Constant dollars

Candy Darling – Warhol Superstar and Transgender Icon

By Robert Heide

“Candy Darling is a Saint.” Rochelle Owens, poet and playwright (Futz, Beclch)

“A real star.” John Waters

“There, you look like Pat Nixon.” Candy’s mother after helping her bleach her hair blonde.

“Candy and Taffy, I hope you are both well, please come see us at the citadel.” Rolling Stones song lyrics.

“Having a vagina wasn’t the answer to her problems – she just wanted to be an MGM movie star.” Francois Lebowitz

“Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side” Lou Reed singing about Candy

“You can’t go that far.” Holly Woodlawn

“On looks alone, you get the part.” Busby Berkeley in the cast of No No Nannette on Broadway

Author Robert Heide at the IFC Theater (6th Avenue and 3rd Street) where the documentary Beautiful Darling premiered in 2010. Photo by Thomas Kiedrowski.

Helen ‘the Queen of Off Off Broadway’ Hanft said: ‘At one event or another my father and uncle were very courteous to her, both of them standing up when she entered the room. They’ve never done this before. When she left, I told them she was not born a girl; my uncle’s jaw dropped to the floor and my dad said in awe, “Well, God bless her, she certainly made it”

“Death, I await it”; “I had small parts in large images and large parts in small images”; “Friends having sex reassignment operations are just boring, it’s not wonderful anymore.” candy darling

The first time I saw Candy Darling was in a play called Glamour, Glory and Gold, The Life and Legend of Nola Noonan—Goddess and Star written by Jackie Curtis with Ron Link, a good friend of mine, who was also the director. It was 1967 or 1968 and it was performed at Bastiano’s Cellar Studio, a Broadway theater in the East Village. Candy, who was born James Lawrence Slattery in Massapequa Park in 1944 and died aged 30 in New York in 1974 – yes, there was a boy hidden under all the dime-store drag queen pancake makeup, blue eyeshadow, false eyelashes and thick lipstick – starred Nola Noonan; Melba La Rose Jr. played Jean Harlow and Robert De Niro played more than a dozen different roles in the gender-bending production, one of many written and directed by Jackie Curtis, a drag queen/transvestite, who grew up in the East Village in an apartment above Slugger Ann’s Bar on Second Avenue. Slugger Ann was Jackie’s grandmother. One day the badass Jackie was Barbara Stanwyck, the next James Dean and he and Candy quickly became constant companions.

In those days I parked my 54 Plymouth convertible on Christopher Street outside my house and often found one or the other or both of these unconventional characters sitting in the car when I walked through the door, all dressed as if I I was expecting a Exit the Holland Tunnel to join the highways and back roads of New Jersey. Early on, in her off-Broadway days, visiting with me at my house, Candy bonded with two actresses Lisa Beth Talbot and Linda Eskenas, engaging in chatty “girl talk” virtually ignoring us guys. She happily posed for photos carrying an American flag and with our Persian cat Cyrus under a colorful Bert Stern poster of Marilyn Monroe. One night we made an audio cassette. Candy played Joan Bennett, exclaiming breathlessly, “An actress needs a thousand dollars, just for a decent wardrobe. I want furs, jewelry, an apartment on Fifth Avenue. These producers won’t give me a second look. And moving on to another character, Kim Novak in Picnic, “I don’t wanna go to the picnic mom!” then “I don’t need you, I don’t need anyone. I am Jeanne Eagels!! »

Later another boy, from Puerto Rico, who turned into Holly Woodlawn, joined the duo and they became quite the trio during the heyday of Broadway in the late 60’s and early ’90s. 70, to finally burst into the films of Andy Warhol. Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), both directed by Paul Morrissey and they also performed at places like La Mama and the WPA where Jackie premiered her play Vain Victory—Vicissitudes of the Damned, with him- even, Candy and a bunch of Warhol’s “superstars,” including Agosto Machado, Mario Montez, Taylor Mead, Paul Ambrose, Ondine, Lucian V. Truscott IV, and Jay and James Johnson. After one of those crazy performances, we met Candy at Phoebe’s, a bar/bistro on the Bowery where she was sitting up front with a handsome cowboy guy. Apparently, under the table, he put his pointy cowboy boot in his crotch, prompting Candy, a no-nonsense woman, to hit him hard on the head with her heavy glass beer mug and with blood. flowing, the whole place erupted in a full-scale melee. . Later, a waiter refused to let her into the ladies’ room, a common problem she was having at the time. She was also denied access to the men’s toilets! Candy never had sex reassignment surgery, but she was undergoing hormonal treatments using a drug, later withdrawn from the market, which very quickly led to her tragic early death from leukemia .

In 1972, Tennessee Williams’ Small Craft Warnings opened on Broadway at the Truck and Warehouse Theater, a play about lost souls stuck in a bar waiting for a storm with nowhere to go and Candy was cast as the female character by Tennessee himself. , and although the play did not garner good reviews, Candy personally received very good ratings, and the night I saw her, Tennessee played one of the roles and with another friend William Hickey in the casting, Candy was very touching (and convincing). At this point, it was no problem for her to use the ‘ladies’ locker room’ and afterwards the two went out to the clubs, both dressed to their nines – Candy wrapped head to toe in cotton pale cashmere, including a Lana Turner, Tennessee turban in a white suit and Panama hat. One evening downtown, shortly after, I strolled into the Russian Tea Room, and there, sitting in a padded leather booth, Candy was draped in a white fur stole and dressed in a Vintage 40s purple dress with shoulder pads adorned with a large Art Deco rhinestone brooch, chatting with the inimitable Zsa Zsa Gabor. When Candy left to go to the bathroom, Zsa Zsa, ordering a round of Vodka Martinis, exclaimed, “She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met!” After her death, the following note was sent to Candy’s friends: “Before I died, I had no desire to live. Even with all my friends and my booming career, I felt too empty to continue in this surreal existence. I miss everything so much. You could say bored to death.


Robert Heide’s books, including his latest publication, Robert Heide 25 Plays are available on Amazon, along with the following:

My Face for the World to See—The Diaries, Letters and Drawings of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar edited by Jeremiah Newton—a soft pink faux leather book with a hanging padlock and three keys published by Hardy Marks Books, Honolulu, Hawaii

2010 feature documentary Beautiful Darling produced by Jeremiah Newton, written and directed by James Rasin; Excerpts from Candy’s diary read by Chloe Sevigny and with talking heads that include, among others, myself, Gerardo Malanga, Penny Arcade, Melba La Rose, Jr., Paul Morrissey, Peter Bogdanovitch, Paul Ambrose, Helen Hanft, Agosto Machado, Lou Reed, Michael J. Pollard, Taylor Mead, Valerie Solanas, Fran Lebowitz, Sam Green, Ruby Lynn Reyner, Bob Colacello and Jayne County.