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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 11, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 50
Holly Woodlawn dies at 69
Trans entertainer inspired 'Walk on the Wild Side'
Arts & Entertainment
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Holly Woodlawn dies at 69
Trans entertainer inspired 'Walk on the Wild Side'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Holly Woodlawn, star of Andy Warhol's Trash and Women in Revolt, died December 6 at the age of 69.

She died in the arms of her longtime friend and Trash co-star Joe Dallesandro as he read her messages of support from her fans.

In addition to the films she made with Warhol, Woodlawn was immortalized in the first verse of Lou Reed's classic 'Walk on the Wild Side':

Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she.
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.


Born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodríguez Danhakl in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, Woodlawn grew up in Miami Beach, identifying as female at a young age. In 1962 she headed north to New York City.

'I hocked some jewelry,' she recalled in her memoir A Low Life in High Heels, 'and made it all the way to Georgia, where the money ran out and [I] had to hitchhike the rest of the way...'

Woodlawn took her name from Holly Golightly in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, and in 1969 added the surname from a sign she saw on an episode of I Love Lucy. After changing her name she began to tell people she was the heiress to Woodlawn Cemetery.

She first met Andy Warhol at a 1968 screening of Flesh at the Factory, and through him met another Trans actress, Jackie Curtis, who got her a part in the play Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit in the autumn of 1969.

Later in 1969, Woodlawn was cast in what was intended to be a bit role in Trash, but she made such an impression on director Paul Morrissey that he expanded her part into a much larger role.

In 1970, the legendary director George Cukor launched a campaign to have Woodlawn nominated as Best Actress by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but nothing ever came of this campaign.

Throughout the '70s, Woodlawn worked in theatrical and film productions, usually to rave reviews, but without financial success.

In 1972, director Robert Kaplan and cinematographer Paul Glickman came up with the idea of a musical whose premise involved casting a Transgender woman as the lead in a film without revealing the sex of the actress. Woodlawn played a young, starstruck girl hoping for success as an actress in New York City.

While daring, the film, Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers, flopped at the box office.

During this period Woodlawn also had trouble with the law. She was arrested for shoplifting on a visit to Puerto Rico, and again in New York City for impersonating the wife of the French ambassador to the U.N. On that occasion she was first taken to the Women's House of Detention but was shifted to a men's facility when police discovered her assigned sex at birth.

In 1978 she was jailed again for violating the terms of her probation. Her career was also faltering, and eventually she moved back to her parents' house in Miami and found work as a busser at a local restaurant.

After moving back to New York in the mid-'80s, she worked in nightclub acts and broke back into film in the '90s with cameo appearances in Night Owl (1993) and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998).

In 1991 she published her autobiography, A Low Life in High Heels, with writer Jeff Copeland.

At the time of her death Woodlawn lived in West Hollywood, where she appeared in riot grrrl shows with Revolution Rising and recorded spoken word, songs, and experimental recordings with the band Lucid Nation.

She was diagnosed with brain and liver cancer in June.

'I felt like Elizabeth Taylor,' Woodlawn told The Guardian in 2007, recalling her heyday. 'Little did I realize that not only would there be no money but that your star would flicker for two seconds and that was it. But it was worth it, the drugs, the parties; it was fabulous.'

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Holly Woodlawn dies at 69
Trans entertainer inspired 'Walk on the Wild Side'

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