Haji, the busty stripper who caught director Russ Meyer’s eye and was subsequently cast in a number of his films, died Friday night according to longtime friend Kitten Natividad’s Facebook page. She was 67.
Haji, born Barbarella Catton in Quebec, Canada, appeared in five of Meyer’s films beginning with Motor Psycho, making her the actress to work with the director the most times. Their most famous collaboration was Faster Pussy! Kill! Kill!, a reworking of Motor Psycho substituting a female gang for the original’s male motorcycle gang. That simple twist allowed Meyer to explore themes of female violence and sexuality more frankly than other sexploitation films of the time would even attempt. Haji claimed that she never realized at the time that her character Rosie was supposed to be the lesbian lover of bisexual protagonist and anti-hero Varla, played by Tura Satana, even with obvious references to that fact being in the dialogue. Her other films with Meyers include Supervixens, Good Morning… And Goodbye! and the Roger Ebert-scripted Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Outside of her films with Meyer, Haji also appeared in such exploitation flicks as Bigfoot, Wham! Bam! Thank You, Spaceman! and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. She also appeared in the John Cassavettes’ gritty drama The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.
As the grindhouse era ended with the close of the 1970s, so did Haji’s career, though she did undergo a resurgence in popularity thanks to grindhouse devotees like Quentin Tarantino singing her praises. This lead to a small handful of roles in direct-to-video grindhouse-inspired fare such as The Double D Avenger and Killer Drag Queens on Dope.