Miss Sparkie Parker
Linda Sue "Sparkie" Parker (aka Miss Sparkie) graduated from Northridge Junior High and Cleveland High in Los Angeles with Pamela Ann Miller (aka Miss Pamela Des Barres), although they walked on opposite sides of the campus. They became besties later and together they hung out on Sunset Strip meeting the likes of Vito Paulekas and his dance troupe plus Lucy Selenia Offerrall, Sandra Lynn Rowe and Christine Ann Frka, who together formed the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company. Frka was Moon’s live-in nanny at the Log Cabin. When Zappa added Mercy Fontenot and Cynthia Sue Wells (aka Cynderella) to the line-up, they became The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously)
Sparky appears on The GTOs Zappa-produced Permananent Damage album, as well An Evening With Wild Man Fischer. She quit The GTOs before their album was released, and moved to New York with Miss Lucy. Although she (with Miller) did most of the recitation on the album, Zappa was forced to remove her from the album’s artwork.
For a time, Sparkie dated Bob “Buffalo” Roberts, tenor saxist for Ruben And The Jets. Rubén Guevara and Tony Duran wrote the song Sparkie for her, which appeared on the Jets' debut album, For Real. The band's follow-up album (Con Safos, a title chosen by Zappa after Guevara had told him it was a Chicano/Mexican American activist street term meaning ‘fuck you if you don’t like it!’) had its sleeve designed by Cal Schenkel and utilised a photograph of the band, plus Sparkie and another girl, taken by Ed Caraeff.
Sparkie later recorded a vocal track for the song Disco Boy on Zappa's Zoot Allures album.
After The GTOs reunited for a one-off show in 1974, Sparkie worked as a production designer for Universal Studios and Disney and married an actor.
Miss Pamela has of course written extensively about her time as a GTO, as did Miss Mercy in her posthumously published memoir. Little has been heard from Sparkie, so I thought it would be interesting to have a short chat
As Frank sort of airbrushed you from the Permanent Damage album's artwork, had you prepared any biographical notes or a dedication for inclusion originally?
That was a new photo session with the five girls after Lucy and I quit. Frank wrote the bios that he put in the pamphlet that was included with the album cover. I wanted nothing to do with groupies or heroin addicts, Sandra and Pamela aside.
Ah, interesting – thanks for the clarity. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, most of the album was composed by yourself and Davy Jones. Is that correct?
Pamela and I wrote 90% of the lyrics from our experiences on the Strip and our jobs in the candy section at a large discount store. FZ and Jones, not the Monkees dude, composed music for our concert at the Shrine and the album.
Any idea who this other Mr Jones was?
A piano instructor, very conservative, lived in Laurel Canyon. Unamused with us!
Pauline Butcher mentions his name in passing in her book, but I don’t think Pamela or Mercy do at all. Wikipedia and the various Zappa fora seem to think it was Monkee Davy! I assume Frank obtained his services?
Yes, FZ hired him. Solid composition piano basics. I drove us up to his house for rehearsals, not the Monkees DJ.
In your Hudson Hornet?
Yes! I loved that car. So did FZ, who always wanted to ride with me instead of in his Mercedes with Gail – if we were going to the same places.
What are your memories of Wild Man Fischer?
My recollections on Wild Man Fischer are not fond...I thought him a dangerous person to
become familiar with, and avoided contact aside from in Frank's company. I would walk by him as he solicited money for songs on the Strip, I would not pick him up hitchhiking. Plenty of people thought he was a novelty and gave him attention and paid for a song. He was a tall man and would spit on you as he talked. He wasn't under the care he needed to maintain and cope. A sad summary, but these are my experiences of him.
Thinking about him still...I must say that he was a person of such visceral intensity...he didn't condescend, no Hallmark moments. Very honest about his desires, no pandering or longing for 'real world' stability...being a strong and physically aggressive person is what warned me to stay clear of him.
How did you come to sing backing vocals on Disco Boy – did you record together with Messrs Moire, Lewis and Estrada?
Was at the recording studio with FZ – he recorded me separately. Think it was the Record Plant.
Yeah, I think most of the album was recorded there. Why were you credited as Sharkie Barker?
Please! Frank would never have allowed that nasty name change credit on his CD re-release...it was Gail's attempt to be witty and condescending.
Interview completed on Thursday 1 February 2024. Poster of Miss Sparkie and Miss Lucy (with a child named Alphi) hand-painted by Carl Franzoni.