Lori Williams worked pretty hard in the
1960s, then mostly retired from acting at the top of her game (outside
of a few appearances in later decades). The bedazzling blonde
beauty became most popular for her role as one of the three women
baddies in the cult film, "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"
(1966). That movie, which initially made Lori nervous, turned out
to be the best thing for her and has an incredible following to this
day. As a matter of fact, a 1980s hair metal band, Faster
Pussycat, took its name from this film.
Lori started out as a member of choreographer David
Winters' dance troupe. She had a lot of uncredited, no dialogue
parts in many beach and Elvis movies that became the bulk of her filmed
work. Her first credited role was that of a beach girl in "A
Swingin' Summer" (1965). Unlike most beach movies, this was
actually a legitimate film with a realistic story. Most notably,
Lori had a spotlighted dance scene with Mike Blodgett who she recalls
as "fun to dance with".
The role that really propelled her to mainstream
stardom was that of Billie in Russ Meyers' cult classic, "Faster
Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" (1966). Meyers was a pioneer
in sexploitation movies. This movie did not have nudity, and he
was working on making it more of a legitimate film. It's pretty
kooky, but then, so was the subject matter. Billie joins Rosie
and leader Varla on a mad trip of self-destruction that raises plenty
of havoc and ends in their own deaths. When this movie first came
out, it was loved by the drive-in crowds, but ignored by everyone
else. The strong, cult-like following that made it a hit on TV
and home video didn't come until years later.
This notable success was followed by a small role in
the beach movie, "It's a Bikini World" (1967). Williams then left
the Hollywood scene to get married.
Who would expect a Hollywood bombshell to come from
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Probably not Lori Williams. When
she was in her teens she began taking classes at that city's Town
Modeling Agency. Modeling pretty much lends itself to
acting. Acting, coupled with her dancing talent, was used at the
Pittsburgh Playhouse where she landed a small part in "Daddy Long
Legs". After high school graduation, Lori went to Los Angeles to
visit a friend for the Summer. During that time, she got a job
working and modeling at the Wilhelmina Agency.
She earned enough money modeling by day and being a
girl-on-a-swing at a bar at night to take dance classes, again.
Her teacher was the renowned choreographer David Winters. Winters
was best known for playing A-rab, one of the Jets gang members, in the
stage and film versions of "West Side Story". He later focused
primarily on behind-the-scenes work, choreographing many of the beach
and Elvis Presley movies. Many of the most famous dance sequences
in Hollywood musical history are due to David Winters' talent.
Winters was impressed with Lori. He took Lori
and Teri Garr (who achieved great success years later) out of his class
to dance in some of the films he was working on. David and Lori
developed quite a close friendship, almost like brother and
sister. Still, David was very skilled and very tough. Lori
had to go on auditions even if David was the choreographer.
In 1963, Williams was working as a dancer in the
Paul Newman film, "The Prize" (1963). A speaking role was created
for a young woman. As Lori told me, "Paul Newman came up to me
and made his selection. He told me that I was great and that I
was just ideal for that role. He wasn't trying to make a pass at
me or anything like that. Paul wasn't that way. He was very
She kind of got that role through a little white
lie, though. To get this role, you needed a SAG card (Screen
Actors Guild). Lori said she had one of these, even though she
didn't. "You needed a speaking job to get one. I never had
one before," she confesses. Since the new scene was going to be
shot after lunch that day, Lori raced down to the Screen Actors Guild
to get her SAG card now that she landed a speaking role. That was
a close call, but a smooth move. This is when her onscreen acting
career really started to pick up.
Since becoming a SAG member, David Winters kept Lori
plenty busy in 1964. She was in six teenage-themed drive-in
movies that year! These included: "Kissin' Cousins", "Viva
Las Vegas", "Roustabout", "Pajama Party", "Get Yourself A College
Girl", and "The Disorderly Orderly".
In 1965, four more of Lori's movies were
released. The Elvis movies, "Girl Happy" and "Tickle Me" were
undoubtedly the biggest hits. However, the most important movie
for Lori that year was, "A Swingin' Summer". This was the first
time she received a credited role, practically doing what she had
always done. Besides being one of the girls we see wandering
around Lake Arrowhead, Lori had a great dance scene with Mike Blodgett.
