Sabel (sometimes spelled Sable) Starr nee’ Shields died recently of cancer, she had been suffering from several brain tumors over the last year. She was 51 years old.
Sabel, from Palo Verde in the San Fernando Valley outside of L.A. found infamy as an under age groupie in Hollywood in the heyday of the rock’n’roll scene centered around the crowd at Rodney’s English Disco. She appeared on the cover of Star magazine in 1973, and was often seen in the pages of Rock Scene, Creem, Phonograph Record and other magazines of that era. In her own way she was as much of a rock star as any of her celebrated beaus. Sabel was the girlfriend of Johnny Thunders, Ron Asheton and later Richard Hell and was also close friends with the Stooges, Led Zep, and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. I first met Sabel the day I arrived in New York City (May, ’77), she was hanging around with the late Greg Shaw, then manager of the Flamin’ Groovies and editor of Bomp magazine. I never knew her well but she was always nice, funny, and quite beautiful. After moving to New York to be with Johnny, an experience that left her traumatized when she ended up as Johnny’s punching bag, she left the rock’n’roll world for good. Eventually she moved to Reno where she married, had two children and worked as a black jack dealer. The best Sabel stories can be found in Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk by Gillian “Fang” McCain and Legs McNeil (Grove Press, 1996). Phillipe Marcade of the Senders saw Sabel as recently as last year and reported that she looked great and was doing well, which makes her death all the sadder.
He sister Coral dated Iggy Pop for several years. Iggy wrote a song about Sabel and Johnny called Look Away which can be found on the LP Naughty Little Doggie (Virgin, 1998).
11 thoughts on “Sabel Starr 1958-2009”
As a teenager in junior high growing up in upstate New York, Sabel Starr stared back at me from all those magazines you mentioned–Rock Scene, Creem, etc.I had quite a crush on her. I imagined myself as a rock star walking into the English Disco or the Riot House with her my arm. Thank you for your post, and for the pictures. I never met her, so that’s how I remember her. Rock In Peace Sabel Starr.
We love you, Sabel, always will…”Bless us who are still alive,Bless us who are still in heaven”.-BP Fallon
Good catch, Jim. I don’t expect her passing to be in the NYTimes any time soon.PJL
Great post,she was more ROCK n ROLL than BONO could ever hope to be.As great as Johnny was,he really was an asshole.
A very moving post. The 18th anniversary of Thunders’ passing is today, infact.
This is sad news. Did you mean to say she hailed from Palos Verdes, which is beachside LA? There is no Palo Verde in the Valley.
” Did you mean to say she hailed from Palos Verdes, which is beachside LA? “I know she was from Palos Verdes, I thought it was in the Valley, but you’re right, it’s on the beach. I guess I should have checked my Atlas first…..apologies.
Sabel Starr was NEVER on the cover of any of the 5 issues of 1973 Star magazine. You may have her confused with friend and fellow groupie Karen Umphrey. Karen often wore her blonde hair in curls such as Sabel did. I am the owner of the official Karen Umphrey fansite on Myspace. Thank you!~Jane
“You may have her confused with friend and fellow groupie Karen Umphrey. Karen often wore her blonde hair in curls such as Sabel did. I am the owner of the official Karen Umphrey fansite on Myspace. Thank you!”Indeed I did,my apologies, but with the curls they really do look alike. My apologies, I’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately, thanks to everyone for their corrections. Which site is yours?There’s some great photos of K.U. at:http://www.fanpix.net/gallery/karen-umphrey-pictures.htm
I remember Sabel from my Junior High days at Malaga Cove School in Palos Verdes. She was the class flirt even then and that was 1969 or so.Randy Hood
Pretty useful information, thank you for your article.