I interviewed former 60s starlet Salli Sachse about 12 years ago for my first book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. Her name may not be familiar, but to fans of American International Pictures’ series of beach movies her face is easily recognizable. With her waist-long honey brown hair and adorable smile, Salli, literally plucked off the beach in San Diego, appeared in almost every beach party film beginning with Muscle Beach Party (1964) through The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) and everything else in between including Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965).
Recalling her time with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, Salli remarked, “Frankie and Annette were very easy going and a pleasure to work with but they weren’t real beach people. Frankie was raised in Philadelphia so I don’t think he ever saw a surfboard in his life! And Annette refused to wear a bikini. She would only wear a one-piece but I think that had something to do with her contract with Walt Disney. Annette was such a straight girl—a good Italian Catholic. Because we grew up on the beach, a lot of us thought we were so cool compared to Frankie and Annette. I remember that on one movie we were filming some beach scenes late in the afternoon. It was really chilly and we were fighting the light. Wrapped in terry cloth robes, a group of us huddled together to keep warm. Carl the prop man handed us a bottle of brandy. We were surprised when Annette took a couple of swigs. She got a bit tipsy and was clowning around. It was the only time I ever saw her let herself go wild.”
When the beach films became passe during the turbulent late sixties, Salli graduated to playing a drag strip groupie in Fireball 500 (1966) to a biker chick in Devil’s Angels (1967) to her most famous role as the LSD freak-out girl opposite Peter Fonda in The Trip (1967) to playing a hippie paramour of rock star Christopher Jones in Wild in the Streets (1968). Unfortunately, along the way there was heartbreak when her husband Peter Sachse tragically died in a plane crash in 1966 while Salli was in Hong Kong filming The Million Eyes of Su-Muru.
Salli chucked her movie career in 1969 to concentrate on modeling then photography then studying art in Europe during the seventies. Returning to the U.S., she earned a Masters in Psychology and became a counselor for “at risk” teens.
In August 2006 Salli was reunited with beach party regulars the late Mary Hughes, Patti Chandler, and Linda Opie for a photo shoot celebrating surf culture in the 1950s and 1960s for Vanity Fair. Below is a photo taken by Salli’s friend while visiting the shoot. Pictured are Mary, Salli, Patti and Linda.
Today Salli Sachse has a new web site where fans can peruse pictures of Salli from her Hollywood and modeling days or purchase her beautiful art work. And she is currently working on her memoir, which should prove to be a very interesting read.