Erica Gavin, is, in her own words, “a real trip…”
Born and raised in Hollywood, she was, at the age of 19 working as a topless dancer at a club called The Losers where her colleagues were “FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!” stars Haaji and Tura Satana. She couldn’t have cared less about being an actress. “I was a stoned out hippie,” she says. “Movies? PLEASE!! I was living in Laurel Canyon and tripping my brains out going to Acid Tests.”
One day while at her dentist’s office thumbing through a copy of Variety she spotted a casting notice looking for “technically interesting” girls for a new Russ Meyer film.
The film was 1968’s VIXEN…
the first mainstream X-rated film where husbands would actually bring their wives. Pre-DEEP THROAT, pre-BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR and the new wave of porno-chic, the satirical softcore romp about a rural nymphomaniacal housewife played every major American market, received surprisingly favorable reviews and became a box-office smash. Gavin’s ferocious performance in the title role made her an instant poster-girl for the sexual revolution – even facing off with Betty Friedan on a Chicago talk show – and launched what should have at the very least been a solid B-movie career.
Yet apart from outrageously memorable leads in BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970) and Jonathan Demme’s directorial debut CAGED HEAT (1973), Erica virtually disappeared. What ended her career? What happened to a Russ Meyer girl who was on her way to the top in the swinging early 70s?
Still looking gorgeous, today she is Hollywood’s best kept secret.
She jokes that people often talk to her about her without even knowing that it is her. At a recent anniversary retrospective screening of VIXEN at the Egyptian theatre, the audience marveled a the women who challenged the censors by taking her clothes off at at time when nudity in films was not only something women didn’t do, but was also illegal. With twenty years worth of stories inside of her, she has been recently working as a stylist and finally reentering the business she abruptly left behind.
– Ben Golden