018. Because she's been doing this so much longer than the "dating rockstars" thing she's more closely associated with, she's understandably more interested in discussing her music than her personal life from several decades ago.

"That I'm defined by the cool boyfriends I had in the 70s," Buell named the single biggest misconception about her to Classic Rock in 2016. "I've done so many other things. Nowadays I just say to people: "Come see me live and I will change your mind."

Cherry Vanilla

Cherry Vanilla's 2010 memoir, "Lick Me: How I Became Cherry Vanilla," openly describes her as a groupie, so it's clear she doesn't exactly disavow the term. In reality, however, she's always been more of a pop-culture jack-of-all-trades. Born Kathleen Dorritie, she worked as an ad producer and DJ before she relocated from New York to London and started her groupie phase — which in turn led to her first stage acting gig in Andy Warhol's play "Pork," and working as David Bowie's publicist in the mid-1970s.  

Apart from her acting and PR endeavors, Cherry Vanilla became a musician, a poet, and a notable figure in the punk movement. She released two albums and a number of singles in the late 1970s, and true to form, her backing band in London featured future superstars Sting and Stewart Copeland — a particularly curious side note in the lesser-known stories of The Police. Outside the music and acting scenes, Cherry Vanilla has worked in various capacities with a truly eclectic collection of creative greats, from jazz legend Chet Baker to filmmaker Tim Burton.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, or needs help with addiction or mental health issues, contact the relevant resources below: