Who Was Cynthia Plaster Caster, Who Inspired Miley Cyrus’ Character in Ethan Coen’s ‘Drive Away Dolls’?

SPOILER ALERT: This article continues spoilers for the film “Drive-Away Dolls.”

In Ethan Coen’s “Drive-Away Dolls,” an homage to the colorful, brash world of exploitation cinema, there’s a notable cameo from none other than Miley Cyrus. Cyrus appears in a psychedelic swirl of flashbacks as Tiffany Plastercaster, seen titillating a college-aged version of Matt Damon’s character, who will come to be a conservative Senator in Florida. Plastercaster does as her name implies, crafting a replica dildo for the aspiring politician’s stimulated member.

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It may sound far-fetched, but Cyrus’ cameo is inspired by Cynthia Plaster Caster — real name Cynthia Albritton — the artist and groupie who famously cast the genitals of musicians and others in plaster, from Jimi Hendrix to The Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra.

Albritton, who died in 2022, also cast female breasts in later years in an effort to even the playing field, with subjects including Karen O, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier and Peaches.

At the height of the ’60s, she got her start when a college art teacher suggested she try making plaster casts. She decided to focus on penises, making her casts of Hendrix and his bass player Noel Redding in 1968. Though Frank Zappa didn’t participate, he became somewhat of a patron, helping her move to L.A.

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01:  USA  Photo of Cynthia Plaster Caster  (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)
Cynthia “Plaster Caster” Albritton

One of several plaster casters at the time, Albritton made waves soon after when she appeared in the 1970 documentary “Groupies.” Variety reviewed the doc, writing “One of the sickest of the groups is that whimsically called the Plaster Casters, whose ‘thing’ is to make plaster casts of the genitals of their favorites. ‘Nuff said.”

The counterculture film was clearly too much for Variety‘s critic, who continued, “If the viewer’s thing includes sex, dope-pushing and dope use, the rewards are great but the price paid is greater.”

A year later, Variety reported that a judge had denied Albritton’s request for an injunction to block the film. The artist charged that the documentary did not “represent her artistry and personality as a performer.” But the judge found the material was in the “legitimate public interest” and that there was no evidence that the film presented falsehoods.

Though Albritton declined to capture Gene Simmons for posterity, that didn’t stop him from releasing the 1977 Kiss song “Plaster Caster” about her exploits. But that wasn’t the only song inspired by the long-running art project: In Variety’s capsule review of the obscure Manchester psychedelic group Pacific Drift’s 1970 album “Feelin’ Free,” the blurb noted that “Plaster Caster’s U.S.A.” was one of the best tracks.

“Plaster Caster, Plaster Caster, How many have you done? 65 or 81? Who’s the next in line?” asks the song, one of several to reference Plaster Casters.

The 2001 documentary “Plaster Caster” looked at her quest and process, and Variety‘s review called Albritton “a quirky original.” Redding, Biafra and The Animals Eric Burdon are among the castees interviewed for the doc, which also gets a feminist perspective from Camille Paglia.

Albritton’s relationship with the rock world may have been tangential, but every student of rock ‘n’ roll history knows of Cynthia Plaster Caster and her “fluffer” assistants — a slice of the underground that continues to inspire creators such as Coen.

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