1966 was an even better year for the young Ms.
Williams. Her first released movie was, "Our Man Flint". "I
loved doing this movie!" she recalls. "I wasn't credited, but
there was a great scene with James Coburn where I was in a bikini, just
looking great. That part was a lot of fun." But the film
that brought her the most attention was one made by a Hollywood
underdog, the low-budget sexploitation director Russ Meyers. "I
had no idea who Russ Meyers was before I worked with him. I
thought this was going to be a regular movie. This movie didn't
have any nudity or swearing like his other movies, but it was still
thought of as really exploitative. It also had more violence than
I was used to in a film."
Regarding "Faster Pussycat! Kill, Kill!"
nowadays, "It's a trip," Lori simply states. She agrees that it's
an odd little film, but greatly appreciates the following. "I'm
always asked about this movie, and I love to talk about it. I did
an interview about the movie for the TCM channel a few years back."
Williams was so busy working under contract that she
really couldn't take advantage of her role in FPKK. Only six
weeks after the movie opened, she worked in a Las Vegas revue for Andy
Williams for the next six months. Because of this, she couldn't
accept any acting offers during that time. She was also asked to
pose for Playboy Magazine several times and had to decline. That
would have been a really good thing for her career, since she was
moving into the super-sexy, bad girl parts. At least she had a
good time working for Andy Williams until the show closed.
As Lori explains it, the lull in her career
continued because she met her then-husband in Las Vegas. Tony was
a musician in Pennsylvania. They went back East and got
married. Just before this, she was planning to go to Europe to
act in the sexy, Barbarella-type movies that were on a hot streak at
the time. She didn't go to Europe, because of her marriage, and
took a two year break. During her time on the East Coast, she
continued modeling until she became pregnant with daughter Julie.
Williams' marriage folded in 1969, and she returned
to Hollywood. She made many recurring appearances on the show,
"Love, American Style" as one of the blackout players. "This was
like a big party!" she describes the experience. She later had a
part as one of the ill-fated passengers in the film, "The Poseidon
Adventure" (1972). Another role came in 1974 with the gangster
film, "99 and 44/100 Percent Dead".
"I was only 31 when I gave up acting," Lori
states. "I was still getting the teenybopper roles because I
hadn't changed that much in appearance since the 1960s. I didn't
mind that, but I didn't want to be the oldest one of the set."
After an embarrassing experience when her age was pointed out by the
casting director to the producer, Lori quit acting.
"I did do an episode of Baretta in 1978 and I loved
it! Because I was getting older, I was starting to get more
Williams teamed with casting director Gene O'Havens
and started a casting company. Until the mid-1980s, the pair was
very successful and cast a number of episodes for popular TV series and
the movie, "Alligator" (1980), among other projects. "It was too
much work for one person. After Gene dropped out, I got into real
estate," says Lori. She continues to live quietly outside of show
business, for the most part. Since the 1990s, though, she's done
a number of film festivals and celebrity autograph conventions.
The popularity of "Faster Pussycat! Kill,
Kill!" has kept the acting careers of Tura Satana (Varla) and Haji
(Rosie) going strong. Those two have continued to do a lot of
sexy B-movies. Lori, however, has expressed interest in recent
years of returning to mainstream acting. "I'd like to play a
mother figure in a soap opera or sitcom," she's said.
Lori Williams has had an interesting show business
career. It will be even more interesting to see what happens next!
Williams: Beyond Pussycat" DVD: In 2009, Lori Williams
hired Polar Blair's Den to make a DVD documentary of her life and
entertainment career. At first, she had only her family and
friends in mind of whom to share this with, but this became such a big,
elaborate project that she thought it would be great to use as an
advertising tool for agents and casting directors. Polar Blair's
Den made "Lori Williams: Beyond Pussycat" to be of feature-film
documentary quality. Footage from "Faster, Pussycat!
Kill! Kill!" and a 2006 interview with Turner Classic Movies act
as the centerpiece to the program, but footage of her many movie and
television appearances, musical montages, and slideshows all add to
giving us the definitive look into the onscreen and offscreen worlds of
Lori Williams. This is the absolute best documentary you will
ever see on the lovely Lori Williams! Click the picture below to
find out more about this grand project!