Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Walk on the Wild Side

“I'm a thousand different people. Every one is real.”

Her eyes glittered with the drunken rush of old Hollywood glamour. Her pouty red lips brought grown men to their knees. Her dramatic, self-indulgent wit made her an icon.

Her name made people smile.

Candy Darling.

She was born a male. In the 1950s, people knew her as little Jimmy Slattery, the boy with the drunken gambling father and sweet, but timid mother.

To escape her stifling blue-collar life in New York City, the future diva drowned herself in old Hollywood films. She worshipped Kim Novak. She envied Elizabeth Taylor. She dreamed of being Marilyn Monroe.

By the time she was a teenager, Candy was putting on her most stylish dresses, perfecting her makeup in the mirror, and strutting out the door to party at all the hottest gay bars in town. She changed her name and never looked back.

As a gorgeous woman with an outgoing personality and loads of confidence to boot, Candy was naturally drawn to the stage. She wanted to be beyond famous. She wanted to be a STAR.

She was starring in a burlesque show (featuring a talented, but virtually unknown actor named Robert De Niro) in 1967 when she caught the attention of pop artist Andy Warhol.

Intrigued by her addictive charisma and overwhelming sexuality, Andy asked Candy to act in his next film, Flesh.

Soon, the pair became best friends. Candy was a staple at the Warhol Factory. With the famous artist by her side, she lit up the most glitzy nightclubs in the world. She mingled with movie stars. She was the subject of several extremely famous rock songs. She was at the height of her fame.

But it was too good to last.

It wasn't long before Andy grew bored with the "chicks with dicks" theme. It was so last year, he decided. So, he ditched the transsexual. Candy went from being his BFF to being shunned by the man who had made her a superstar.

Suddenly, she was all alone. It was cruel and shocking to the 20-something performer.

Using her Warhol boost, Candy managed to keep her career afloat for a while during the early 1970s. She had small roles in low budget and even big budget films. She starred in a smattering of plays.

And then the inevitable occurred.

Candy was diagnosed with leukemia. It was the result of the hormones (mostly estrogen) she had been taking to maintain her feminine appearance during the last decade. The cancer ate away at her body with incredible speed.

Instead of being depressed, Candy saw her deadly illness as the role of a lifetime. The 29-year-old played the dying femme fatale with so much style and flamboyance, it would have made her old Hollywood idols proud. She even posed for a deathbed glamour shot.

She quite possible left the most charming death note in celebrity history:

To whom it may concern

By the time you read this I will be gone. Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life. Even with all my friends and my career on the upswing I felt too empty to go on in this unreal existence. I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. It may sound ridiculous but is true. I have arranged my own funeral arrangements with a guest list and it is paid for. I would like to say goodbye to Jackie Curtis, I think you're fabulous. Holly, Sam Green a true friend and noble person, Ron Link I'll never forget you, Andy Warhol what can I say, Paul Morrissey, Lennie you know I loved you, Andy you too, Jeremiah don't take it too badly just remember what a bitch I was, Geraldine I guess you saw it coming. Richard Turley & Richard Golub I know I could've been a star but I decided I didn't want it. Manuel, I'm better off now. Terry I love you. Susan I am sorry, did you know I couldn't last I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.

Goodbye for Now

Love Always
Candy Darling

And just as she dreamed, Candy Darling has become a legend. She was the first drag queen to take over pop culture. Her influence can be found in movies, famous drag queens, and reality shows to this day.

With her fabulousness and cheerful glamour, she changed the world...and made it a more special one.


Laia herrero said...

I didn't know anything about her/him...but although it is a really sad tale I loved the way you wrote it Jen.
Don't ever change your style, even if you got less comments some people (me) will still coming for more every single post.
Loved the godbye letter, truly thrilling.

Shybiker said...

Nice profile. Warhol was an ass. Glad to see a positive portrayal of someone like me.


Damn, I had no idea who Candy was until today. This is why I love your blog, it always educates me on things I'm interested in. That's the best death note I've ever read (apparently I've read many).


The Dainty Dolls House said...

This was a beautiful and yet sad story, but the last picture leaves it in hope. That people won't be like the rest. She really stood on her own two feet and was herself, it's a shame that some used that to their advantage and then decided it wasn't cool anymore and dumped her. Loved it!! xx

Shannon said...

Gave me chills.

I want to do a glamour shoot on my that weird?

Also, what rock songs were inspired by her? I'd love to know!!

Sherin said...

She sounds so amazing. And what an icon. Such a tragic ending!

ravenlocks said...

Aww.... :(

Wish I knew who she was. Candy Darling. I love her name. Drag queens hold a special place in my heart. I love their vibe and confidence. They're amazing <3

Did you ever see the movie "Gnome"? Lauren Graham stars in it. You HAVE to see it. It's probably my favorite movie of all time. It's super short, but worth it. Remember this line: "Keep swimming, girl." :)

PS. FUCK ANDY WARHOL. There are orifices in my body that can make better art than him. He didn't even make art. He just copied and printed shit.



Mouthwash said...

The last photo is the cover of Antony & the Johnson's album cover. I honestly always thought it was Antony - I had no idea!

Andy Warhol was a self entitled narcissist who couldn't see past his own penis. Plus, I think he made Marilyn look hideous. Not an easy feat.

Sad, but beautiful story Jen!

Imogen said...

This is a story I knew absolutely nothing about but I'm glad I do now. I must say I adore the name Candy Darling! I really admire her confidence and flare to be different, that's always fantastic. I always find it interesting how people reach certain points in life, like it all started for Candy by watching those old Hollywood films. I felt so sad by the way it all ended, to think she hadn't even reached 30 it's very tragic.

Audrey Allure said...

What an inspiring story -- beautiful but sad.

Rachel @ The Redhead Fashionista said...

Wow! I hadn't heard of Candy before, but what a story! Inspirational, but sad at the same time. :(

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