Haji, an Actress Featured in Cult Films by Russ Meyer, Dies at 67
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: August 17, 2013
Eve Productions, via Photofest
Her death was confirmed by the dancer and actress Kitten Natividad, a friend, who said she did not know the cause. She said Haji had high blood pressure and heart problems in recent years and was taken to a hospital after falling ill at a restaurant in Newport Beach.
Haji, a brunette of Filipino and British descent, met Meyer, the celebrated B-movie director, in the mid-1960s while she worked in a strip club in California. He cast her as the lead in his biker movie “Motorpsycho” (1965) even though she had no acting experience.
Later that year Haji appeared in “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” the tale of three dancers who beat a young man to death, kidnap his girlfriend and flee into the desert. She played the lesbian paramour of the lead character, Varla, played by Tura Satana. The film has acquired a devoted following and has been embraced by the filmmakers John Waters and Quentin Tarantino and even some feminists, including the film critic B. Ruby Rich, who praised it in The Village Voice as a “female fantasy.”
“You just didn’t see women taking over and beating up men in those days,” Haji said in an interview posted on Russ Meyer’s Ultravixens, a Web site devoted to Meyer, who died in 2004, and his films. “Russ did something no one else had the imagination to do. And he was smart to use three bodied-up women, so whether the picture’s good or not, you still sort of stare at it.”
Haji played a scantily clad bartender in Meyer’s “Supervixens” in 1975 and appeared in “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” the story of an all-woman rock band’s descent into debauchery. It was the first of Meyer’s films produced by a mainstream studio. She also acted in John Cassavetes’s gritty drama “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” in 1976.
Haji was born in Quebec on Jan. 24, 1946. Ms. Natividad said that Haji’s last name at birth was Catton, and that she thought her given name was Cerlette. (The name Haji, she said, was a nickname given to her by an uncle.)
Haji left school before finishing the sixth grade and began stripping at 14. She had a daughter, also named Cerlette, at 15.
She lived in Oxnard, Calif. Her survivors include her daughter and a granddaughter. Haji’s last screen role was in the 2003 comedy “Killer Drag Queens on Dope.”