Erica tells biographer Steve Sullivan about her changing
sexual nature and erotic escapades with actress Maria Schneider.
[Maria Schneider passed away on February 3, 2011. This article is dedicated to her memory.]
Although from a conventional perspective, Erica underwent a gradual evolution from straight to gay, she says it’s not that simple. Even in the late 60s when she was primarily going with men, her friendship with Bebe Louie also had an erotic component. Says Erica, “I guess the question is, am I gay and just that? I think you’re only in the box you want to put yourself in, and I think everything changes.”
“I had a long-term relationship with one woman who I still love dearly, and she’ll always have a place in my heart. And then fairly recently, I had a relationship that was based purely on lust. It was more amazing physically than I ever expected anything could be. I went nuts over this woman. I was so sexually charged for the first time in my life—I mean, more than Vixen could have ever been. I was driving down the street in my car very slowly masturbating, for days! I was looking at people outside, and fantasizing about having sex with them. It was really intense. I never realized that sex could be so great with a woman. You’re always taught, that’s not the way it is.
“I’ve always liked being with women, and I’ve had different sexual encounters off and on with women like Maria Schneider. But they were short-lived. I couldn’t get to the point where I was really having a relationship.”
Briefly one of the top international sex symbols for her role opposite Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris, Maria hooked up with Erica sometime around early 1975.
“I was waiting tables at the Rainbow for lunches, and working nights at the Roxy, serving drinks for the shows. I was living off Laurel Canyon with my friend Manny (whose cousin played the Mountie who mounts Erica at the start of Vixen) and his boyfriend. One night we heard this crash outside. Manny looked out the window—he’s one of these people who recognizes everybody—and said, ‘oh my God, Maria Schneider just had an accident in front of our house!’ Right away, I’m racing down the stairs—’is there anything I can do for you? Why don’t you come up?'” She chuckles at the memory. “Well, she came up all right!”
“Her producer was on a photo shoot, so she and I played around for a few weeks. She’d come to pick me up from work, and sometimes we’d do heroin together. Her body type was like Angelina Jolie, she was so hot! Later, she’d even call and write me from Italy when she was shooting Caligula. It seems like I was always the ‘other woman’—I was never the one who actually got the girl!”
One relationship that might have been was the doomed supermodel and five-time Cosmo cover girl Gia. “She was seeing my friend Elmer Valentine. He used to come to Fred Segal and show off to his girls, and I always made a big deal about it. He was in his late 60s at the time and was going with these young girls. He loved watching them with other girls. So, when he was seeing Gia he told her, ‘I have this friend, she’s really hot!’
He introduced me to her, and she was sort of making a move on me. She wanted me to come up after work. But at the time, hanging out at the Improv after work was more important to me than having an actual relationship, so I never took her up on it. But boy, was she hot. She was like Maria, she knew what she wanted.”
“I have become Vixen in different sexual
situations in my life. And it’s fabulous!”
“Sometimes I would be into a relationship not for love or anything else, but for sex. If you put your mind out there so that’s what you want, you can become that character. It’s fun, but it’s a different person than someone who’s looking for a deep and meaningful relationship.
“When you can’t escape into that person, that’s when you start to miss the thing that first got you there—that freedom, when nobody knows anything about you, and you can start wherever you want. You should be able to do that, and to feel that power as a human being, with anyone you make love with. But it’s very hard to have both—the feeling of sexual freedom, and actual love. So far I haven’t succeeded in having them both wrapped into one for more than a few months.
“I never thought I’d be lucky enough to be gay. I thought I’d be straight and boring, and just have these brief periods [with women]—even in my heart I felt gay. And you know what? I am!” Laughing, she adds, “today… I don’t know what’ll happen ten years from now. Maybe I’ll be part of a harem in an old folk’s home!”
-by Steve Sullivan
excerpted with kind permission from Glamour Girls